Workstyle Innovation Tips from a TechShop Digital Monozukuri Workshop

The One-Day Digital Monozukuri Workshop, which was designed to encourage participants to think about their future workstyles, was held from Monday, June 26 to Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at TechShop Tokyo, Fujitsu's facility for fostering open innovation. We, the Fujitsu Journal team, joined the workshop on the final day. We were inspired to achieve workstyle innovation with "rapid prototyping" using the latest digital tools.

Workstyle Innovation Leads to Higher Productivity and Workplace Innovation

Changes in the business environment such as globalization and Japan's aging society have made necessary flexible workstyles that place importance on enabling the performance of various types of human resources. Workstyle innovation, which requires a reexamination of time management, work processes, and which workstyles are appropriate for individual employees, generates a wide variety of benefits for companies, including higher productivity and workplace innovation.

Fujitsu has implemented company-wide workstyle innovation to achieve the following: personal growth and productivity improvements for each employee; faster business operations; and workstyles that match advances in digitization. The One-Day Digital Monozukuri Workshop we participated in was designed to encourage participants to develop new workstyles enabled by the latest digital tools through monozukuri (manufacture). At the workshop, we planned, designed, and produced a prototype drone and ultimately performed a trial flight all in a single day.

What Is "Rapid Prototyping," a Productivity Game Changer?

The workshop began with a lecture to deepen participants' understanding of how digital tools can change manufacturing.

In general, manufacturing processes consist of the following five phases, from planning to sale.

The design phase is said to account for more than half the time of the entire process. In this phase, a product is designed based on specifications (e.g., functions, shapes, and dimensions) decided during the planning phase, a prototype is created, and then compliance with the specifications is checked.

A method called "rapid prototyping" improves design efficiency; "rapid prototyping" literally means to create a prototype quickly in product development. For example, using digital tools such as 3D printers and 3D scanners, you can repeat the planning and design phases quickly by "creating a prototype on the spot as soon as an idea is generated and quickly make corrections if something does not work." This series of actions improves productivity, and translating ideas into objects stimulates discussion. As a result, higher quality products and services can be developed and new innovation can be realized.

Planning and Prototyping a Drone Using Digital Tools

Lab work flow

After the lecture, participants did lab work. TechShop, the workshop venue, always offers the latest digital tools, including 3D printers and 3D scanners. With the support of a Dream Consultant (a TechShop staff member with expert knowledge of the tools), we challenged the entire process from planning to prototyping of a new drone. To do the lab work, a total of ten Fujitsu Marketing Division members, including ourselves, were divided into two teams of five members each.

A team comprised of members with varying levels of experience, such as employees who just joined the company, young team leaders, and managers in their 40s and 50s who have served for many years, worked together on the drone project through open discussions. Marketers usually engage in desk work and intellectual work. What kind of inspiration would they receive from this digital monozukuri project?

Product Planning and Propeller Model Designing ~ Developing Ideas for Products that Will Play Important Roles in the Future ~

The first activity was product planning. In consideration of the drone specifications, use, design, and functions, we developed a wide variety of ideas and design models. We created a drone propeller at the workshop. While creating the propeller using paper clay based on opinions shared during the planning phase, all team members repeated efforts through trial and error with comments such as: "Let's make it a bit more stylish" and "Shouldn't we give it a gentle twist so that it can catch and hold the wind?" Discussing the actual object in front of us allowed us to share an image of what we wanted to achieve. This led to continuous generation of new ideas and clarification of points to improve.

Designing a model

Paper clay propeller model (half)

Model Digitization ~ Using Digital Tools ~

After we completed a propeller model, we digitized the model using the 3D scanner and edited it with 3D CAD. Based on the Dream Consultant's advice that "the key to a functional propeller is a meticulously calculated twist and finely adjusted thickness," we modified the propeller's shape by smoothing the surface and enlarging or shrinking its size. We benefitted from the latest digital tools in capturing accurate information and creating our desired shapes.

The 3D scanner capturing the propeller model's (half) shape

3D CAD reproduced the propeller half and connected it with another symmetrically to create the complete propeller.

Propeller Production ~ Translating Ideas into Objects ~

After creating a satisfying propeller using 3D CAD, we 3D printed the propeller. What had been merely an idea became an actual object within just one hour.

3D printing of captured data

The completed propeller

Trial Flight ~ Will the Drone Fly? ~

A trial flight followed the propeller's completion. We attached our unique, monozukuri propeller to the drone's body and set it on the floor. As a nervous silence engulfed the lab, we cautiously operated the controller... As a result, we could fly the drone even though it flew very close to the ground. The participants were greatly pleased to hear the instructor's comment: "I have held this same workshop twice in the past, but none of the teams were able to fly a drone." This concluded the Digital Monozukuri Workshop. Within just a day, we could develop a product plan, create a propeller, and perform a trial flight.

The drone with the completed propeller

The moment the drone flew

The Workshop Showed the Potential of New Workstyles

At the workshop, we experienced the otherwise time-consuming process of product planning, designing, and prototype testing in just four-and-a-half hours. On-the-spot translation of ideas into actual objects using digital tools enabled us to create a higher quality product quickly. If this workstyle spreads, our workflows will speed up and to-the-point opinions and creative ideas can be generated to drive new innovation. The day we spent at the workshop gave us tips for our future workstyles.

We asked other participants what they thought of the workshop.

< Participants' Comments >

The following are some comments from workshop participants.

- It was a very new experience for me to convert the team's ideas into an object within only a few hours. I felt that the concept of rapid prototyping, which encourages quick trial and error, can be applied to our marketing assignments as well. (Male employee in his 30s)

- Having discussions while creating and seeing a prototype allowed us to identify detailed points of improvement and actively generate new ideas. If this style of work spreads, I feel that we can introduce higher quality products and services to society. (Male employee in his 50s)

- Holding the workshop in a creative space like the TechShop led me to come up with new ideas. I enjoyed using the latest digital tools like the 3D printer and 3D scanner. In the end, we could fly our drone and share a sense of achievement among the team members. (Female employee in her 20s)