NA 2010: Kazuo Itoh builds on MDR success

The Power Moller is used in motor driven roller (MDR) conveyors around the world. How did it come about?

By ·

Kazuo Itoh was only two years old in 1946, when his father founded a company to repair electric motors in Japan following the World War II.

Today, the Power Moller — or motorized conveyor roller that Itoh invented in the mid-1970’s — is used in motor driven roller (MDR) conveyors around the world. How did the MDR come about?

“I have been around motors nearly all of my life, and grew up in the factory,” said Itoh while spending time at the Itoh Denki USA booth at NA 2010 at the end of April. “But I didn’t want to just repair motors. I wanted to invent a product and start my own business.”

Itoh said he got the idea for integrating the motor into a roller after watching how much work was involved in installing the motors on a conventional conveyor. “When the motor is integrated as part of the roller,” he said, “you can install the system much faster.” What’s more, he added, in the 1970’s, Japan was one of the world’s leading manufacturers, including automotive, consumer electronics and appliances. “Those companies wanted a way to change over their manufacturing lines quickly,” he said. “The motorized roller conveyor was modular which made the turnover easy.”

Still, Itoh added that it wasn’t until Panasonic installed sections of MDR in a manufacturing plant making VCR’s in the early 80’s that the new concept caught on in Japan. The first MDRs used AC motors, which limited their use to niche applications, like a transfer conveyor. In the mid-1980’s, Itoh Denki began using DC and brushless DC motors, which allowed them to become the key engine driving a conveyor line.

The greatest success came when the United States Postal Service adopted MDR here in the U.S. “Once the USPS started using MDR, OEMs understood its value and began to adopt it in logistics,” Itoh said. “That was followed by the e-commerce boom.” In all of those cases, the key selling feature was the ability to run an MDR conveyor to sense when product was in a zone and run on-demand. 

Today, MDR is gaining more attention from companies focused on sustainability, which has long been of interest in Japan. “Japan has almost no natural resources of its own, so we are very committed to protecting our environment,” said Itoh. “So that is part of our mission. We also foresee a serious shortage of labor coming in the future. We believe these are opportunities for us to demonstrate the added value of automation.”


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
How Lean is your Lean Quality Program?
Avoid quality program bureaucracy that can sap logistics productivity and increase costs
Download Today!
From the September 2016 Issue
Indecision revolving around three complex supply chain elements—transportation, technology and organizational structure—finds many companies waiting to commit to a strategic path. However, waiting too long will only result in a competitive disadvantage that will be difficult to overcome in today’s fast-paced, global economy.
Time for Asia’s ports to rebuild
Is the freight recession upon us…again?
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Supply Chain Best Practices: Visibility to In-Transit Inventory
During this webcast you'll learn on how various organizations have gained instant access to in-transit parcels and given access to this information to stakeholders.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
25th Annual Masters of Logistics
Indecision revolving around three complex supply chain elements—transportation, technology and...
2016 Quest for Quality: Winners Take the Spotlight
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers and U.S. ports have crossed the service-excellence...

Regional ports concentrate on growth and connectivity
With the Panama Canal expansion complete, ocean cargo gateways in the Caribbean are investing to...
Digital Reality Check
Just how close are we to the ideal digital supply network? Not as close as we might like to think....