March 27, 2012
The Iwaki Engine that Could
Nissan’s engine factory in Iwaki, Fukushima was closed for nearly a month due to structural damage caused by the earthquake of March 2011, while its location 50 kilometers south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility added to anxieties about whether the plant could return to former productivity.
But Iwaki, with the help of Nissan staff from Japan and around the globe, as well as parts suppliers like JATCO, was able to come back on line and produce 300,000 engines last year. The Global Media Center spoke with Masaru Nomoto, general manager at Iwaki, who took the helm in January, about the plant’s recent past and outlook.
Q1. Nomoto-san, when did you come to Iwaki and what impression did you have before arrival?
I was assigned to the Iwaki plant this January. Before that I was in charge of quality engineering at the Yokohama plant. I heard the news of March 11 at the Yokohama plant, and our role was to back up the Iwaki plant’s recovery. Specifically, my role was to support them in quality inspections.
I was quite moved and impressed to see all 700 staff at the Iwaki plant united as one and making efforts to resume operations.
Q2. How would you describe Iwaki operations now?
Currently, Iwaki plant operations are back and running as before the events of last year. However, lesser earthquakes and aftershocks continue, and we discovered some areas of factory land are sinking inside the plant. So, we’ve decided to take permanent measures to reinforce the land over the past year.
The additional reconstruction and relocation will end by this July, and we’re already halfway there.
Q3. What were the biggest lessons of March 11?
We, meaning the Iwaki plant, learned many things through the experience of 3-11. Lessons learned included how to reinforce equipment, reinforce the pillars and the ceiling, and, most importantly, how to strengthen the plant’s foundation.
We also undertake emergency simulation drills, recreating a situation exactly like 3-11, as well as investigate and confirm procedures and initial responses following any new event.
Q4. Iwaki saw a broad joint effort to help it back online. What were the details?
Of course, employees at the Iwaki plant did a really good job to restore the plant, but there was also great support from Nissan’s manufacturing facilities in Japan, especially the maintenance teams.
A great many colleagues from those places came over to help us. All the members of the Iwaki plant really appreciated their assistance.
Q5. What’s on tap this year?
Our plan for the 2012 financial year is to produce about 300,000 engine units. For this year, we’ll be focusing on raising standards at the plant to meet the expectations of Infiniti, whose engines we make here alongside those for Nissan.