Mar 22, 2016
Making traditional hand-crafted lanterns as commercial products
Traditional Japanese lanterns are usually made of paper. But Usa Lantern makes and sells lanterns made of vinyl, which can stand up to wind and rain. Japanese lanterns are made by a single craftsman from start to finish, but Usa Lantern has devised a system that divides the task into three processes. This increases productivity significantly.
The first stage of manufacture is assembling the supports and winding the frame around them. Then comes applying adhesive and attaching the lantern shade. The final stage is drying the lantern and removing the supports. In this way, we’ve systemized our manufacturing.
Many manufacturers use wood supports, and at first, we used wood supports, too. But the problem with wood supports is, they’re not very durable They get worn-out during use. So, we’ve switched to aluminum supports for our main products. These are more durable, and they’re easier to work with.
Usa Lantern has developed an automatic frame winder. Also, for the shade attaching process, the company has improved work efficiency and reduced the burden on workers by designing the work-station carefully. What’s more, since 1981, Usa Lantern has employed people with mental disabilities; currently, among its 14 workers, there are eight such people.
In 1981, we had the chance to hire people with mental disabilities. Such people sometimes have difficulty in remembering things. In fact, remembering all the steps involved in the three processes I mentioned was quite hard for some of our workers. The reason we started to divide our manufacturing was so that people could specialize in one process.
Usa Lantern hopes to increase its opportunities to employ people with mental disabilities. It also intends to ensure that people in coming generations inherit the techniques of this traditional Japanese industry.
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