The Story of Polishing 2 The Road to Complete In-House Production
At the Sakata Plant, summer suddenly burst into bloom following a late-coming spring.
The surface of the Mogamigawa River shone in the sun, and the grass grew greener and taller with each passing day.
The 10 new employees, who’d been utter beginners when they started two months earlier, worked like hell on their polishing technique in this very difficult environment, where they basically had to learn everything for themselves. Despite the fact that they took more than twice as long as the company’s subcontractors to do their job, their superior technique ensured that the clubs they produced were ready for commercialization. In June 1982, we decided to introduce a full in-house production system in phases?model by model.
The irons manufactured and sold by Honma at that time were called the “FE Series,” and there were four different clubs: the 400, 700, 800, and the 900. Once we had decided to manufacture everything in-house, we started with the grinding process for the FE700 head, which until that time had been manufactured by subcontractors. The Sakata Plant craftsmen decided to take on the process and create a product of far better quality than the outsourced one. Fortunately, they were not pressed for time the way the subcontractors were, and so they could pay attention to the fine details.
“Insert the shaft into the head you’re grinding now, and then set up like you’re going to hit the ball. The ball sort of slides and rolls?it doesn’t sit quite right, see? The solution here is to grind this part.”
The company founder would visit the plant again and again, and each time the engineers in charge of grinding would give them advice that they couldn’t have imagined. Doi believed that the very essence of “Honmaism” lie in our grinding and polishing technology, and it was this kind of exchange between our founder and our engineers that served to engender and fine-tune this technology.
After a year of battling to create the very best products, the first group of 10 employees was joined by a group of 27 new employees as of the plant’s second spring. The grinding procedure, which started out as a process of trial and error, consisted of rough grinding done with sandpaper, followed by buffering for the finishing process, plus other top-secret company techniques. These were compiled into a manual of procedures.
The FE700 was a hit, helping bring a great number of professionals to victory. In 1984, the grinding team, which then consisted of 76 people, was operating full scale night and day. Honma was now on a roll of hit product releases: the “Prancer,” which was designed for easy handling even for golfers with less strength, followed by the “Plus 2” series which, with a loft of two degrees higher, yielded astonishing carry.
“We realized that our technique had finally improved as of the third year,” says Doi. When he first joined the company, he studied a series of books for management personnel. Doi, who before he knew it became a supervisor in a field that he knew absolutely nothing about, believed that more than a manager, he had to be the best example for his employees. That’s the attitude he took every day when he took to the grinding machine as lead engineer.
“We’re still not satisfied. We never will be. All we think about is how we can make our clubs even better, even more beautiful.”
Our founders, who pursued even better added value in iron grinding as a sophisticated craft, achieved a multi-layered grinding process. The idea of “compromise” never even occurred to them.