Panel session with Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. about co-creation: Creating new value through innovation in the development process

Under the theme of “creating new value through innovation in the development process,” we got an opportunity for discussion between Yamaha Motor members and our staff.

List of participants (without honorifics) ―――――

Masaki Oosako Senior General Manager of Electronics Technology Section, PF Model Unit, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

Norihisa Nakamura Group Leader of Design Group 1, Electronic Device Development Division, Control Technology Group 2, Electronic System Development Division, Electronics Technology Section, PF Model Unit, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

Yoshitomi Nakagawa Project Manager of Control Technology Group 2, Electronic System Development Division, Electronics Technology Section, PF Model Unit, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

Takeharu Kato Director and General Manager of First Business Division, AZAPA Co., Ltd.

Akihiro Yoshizawa Manager of First Control Technology Business Department, First Business Division, AZAPA Co., Ltd.

Hiroaki Masaoka Manager of Second Control Technology Business Department, First Business Division, AZAPA Co., Ltd.

― Could you please tell us about the backstory of Yamaha Motor’s contact to AZAPA?

Masaki Oosako (hereinafter referred to as “Oosako”): We are in charge of production and advanced development of electric and electronic systems centering on motorcycles. In motorcycle product development, environmental measures became strongly demanded from the end of the 20th century to the first half of the 2000s, and divisions related with electric and electronic systems have increased their workload compared to before. In addition, in recent years, control system has come to play a more important role in terms of improving the quality of driving, which has increased the burden of our Section along with the expectation for us. “If we just keep doing what we have done so far, it will fail one day." That was our vague concern, then our Director in charge introduced AZAPA to us to consult. We thought that to meet AZAPA may trigger a change in our working method to improve the efficiency. Then we met each other for the first time, which was 3-4 years ago, I think.

Takeharu Kato (hereinafter referred to as “Kato”): I remember it too. At that time, Mr. Oosako said, “I would like you to do some consulting about the company's system and organization, processes, resources, etc. based on your expertise in automobile field.” However, AZAPA at that time did not have a structured solution enough to meet your demand. If we had undertook the assignment at that time, we might not have had it done smoothly.

Oosako: After a while, about two years ago, the situation we were concerned about has finally become a reality. The number of tasks of our Section was increasing further, including the development of new solutions about such as safety, security and comfort, and we were afraid that, as the complexity of work may continue to increase at this rate, it would not fit in the rule of thumb and human knowledge alone. Then what came up to our mind was AZAPA. Then we proceeded with specific consultations and started working together in 2018.

Kato: In fact, the time when Mr. Oosako recalled AZAPA was when we established the control development process. We had been doing a lot of control development since before, but each of the projects was done with the way of individual staff independently. Therefore, we decided to establish the system as a company, under the keyword of “Control of Things®.” We defined our core as to control everything and set the established process then. I think that it was a really good timing when the needs Mr. Oosako expected from AZAPA matched with the value we could provide.

Yoshitomi Nakagawa (hereinafter referred to as “Nakagawa”):It was also the time when we were just wondering if our development process is OK as it is. Electronic control for motorcycles started with fuel injection control. In 2006, we were the first to install electronically controlled throttle on mass-produced motorcycles in the world, and it was just about 10 years ago when the traction control started to be used. From that point, we started to install IMU in 2015, and started to estimate the posture of the body in three dimensions. Our tasks have been rapidly becoming complicated since then. We were fully using MBD (model-based development)-related tools and simulations, but we had our hands full with just using the tools to get the job done. We think that we were able to make a match with AZAPA at the timing when we realized that we shouldn't stay as it is and we had to review the development process.

Kaato:We were brought together. It was destiny, wasn't it? (lol)


Hiroaki Masaoka (hereinafter referred to as “Masaoka”): It’s just a good opportunity, so let me ask you a question. How was your first impression of our company?

Oosako: I felt some points to expect and charms that are different from others. One is that you already had experiences in various fields. I thought we may be able to trust you since what you were doing was based on not a desk theory, but on real experiences. Secondly, although it may be impolite, the content and scope of the work you are doing was far beyond what I imagined based on the size of your company. I still remember impressively your answer when I asked why you are able to handle these. You said it is owing to human resource. I realized that, as each person is a professional, even a small number of people are able to produce such result and I thought again we may be able to trust you. And your biggest charming point is “Tier 0.5” concept. While we and our suppliers expect each other, there are territories where both don't want to enter. A kind of gray zones. But AZAPA said they are good at taking care of those territories with attentiveness in details. I even thought that can’t be true. (lol)


Norihisa Nakamura (hereinafter referred to as “Nakamura”): Let me add some more from the  practical level. When making a request to a consulting company, some of them may just make a textbook proposal. In that case, we may need to process and apply it into practical use, which consumes more time than necessary. Hearing from Mr. Oosako, I had a great expectation on AZAPA since you will be able to do everything from consulting to advices for engineering and implementation as a set. I thought we may be able to learn a lot from you to work better if everything is going well. That was my first impression.

