The Importance Of “Inspired Creativity”

JIMTOF 2006 emphasized that manufacturing know-how—the capacity for “inspired creativity in making things”—is fundamental and essential.

A unique aspect of the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) is that each show features a major theme that exhibitors are encouraged to rally around. In November 2004, the theme was “nanotechnology” (see JIMTOF Puts “Nanotechnology” Under Magnification). In November 2006, the theme was “monozukuri.” This interesting Japanese word needs a little explaining. Literally, it means “thing making,” “workpiece production” or “production process,” depending on the context. However, the overtones of the word imply the spirit of skilled craftsmanship and pride in making things very well. A good translation of monozukuri in this sense might be “inspired creativity in manufacturing.”

The two levels of meaning associated with this word made the theme doubly appropriate for this machine tool show. On one level, this theme reaffirms the national importance of manufacturing. Japan has seen much of its basic part production move to overseas factories. This trend threatens to undermine the country’s economic foundation, which has long relied on the potential for wealth creation inherent in manufacturing. Restoring the preeminence of manufacturing aims at helping to secure Japan’s long-term economic well-being.

On the other level, this theme has a message for young people in Japan. They are shunning careers in manufacturing because they find the lure and glamour of other high-tech occupations more attractive. Manufacturing is increasingly perceived as a bit too gritty. Appealing to the creativity and intellectual challenge connoted by monozukuri is an effort to offset this, encouraging talented young people to see value in manufacturing careers. “Making things” has a vital human element that can be as exciting and fulfilling as information technology, computer science or design engineering.

Exhibitors interpreted this theme in various ways. Some showed how new machines and equipment enhance productivity (sheer part-making capacity). Others focused on machining concepts for transforming advanced designs into reality (creative product innovation). Many displays could be seen as expressions of both interpretations.

More than 154,000 visitors are reported to have attended the show, a record for this event.

We present here a sampling of interesting developments gleaned at JIMTOF. These represent both basic productivity enhancements and ventures in innovation.