Panasonic will increase the production of home air conditioners in Japan, transferring some manufacturing currently done in China to domestic plants.
The Japanese appliance maker will spend a total of JPY 10 billion (USD 70 million) on new production lines at its plants, mainly in Kusatsu, Shiga prefecture, according to a company announcement on Thursday.
Starting in fiscal 2023, Panasonic will relocate production of certain air conditioners for the domestic market to Japan from China, and raise the share of domestic production to 40% as early as fiscal 2024 from 10% at present, it said. At the Kusatsu plant, Panasonic will install automated assembly equipment to roughly triple its capacity.
The company will bring the manufacturing of high-end air conditioners and exterior compressors back to Japan from Guangzhou in southern China as a first step. It will move the production of midrange models back to Japan starting in fiscal 2024.
In Japan, Panasonic will automate the inspection of finished air conditioners and install robots to assemble compressors for greater efficiency. The company estimates this will cut the time from production to delivery to a quarter of that at its Guangzhou plant.
The Guangzhou plant will use the spare capacity to increase the output of air conditioners for the Chinese market. With the restructuring, Panasonic aims to deliver air conditioners more quickly, avoiding future disruptions to its supply chain as occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting semiconductor squeeze.
“We will become more responsive to changes in the market, such as the presence of zero-energy houses,” said Masaharu Michiura, president of Panasonic’s in-house air-conditioning and ventilation equipment company.
The Kusatsu plant opened a new research building earlier in June to develop, among other products, an air conditioner that uses a natural refrigerant, and a new air-conditioning system that can improve the quality of sleep.
Panasonic has set a JPY 290 billion (USD 2 billion) sales target for equipment that combines air-conditioning and ventilation in Japan, along with whole-building air-conditioning systems, in fiscal 2024, an increase of 20% compared with fiscal 2022.