NA 2010: Kazuo Itoh builds on MDR success

image
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
May 11, 2010 - MMH Editorial

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
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. 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!

Recent Entries

While shippers ready themselves for the long Labor Day weekend, we’d like to remind them that new security and compliance regulations are - as always – looming ahead.

United States Class I carloads were down 56,104 carloads–or 4.6 percent annually–at 1,115,957 in August, and intermodal containers and trailers were up 3.6 percent--or 38,617 units- at 1,114,370.

A new report from Chicago-based freight transportation and logistics consultancy CarrierDirect released this week examines current freight market conditions and what logistics and supply chain stakeholders need to do and know in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.

You’ve heard the old saying, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Rob Handfield sees this as the best of times for procurement professionals, who have an opportunity to deliver real value to their organizations

While core metrics were down from a very impressive July, the August edition of the Non-Manufacturing Report on Business from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) was still very strong.

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.