Monday, May 20, 2019
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Koyama, Japan

From Nagano to The World

7 months ago

Mr. Takahiro Koyama, President of KOYAMA CO, LTD.
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Mr. Takahiro Koyama

President of KOYAMA CO, LTD.

In this interview, The Worldfolio sits down with Mr. Takahiro Koyama, President of Koyama Co., Ltd. to present his company’s long history, unique competitive advantages and global expansion.


In today’s world, Japan finds itself in a situation where it is being ‘copied’, i.e the products that are made here can sometimes be made overseas at a lesser cost. How can Japanese manufacturers compete in this world? What must they do to survive?

In the case of Chinese companies, many manufacture and sell ‘copied’ versions of Japanese products – the products may look similar and have the same function, but the level of quality is far from optimal. Others tend to buy manufacturing technology from Japanese firms and then use it to manufacture products with similar quality to those made in Japan. However, these companies do not provide the level of service, beyond the product capabilities, that Japanese companies do. Therefore, what makes Japan stand out amongst its overseas competitors is its ability to provide elite quality of products and unparalleled services all in one ‘package’.


My next question is in regards to the ‘Chūken Kigyō’ of Japan, which are the medium-sized companies that have acquired very high levels of expertise in certain fields but that are largely invisible, or somewhat hidden to the public eye. What is your view on these ‘Chūken Kigyō’ and what do you think their role is in the manufacturing chain of Japan? Why can your company be considered as one?

As you mentioned, Chūken Kigyō are companies that have obtained valuable expertise in certain fields of the manufacturing industry, and are essential to the manufacturing chain. Without them, a lot of the commercial products that we see on a daily basis would not exist. Unlike the ‘giant’ corporations, Japanese Chūken Kigyō tailor their manufacturing processes towards specific products and so can focus all of their R&D efforts into a certain field of production. By this definition, our company specializes in the manufacturing of casting products, an example being our labor saving deburring machine, Barider, that grinds the excess material on the surface of the casting. We proudly deliver all of our materials, machines and services as per customer needs.


You said that historically, Chūken Kigyō’s have relied on the big names of Japan. In the past, there was the ‘keretsu’ structure – Made by Japan, Sold to Japan – In today’s globalized world, we are seeing that this structure is breaking. How do you believe Chūken Kigyō’s must evolve in order to adapt to this changing environment?

There are two main objectives that I believe are crucial to the survival of Chūken Kigyō. The first is to possess leading, cutting-edge technology. Evidently, what this allows is for manufacturing processes to be more efficient and of a higher standard, and for products to ultimately be of high quality. Innovation is the key to success in today’s world.

The second is to tailor products according to customer’s needs and to make them more ‘user-friendly’. Nowadays, everything has become easy to handle, therefore, it is important to remain competitive by providing products that are easily usable by clients. Overall, the two objectives complement each other and it is important to strive to do well in both endeavors in order to succeed in this rapidly changing environment.


What makes your products special and makes them trusted by all these famous brands? How would you convince one of your clients to buy your products and not those of a competitor?

Our primary business lines relate to casting, such as casting iron, casting aluminum, machine processing of casting, and the design, manufacturing and sales of our Barinder deburring machines.  

The reason our company has loyal customers is that we have proven time and time again that we can deliver on stable and high quality products. We manufacture our products as per the needs of our clients but we do not like to settle with what is expected from us. Rather, we strive to exceed the expectations of our customers. For example, if we are asked to produce a specific type of casting for a certain company, we will give them exactly what they requested but will put in the extra effort using our state-of-the-art technology to provide them with a product that displays improved  characteristics (i.e. thinner, more durable etc.). We pride ourselves in our ability to never disappoint.


Since your inception, you have been developing innovative solutions through your R&D capacity. Can you tell us a bit more about your commitment towards R&D and all the advantages this entails?

As a company, we focus our efforts on improving our R&D processes in order to better meet the needs of our clients. If customers have specific requirements regarding the Barinder they buy from us, we want to be able to provide them with exactly what they are asking from us and more.

One way we make this possible is by using IoT and AI systems to analyze our products and determine what aspects must be enhanced or revised. In this way, we can gather data about all of our products and improve on our production processes in order to give our clients high quality, state-of-the-art materials and Barinder.

With Japan’s decreasing population, our country’s labor force is at risk of a drastic shortage of employees in the near future. The problem with this is that a lot of young people are not interested in working in the manufacturing industry because they believe it is ‘outdated’. We want to change this perception by providing advanced machinery that is more user-friendly to younger people and that will allow our work environment to be more ‘friendly’ and ‘modern’ as a whole. Therefore, our R&D processes are also important in creating a successful path towards the future for our employees.


This issue of population decline is one of the primary reasons why Prime Minister Abe is pushing for Japanese corporations to internationalize. Koyama Barinder serves as a good example of a Japanese company that has successfully expanded abroad. What has been your internationalization strategy up until now and how do you plan on moving forward with it?

As I mentioned earlier, in terms of technology, I believe it is crucial for companies to continue innovating. It is by having innovative, cutting-edge technology that companies can survive in any circumstance, especially abroad. As a Chūken Kigyō, it is particularly important for us to focus our efforts on improving our manufacturing processes so that we can stay on top as leaders in the casting industry. Technological development is most efficient in Japan, but mass production is much easier to undertake abroad in developing countries. It is the combination of our relentless drive to continuously improve our technologies, and the strategic positioning of our factories that has allowed us to internationalize successfully. In our path forward, we will continue with these endeavors, all whilst responding to the needs of our customers.


You carry the DNA of this company in your blood. This is more than a family business but is a family legacy. If my colleague and I were to come back in 10 years time, where would you like to see your company and what legacy do you hope to leave at this company.

Currently, our company has made 20 billion yen in sales and we are leaders in the Japanese market for casting products. Continuing with this monozukuri philosophy, I believe we are ready to conquer overseas markets and would like to show the world again what is Made in Japan. So to answer your question, I would like for our company to branch out to more foreign markets and leave our mark wherever we go.





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