Cup noodles, which could be considered a representative food from Japan, are now consumed in 80 countries around the world. The first cup noodle product went on sale in 1971. Starting with the material used to make the containers, along with the processing of the noodles, and of the other ingredients using the then-unusual approach of freeze drying, the realization of the product relied on a range of creative ideas and innovations. The development process, however, was not easy as many problems regarding the automated production line had to be solved. But, overcoming these problems made possible the introduction to the market of inexpensive mass-produced cup noodles, an industry that has grown to reach a production level of more than 3.2 billion servings a year (2006 data) in Japan alone.
The goal of automated production, not only for foodstuffs but for all mass-produced products, is to stabilize price, quality and supply. It goes without saying that lower costs contribute to operational stability.
Canon toner cartridges, used in laser printers and other office imaging machines, are no exception. Differing from cup noodles, however, even though both could be considered "consumables," toner cartridges represent the heart of these precision imaging machines. As such, assembly requires a high degree of precision, making the automation of all related processes a daunting challenge. Even when the goal of automation was achieved, frequent stoppages caused by minor difficulties created many problems.
How did Canon manage to overcome these difficulties to create automated assembly technology for toner cartridges? Listen to what the three people who were directly involved in the project have to say.
- Interview and editorial organization
- Tadahiro Suda
- Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1955. After eight years of editing work at communications and publishing companies, struck out on his own in 1987 and founded an editing production agency. Soon shifted his focus to freelance journalism and writing, working extensively for business information journals and job-transfer publications. In recent years, writing work has shifted from print media to portal sites, often focusing on the history of technological developments and career development for engineers.