― What steps did you take this time to deepen collaboration with AZAPA?。

Nakagawa: In working with AZAPA, we have set three steps. The first step was to ask AZAPA to develop a control system with the same development theme we had used before, but in AZAPA’s unique way. Then we compared what AZAPA developed with what we've done to find the strength of each other. At the second step, we incorporated the strength of AZAPA we discovered into our process, and formulated the hypothesis about how we can leverage the strength of AZAPA and what is the point of compromise that makes us happy. Then in the third step, we tried to develop a compact control system that could be completed only by our department on the basis of the hypothesis. We developed it with a new process and left some portions to AZAPA as designed in the hypothesis. This was a flow to verify the effectiveness of the new process, and we prove it. To complete overall steps from 1 to 3 took one year. We were able to proceed through the close communication with each other up to the third step and happily everything was going well.

Akihiro Yoshizawa (hereinafter referred to as “Yoshizawa”): To be honest, I hesitated for a moment to apply AZAPA's process to Yamaha’s product development straight away. Because Yamaha already has MB development process and its unique development process, and there are differences between motorcycles and automobiles, I was worried about how far we could do it. However, while talking about problems Yamaha had with them, I came to feel confident that our development process could be useful for them. Our process is based on a deep understanding of the control development itself and established to realize "conversion of technologies to asset while keeping designer's thought", “quality control through comprehensive control design and testing” and "promotion of streamlining in development by eliminating waste and making good use of deliverables.” I felt that it was perfect for solving the problems that Yamaha will face in the future, such as the increase in complexity and scale of control system and the accompanying increase in number of man-hours required for system development. This was a good experience for us and we really appreciate it.

―I think it would be difficult to collaborate if companies don't share the ideal vision of manufacturing. Could each of you tell us your own vision?

Kato:First of all, how to design value is important. We think that there are two types of value, that are “functional value” and “semantic value”. To say simply, “functional value” is realized by pursuing specifications. It concentrates on achieving high specifications. On the other hand, “semantic value” is what enriches the lives of end users who receive products and services. For example, the iPhone has dramatically changed our lives. How to decide this “semantic value” is very important.

Oosako::I agree. Without pursuing value, I think our company has no significance. Yamaha Motor's corporate philosophy includes the phrase “Kando creating (creation of feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement),” and the brand slogan “Revs your Heart” is to make people excited. Both are associated with emotional attachment. A Yamaha product should be a vehicle not just for transportation, but for customers who chose Yamaha to feel that they were happy to buy Yamaha. Our mission is to think about and pursue value and to appeal it with technologies.

Kato:In the design of mechanisms and electrics (ECU hardware and control) aiming to realize value as a high-order requirement, I think it is necessary for a designer to leave a document to show his thought behind the specification. Recently, more companies say that a Simulink model represents control specifications, but we are firmly opposed to it. Otherwise, only the person who designed it knows the difference. Requirement analysis and structural design need to be systematically advanced, and we express it using USDM (Universal Specification Describing Manner), DFD (data flow diagram), decision table, and so on. Regardless of the means, if the system is capitalized as a process, it will be surely utilized in later derivative development. In addition, by keeping the assets developed so far easy to apply and utilize while ensuring usability and maintainability, it should be possible to make the subsequent design considerably more efficient.

Oosako:Such technique is dependable. Increase in work related with control technologies forced us to collaborate with AZAPA, but I think it happy that we could work more. At the beginning of the introduction of electronic control technology in the development of motorcycles, most of them was what simply replaced the machine with electricity without changing the function. A remarkable example is the switch from carburetor to fuel injection. But now we can contribute to the development of our control technologies such as electronically controlled throttle and auto clutch control system while considering the uniqueness of Yamaha, to impress our customers with Yamaha products. I feel happy that such an era has finally come. However, to realize the product objectives, we should be aware that it is necessary to firmly balance the QFD (Quality Function Deployment) results and QCD (Quality Cost Delivery). We also should realize that nowadays we can't make ideal products without evolving our skills, no matter how much we think. So I would be very grateful if you could help us with your skills and techniques. The situation is as I expected in the beginning.

Nakamura:One of the things that made me happy with this activity was the response of the staff of our Section. In the third step of the activity, we asked them to do what they do not do with usual development process, which cause double work and man-hours. However, when I asked "How did you feel about the work with AZAPA?" they replied as "It was very good.” It seemed that they are confident that it was a good activity that could enhance their problem consciousness. I think that to spend a fulfilling year becomes a successful experience for them, which should create a good spiral in the future.

