Ebara Manufacturing, matching their products to the exact requirements of their customers
Ebara Manufacturing, with a history of over 70 years, produces an extensive range of wind and water pumps for the construction industry, the water & drainage utilities, petrochemical plants and nuclear power stations. As part of the Ministry of Trade’s Stardust 80 national project, Ebara is also developing revolutionary recycling technology for the separation of city waste to provide useful products such as compost, pulp and fuel gas. The company is also active in environmental protection equipment, producing fume desulphurizers and dust collectors, and has recently developed a household water purifier which uses hollow osmotic fibre technology.
The Ebara factory in Fujisawa, Japan, produces mainly small bore general purpose and industrial pumps. Mr Yutaka Shigeshisa, Manager of the Production, Planning & Control section explains the problems of manufacturing such a large and often customized product range. “Customers often just ask for ‘a pump’, and naturally without knowing exact details about our products they are often very vague. We produce over 3,000 types of pump, and with such a wide variety even our own staff were having difficulty dealing with customers enquiries and orders. The manual system was starting to break down with ever increasing volumes and newer and more sophisticated product’s”.
Ebara already utilised a computerised order entry system, once the correct pumps have been identified. They decided to look into developing a system to automate the process fully, so that any employee in the sales office could identify the customers requirements quickly and accurately.
Ten possible packages where evaluated before the XpertRule® expert system was chosen – supplied by Daiichi Computer Resources in Japan. The flexibility of the delivery environment was one of the main initial attractions.
“We already had data on type selection”, says Mr Shigeshisa, “and we were able to enter it into XpertRule in 40 hours”.
“This would not have been possible with any other package. The ease of editing rules just by adding or altering examples of past decisions was surprising. I don’t think we could have built the system without it. XpertRule not only makes life easy for the developer, but also creates a final system which is simple to use for the sales people. Even quite new employees can now specify a complex special purpose pump by using the system. With XpertRule you achieve system construction in a short time with excellent expandability”.
The operator selects options from XpertRule generated menus of the possibilities offered, for such things as type of fluid being pumped etc. The process takes about one minute, and only ten seconds to react to additional data or changed requirements.
Ebara have distributed the completed system to all their sales offices, and they see the ease of changing the system specifications using XpertRule as being a great advantage.
The company plans to use XpertRule in another area, that of Planning Support. “The value of an expert system lies in capturing the knowledge of the company or the individual. XpertRule seems to be a tool which easily packages that knowledge for the computer” concludes Mr Shigeshisa.