Nissan, the secrets of Tochigi between craftsmanship and automation

Does the revolution in the way of building cars start with large series or luxury models? For Nissan the answer is the second, even if one should not think that top of the range means limited production. Because the center of excellence, the Kaminokawa factory in Tochigi prefecture, Japan, is actually its largest factory in the country and also the most advanced.

In fact, the models of the brand are born here Infiniti, which despite having been withdrawn from the European markets, confirms a solid position in North America and Asia, together with some particularly fine, sporty and sophisticated models. It was here that the first processes of evolution of production towards sustainable solutions were also initiated, which were then extended to other sites.

Grand masters in the factory

The Tochigi complex opened its doors in 1968. The first plant to be completed and activated was the one for the production of iron and aluminum parts, while the assembly of complete axles began just a year later. Another 2 years later the factory was completed with the inauguration of the assembly lines for complete cars that started with the third generation of the Cedric sedan and the flagship President.

With the birth of the Infiniti brand, whose first model, the Q45, started from the President itself, Tochigi has definitively become the production site of the top of the range. In a complex that touches on i 3 million of square meters, including the test track, and employs over 5,000 workers, most of the models of the luxury brand are still produced and a maximum volume of 250,000 units per year can be reached.

Nissan's Tochigi plant

The reason lies in the high specialization that this plant has developed: here, in fact, Nissan has particularly concentrated the most expert workers in artisanal processes, the so-called Takumi, who are over 200 chosen from among 4,500 specialized workers, among whom are named 6 gran maestri o Meister Takumi of particular experience and knowledge.

The balanced coexistence between cutting-edge technologies and craftsmanship make this plant suitable not only for the production of luxury models, but also for the celebrated sports Skyline and, from the early years of the new millennium, of what Nissan considers its jewels, the GT-R and the modern Z series that started with the 350Z.

Nissan's Tochigi plant
Nissan's Tochigi plant
Nissan's Tochigi plant

Robot craftsmen and energy saving

In 2019, Nissan announced an investment of 33 billion yen, equivalent to more than 250 million euros, for a technological leap in its main plants that also included the start of production of electrified models. A project started by Tochigi, where in 2020, with the end of the works, the variants are also built Hybrid of Cima and Fuga and of the equivalent Infiniti models and in these days the Ariya electric SUV is starting to be produced.

One of the key steps was to rethink the process of assembling the powertrains, evolved into the so-called “universal mounting system” which uses an automated pallet to mount the entire powertrain on the car with continuous automatic measurement and calibration technologies. The system allows the installation of traditional hybrid or electric motor groups for 27 different combinations of powertrain modules.

At the same time, a series of previously exclusively manual processes have been digitized: in essence, the Takumi masters have taught robots to do a part of their precision work, such as the sealing of the bodywork and the headlining.

Nissan's Tochigi plant
Nissan's Tochigi plant
Nissan's Tochigi plant

Lower environmental impact

The commitment to reduce the environmental impact of car construction has instead concentrated on one of the processes usually most critical for pollution and resource consumption, such as painting, through a process that allows you to paint both the metal and synthetic parts together, overcoming the problem of the temperature difference that forced you to do it separately.

In this way a 25% CO2 reduction and a drastic cut in water consumption, to which is added a system for the recovery and reuse of excess paint that would normally be wasted.

Inauguration 1968 (1971 car production)
Property Nissan Motor. Co. Ltd.
Location Kaminokawa, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Total area 2,922,000 square meters
Employees employed 5,300 (in 2019)
Production capacity approximately 250,000 vehicles per year
Other activities Test circuit
Models currently produced Cima, Fuga (also hybrid), Skyline, 370Z and Failady, GT-R, Infiniti Q50, Q60, Q70,
Most important historical models produced Cedric (from 3rd gen.), Leopard (from ’92), President, Infiniti Q40, Q45, M, EX, FX, QX
Models of forthcoming production Nissan Z 2022

Source: Motor1.com Italia – News by it.motor1.com.

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