Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan

Touching up the latest technology


1 month ago

Tatsuya Sada, President of DMC Co., Ltd
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Tatsuya Sada

President of DMC Co., Ltd

With technology constantly advancing every day, firms need to constantly innovate to stay relevant. DMC is one such innovative company, providing high-quality touch panels for a range of applications, from simple information terminals to display devices in the medical field. In this interview, President of DMC, Tatsuya Sada, discusses the strength of his firm in addition to plans for future growth.

In recent decades Japan has seen a rise in regional manufacturing competitors that have replicated the Japanese monozukuri process to create products that, generally speaking, may have a lower price, but also have a higher rate of defect. As a specialised manufacturer of touch panels, what does “monozukuri” mean to you and your company? What do you believe are some of the strengths or competitive advantages of Japanese firms that allow them to compete in this tough regional environment? 

At DMC, we interpret monozukuri as catering to customer needs. We are very humble, and we listen to specific requirements of the customers. We try not to be a simple “product out” type of business, but work together with our customers and provide the quality that is required by them. Through these activities, we are able to uplift our performance. In fact, it’s thanks to our customers that we were able to diversify our product line-up.

In terms of business, Low-mix High-volume manufacturing is ideal of course, but by catering to specific requirements of our customers we have pursued a path of High-mix Low-volume and through that, we have a variety in our line-up. There is an example of our product that has been developed 30 years ago and that is still sold. This is because there has been ongoing upgrading of the product, but some customers wish to use the initial equipment, thus we have been catering to their needs with the same product and luckily, we have all the components to be able to do it.

As for your next question, Japan is able to compete because Japanese companies are able to acquire the trust of their customers. There is a uniqueness to the Japanese market where in case there is a defect, a simple replacement is not enough for the customer. We have to really investigate the reason why the defect happened, and we have to explain with responsibility and make improvements so the same does not happen again. If we look at overseas companies, we can see that does not happen in many cases. I am not saying this unique Japanese market mindset is good, but the reason DMC has been able to compete in the domestic market is that we have been able to provide a unique service that is in demand.

 

What challenges has Japan’s demographic situation posed for your company and how do you overcome them?

To mitigate the shortage of manpower, we’ve extended our retirement age in line with the Japanese governments suggestion. We are also actively recruiting high school students in Fukushima, we employ them initially as factory workers, but we are trying to raise them to become engineers so we could have a pool of a young, talented generation supporting our company.

 

What role does DMC have in USCO group and what synergies can the company create in it?

The role in this international network is that DMC has an extensive range of customers. Our product lines are not as cheap compared to our competitors, but we are able to acquire our customers’ trust by communicating and having them on board with our strategy. With that, we are trying to create new business by working together with our customers and incorporating Seedsware and other companies in the network to collaborate.

 

Typically, manufacturers of touch panels pick one method to specialise in, but your company produces touch panels with both the resistive method and the capacitive method. Could you please share with us if there is a particular line or type of product which you consider to be your main focus? Do you see another one that has big growth potential going forward?

In terms of the touch panel market, there is more demand for capacitive touch panels. However, you may have experienced this with your smartphone: sometimes they automatically make a call due to faulty operation. That can never happen in industrial equipment, especially with customers in the medical or factory automation fields. To avoid this faulty operation, it is important we pursue the resistive technology.  We try to combine the advantages of both resistive and capacitive touch panels so we can have easy and secure operation.

As a result, we have created a product that combines the analog and matrix methods of resistive, called MTR technology. Conventionally, with resistive touch panels you can only touch one point. However, with MTR you can touch multiple, and you can pinch in and pinch out just like capacitive touch panels. Especially in industrial equipment, there are measures where you need to push two points simultaneously in order to actually perform certain operations.

 

You mention the MTR and you have a very wide product range characterised by High-mix Low-volume. What products do you think best represent DMC? What is your signature product?

MTR in fact is one of our unique technologies and not many companies make that. We are not the only ones, but we are one of the very few. Our company also creates touch controllers together with the touch panels themselves which is unique.


MTR touch panel and controller


You’ve already mentioned the collaboration within USCO, how would you describe the role of collaboration and co-creation for DMC? Are you currently looking for new partners, especially in overseas markets?

We are actively collaborating with companies, and we are looking for niche companies both domestically and internationally that specialise in niche products where we can combine DMC’s touch panel technology with Sweedsware’s Linux based technology.

Touch panels are one of the human interfaces - there are different types of human interfaces like face recognition, voice recognition and gesture recognition, and by combining them with the touch panel technology, we try to develop a new type of human interface. It is by combining multiple human interfaces that you are able to uplift security measures, especially with many customers making machine tools. The issues they face is faulty operation and being operated by those who are not authorised to do so, which leads to accidents and breakdowns. Once there is a breakdown, they have to send an engineer for maintenance and that is a disadvantage for the company as well as the machine provider. With a better operating interface, we can have face recognition or a maintenance mode, as well as a security upgrade. This way, we can mitigate accidents as well as malfunctions.

 

Your products are exported to the EU, Asia and North America, but starting from 1996, you have had manufacturing capacity in Indonesia and more recently in 2019, an office in Italy. How do you plan to further develop your international business whether it be new overseas manufacturing sites, sales offices or distributers? Are there any regions or markets that you consider key in your overseas expansion strategy?

We have a different market strategy for international expansion. Our current focus is the European market, and in fact 5 years ago our export was 45% to Europe. However, that has declined to 15% currently, so we are revising our international approach globally. One of the new approaches is establishing a branch in Italy, and it’s important that we have our local office in the locality and the market since if you simply compare the catalogue of DMC’s products with Chinese or Taiwanese companies you cannot tell the difference. With on the ground communication we can show the uniqueness of our products, so it is crucial that we have local personnel and local agents to penetrate into the market. In the US market we have a partnering company and at the same time we have Seedsware as well as our group company’s office in the US. What we want to do is to pursue a web-marketing strategy to find customers directly and work with them, and in the Asian market there are many Nikkei Japanese affiliated companies, so our target is towards them through partnering and providing products. The key factor in our international expansion is finding customers as well as distributors who can really understand the “monozukuri” mindset at DMC, so we can develop together.

 

What are the mid to long term changes that COVID have served to accelerate at your company?

Cashless payment is becoming a big thing in Japan with Covid, and not using the actual cash and self-cash registers are becoming popular so there is more demand for touch panels.

 

Imagine we were to come back, and it was your last day as president of DMC, what would you tell us? What goals and what dreams would you like to have achieved by that point?

I have a personal goal and a company goal. As company president, I want to lead DMC to the next level and make it a company that is full of purpose and motivation. As a personal goal, I wish to work in food related fields such as agricultural and contribute to reducing food loss.  

 


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