Suzuki Factory Tour Part 2: Takatsuka Engine Manufacturing Plant
The all-new 2017 GSX-R1000 is “a huge impact model for us,” Takeshi Hayasaki, president of Suzuki Motor of America, told us at the Gixxer’s launch earlier this year. As such, part of the new GSX-R’s media launch included tours of Suzuki’s three main facilities in Japan where we could witness the care and precision that goes into each bike’s development and its production.
First off was a trip to the Ryuyo development complex you can read about in the link above. Our next stop was the Takatsuka engine plant in the Shizuoka prefecture where crankcases, crankshafts, cylinders and heads are mated and and assembled prior to their installation in Suzukis built at the Toyokawa production facilities located about 30 miles away.
Fun Fact: The Suzuki Loom Works, a textile company, was established in 1909. Suzuki’s first motorcycle, the unfortunately named Power Free, debuted in in 1952.
The engine factory at Takatsuka consists of nearly 2 million square-feet on a facility sprawling over nearly 10,000 acres. Amazingly, the factory is staffed by just 264 employees that operate 28 production lines. Four lines are dedicated only to crankshaft production, and each can produce 200 cranks a day.
Fun fact: Suzuki’s workforce consisted of 15,000 employees in 2016. About 91% of Suzukis are sold overseas.
It was a treat to be given access to Suzuki’s engine factory to see up close the scrupulous care that goes into building its powerplants. A Powerpoint presentation begins our tour.
Engine production is segmented into three areas: 250-1000cc Twins; 50-650cc Singles and Twins; and 250-1800cc four-cylinders, Twins and Singles, including the GSX-R1000, M109R and Hayabusa. Suzuki tells us that it typically takes 90 minutes to build a four-cylinder engine and it requires 90 minutes to change a line to another model. One line at Takatsuka is dedicated to the GSX-R1000 engine, and up to 200 Gixxer Thou engines can be produced each day.
I could’ve spent an entire day watching the phenomenal precision and efficiency of workers assembling engines at the Takatsuka facility. Come along for a walk-through of the factory to see GSX-R1000 engines being built in the pictures and captions below.
The GSX-R1000’s forged steel crankshafts arrive in rough condition, as seen on the far left. Basic machining at Suzuki is the next step, which includes the cutting of gear teeth and bearing surfaces. Then the entire crank is heat-treated before the final machining and finishing touches are applied. Seen on the right is the production-ready piece ready for installation in its engine block.
After machining and heat-treating, the crank dimensions are checked for minute tolerances on this precision measuring tool.
The Gixxer Thou’s crankshaft oil holes are inspected by humans with a tiny camera to be sure they are free from obstructions because of the extreme high-performance nature of the bikes; engines in lesser models are checked by machine.
Next, we walked to an adjacent building where the engines are assembled, passing by pallets of parts from reputable subcontractors like Mahle and Denso. Here, a GSX-R1000 cylinder head is put together by fastidious workers.
Gear-sets are assembled by hand…
…before being installed in the engine block.
The compact nature of the GSX-R1000’s engine is readily seen in this photo. Notice how short it is front to rear, thanks in part to stacked transmission shafts that keep the mill very dense.
The block is nearly ready for its cylinder head.
An assembled clutch basket awaits installation prior to bolting on the cylinder head.
The timing chain is prepared for connecting to the camshafts in the soon-to-arrive cylinder head.
Once the cylinder head is placed onto the engine block, a computerized machine applies torque to all head bolts simultaneously to mitigate any warping as the two surfaces mate with each other.
The meticulous care displayed by Suzuki’s workers was evident at every station along the production line.
Electrical systems are prepared prior to the installation of the fuel injection’s throttle bodies. Intake ports remain covered to prevent contaminating debris from entering the engine.
Another GSX-R1000 engine is nearly complete. Note the white gloves used by all factory workers that ensure cleanliness and to remove the risk of contamination of sensitive parts.
And that’s the end of the line, at least as far as we have pictures to illustrate the process of building the GSX-R1000’s impressive engine. Stay tuned for our tour of the Toyokawa factory where Suzukis are assembled and prepared for customers around the world.