Where All The Magic Happens
We take a tour inside Honda's Kumamoto factory
A domestic model VTR250 begins...
A domestic model VTR250 begins its life as a bare frame.
Spanning the size equivalent to 36 major league baseball fields, Honda's Kumamoto factory is the largest of its kind within the company. Here, a majority of Honda's two-wheeled machines are built for worldwide (and domestic) distribution. In fact, one motorcycle rolls off the line every 90 seconds. And the plant is only working at 50-percent capacity. Along with the production buildings, test tracks for both on-and-off-road machines are incorporated within its walls.
When designing the factory in Kumamoto that same concern for the environment it shares with its vehicles was taken into consideration-the plant was built with as little digging into the foundation as possible to limit waste. Deep below is a natural bed of cold water that creates a pocket of cool air between it and the factory. Honda then vents this cool air into its welcome room to save energy. There are a whole host of measures the company takes to save energy and reduce waste, including a closed system to treat its industrial water supply, a rainwater usage facility and the implementation of 1008 solar panels.
Once the engine and drivetrain...
Once the engine and drivetrain are intact, ancillaries are then installed. Note the moving shelves behind the workers that follow each motorcycle and contain each piece the bike needs for completion.
A finished VTR250 then moves...
A finished VTR250 then moves to the scratch test, where a highly-experienced worker examines the entire motorcycle for any scratches or imperfections during the build.
Once a model passes the scratch...
Once a model passes the scratch test, it then gets tested to ensure mechanical and electrical components are functioning properly.
Inside the plant the work area is spotless. To aid the workers, each production line track has the ability to change height at different stages to reduce the amount each worker has to bend at the waist. Unlike other manufacturers, however, each line is dedicated to one model-you won't find a CBR600RR on the production line behind a Gold Wing. Further, a change in the production line requires at least a month's notice in order to notify suppliers.
During our visit, Honda staff were eager to show off the new paint facility it uses on "fun" vehicles (mainly motorcycles 125cc and above that are exported to Europe and North America) like the VFR1200F. While we weren't able to extract the secret behind the new painting process, a display was set up with black fuel tanks from Harley Davidson, who Honda views as the benchmark of paint quality, along with tanks using a less expensive painting method. When viewed side-by-side the difference is clear: the lower quality tanks were less reflective than the Harley with a hazy tint and waves within the paint's finish. But when the new VFR fuel tank was put beside the Harley unit, suddenly the American tank was put to shame-the Honda's was void of virtually every defect and reflected a mirror-like finish. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed.