In response to diversifying customer needs and in order to increase the efficiency of development and reduce cost, we are undertaking radical reform of design processes, in which the entire supply chain related to development, design, production, and procurement is taken into consideration.
Improvement in development efficiency through "creation without making new parts and without making many prototypes"
As customer needs expand and change, we are increasingly required to achieve high-mix low-volume production and to shorten the development cycle. The Ricoh Group is now undertaking radical reform of its development and design processes based on the concept of "creation without making new parts and without making many prototypes" from five individual standpoints as follows: "testing without prototypes," "making fewer parts and fewer prototypes," "if 'something' needs to be produced, that 'something' must be highly robust," "improvement of manufacturers" and "creation and effective use of design assets."
The concept of the "creation without making new parts and without making many prototypes" basically aims to use existing parts of stable quality as much as possible instead of making new parts and many prototypes. Our efforts in line with this concept have already allowed us to shorten development period, reduce cost and reduce environmental impact.
Particularly regarding "testing without prototypes," we use 3DCAD/CAE and other simulation tools as often as possible. It is possible to achieve greater accuracy and more detailed verification in a virtual environment than with actual prototypes, thus enabling us to achieve a level of quality that satisfies customers at the design stage. Our increase in the use of simulation tools has helped us shorten the time required for developing new products by 30% and halved the number of prototypes employed compared to just a few years ago.
"Platform- & Module-type Development"
With "Platform- & Module-type Development," we limit our product planning to already existing series models, but grow a development concept that is not only for existing models but also takes into account successor models. Efforts are focused on developing and designing modules with flexible specifications.
In developing a successor model for a series model, in principle, we use the platform and module that were developed for the predecessor model without adding any additional changes, or replace the minimum possible number of modules to improve the specifications. This enables us to improve quality while increasing the efficiency of development, and eventually allows us to allocate more development resources to acquire highly competitive technology. In addition, this development approach allows us to repeatedly use collected reusable parts that will be equipped with new functions for products to be developed in the generations to come.
The "ΣE System" to reduce the number of product parts to ≤10%
The "ΣE System" was established from 1996 through 2006 with the aim of achieving efficient selection of electronic parts, reduction in procurement costs and reduction in inventories. This system has helped to reduce the number of parts from as many as 35,000 to just 3,000. Under the "ΣE System," the parts are registered in the certified electronic parts database and their QCDE (quality, cost, delivery, ecology) is always guaranteed by an organization specialized in parts certification. With this system, we have successfully improved the efficiency of parts selection upstream of the design process. In addition, the system has allowed us to ensure design quality and to reduce parts procurement costs and factory inventories.