― What did AZAPA gain from working with Yamaha Motor?

Yoshizawa:We got much. Especially in the case of concrete operation, the problems that Yamaha was facing during this activity, such as how to write USDM and how to manage forms, were what we should improve in our process. This time we were able to brush up those through the communication with Yamaha, repeating the round of sessions. Our efforts with Yamaha will become our standard in the future. I am grateful that we have made a good case example.

Kato:What I felt was their passion. The sense of crisis and enthusiasm vary from company to company, but from the beginning I noticed the passionate feeling of Yamaha. They did believe that they should change. We are focusing on our core technologies to challenge new things and provide values for the future, but because of our scale, we will be fooled if we do not proceed at high speed. So we are rushing around with passion and I feel that Yamaha is a company that keeps pace with us with the same amount of passion as ours. We are working hard to keep the good relationship with Yamaha.

Masaoka:I also feel that Yamaha's attitude was a good stimulus for AZAPA young employees. In Japan's industrial structure, there is an up-and-down relationship where OEM is one step above and Tier 1 needs to come into line with OEM. If Yamaha worked on this activity in such a way as to look down on AZAPA from the top, the younger may have shrank. But, Yamaha looked at us as an equal partner. Yamaha accepted the proposals made by young people, so they would have become confident. Although persons on the management level may be able to share passionate ideas with each other as we do, it is usually difficult to work together with the common passion at the field level. It was really good that we were able to do it this time.

Oosako:It is also a pleasure for us that our partner has a passionate feeling. If we share the passion, the synergistic effect will motivate both of you and us more and more. The value of Yamaha's work naturally is to deliver excitement to customers and to deliver good products. But at the same time, we are also motivated by enjoying work. In the past, there was a sense of crisis that “we will not be able to enjoy our work if we continue this way” and that was the source of passion. I don't think it's just a matter of making things and getting on a certain cycle. I think the work would be meaningless for me if I could not enjoy it.

Kato:I also would like to talk about enjoying the work. At AZAPA, technical people are classified into four stages. First stage is “engineer” which is a basic role and includes operator-like tasks. Next stage is “designer,” role of which is to design, then “scientist” which requires clarification and theorization of what cannot be figured out by research. And the stage AZAPA aims is “artist” that requires the perspective of art. It means the challenge to architecture design. We are asking ourselves as “What value should we provide in order to enrich people's lives? What kind of architecture can we create by unraveling the causal relationship between social issues to create such value?” We want to be artists, and I'm sure Mr. Oosako will have the same consciousness.

Oosako:Professionals are coming out of challenges, and art is to be produced by those professionals. Such concept excites us and I feel I want to be like this too. This is what makes you different from a consulting company that just works on engineering.

Nakagawa:Long-term vision of Yamaha Motor comes with a slogan of “ART for Human Possibilities”. Our ART is coined by initial letters, but it is similar by chance (lol).


― Finally, please tell us what you expect from each other.

Oosako:We want to take advantage of our strengths to connect Yamaha to social changes, and to evolve and change mobility more and more. And we want to keep customers excited. This is what is mentioned in our long-term vision as well. To realize it, we must evolve our work more and more. We have to continue to offer various things by changing the content of our work. Processes and methods should also be evolved as our working techniques. It’s never possible that we can stay as we are. So, if you can evolve together with us by utilizing your company's strengths such as measurement and simulation technologies, we should be able to continue to provide values as we want, keeping challenges. In order to continue creating values, we need a partner, and I think that is AZAPA.

Kato:The excitement that Yamaha says is related with the “sensitivity” of humans. The focus of the automobile industry is moving toward safety and comfort rather than sensibility performance such as joy to operate, for a realization of society with autonomous driving levels 4 and 5, and such trend may continue in the future. Many industries are moving toward that direction too. On the other hand, the motorcycle is the only mobility among all types of mobility that can provide a timeless value by making users feel the joy of maneuvering. “Sensitivity” is mentioned associated with various new products and industries in Yamaha's medium- to long-term plan, but it is originated from motorcycles. We need to replace the word excitement with other words by phenomenon. Those words are still qualitative such as feel of xxx, so then as an engineer, we need to replace them with a physical quantity that can be a characteristic quantity. Then, we will disassemble and assign it to the control factors of mechanical and electric that can control the physical quantity, to perform model-based performance design to find how it will be realized as a system. For the future, we would like to work with Yamaha to create such a system architect according to the process.

Oosako:It is important to think about values together.

Kato: Let's refine the definition of sensibility and create new values that touch the rider's sensibility together.