Saturday, Sep 22, 2018
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan’s ChukenKigyos

Fujidenolo: the perfect marriage of design and technology


1 month ago

Mr. Tatsushi Watanabe, President of FUJIDENOLO
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Mr. Tatsushi Watanabe

President of FUJIDENOLO

Fujidenolo is a fine example of the innovative and technological prowess of Japan’s ChukenKigyos (SMEs). In this interview, Tatsushi Watanabe discusses how his company strives to make high-quality, hi-tech and unique products for a range of industries, from manufacturing to healthcare. He also explains one of the company’s flagship and groundbreaking products, the MAGGUARD, which is a ferromagnetic material detector that enhances safety and reduces accidents in MRI rooms.

 

What are the competitive advantages of the “Made by Japan” brand?

In a variety of foreign countries, both in Asia and the West, it is commonly accepted that the larger corporations are the innovators and the ones pushing for technological advances. Japan derives its uniqueness from its smaller-sized firms, which are continuously pushing for creation and for technological breakthroughs. While the “ChukenKigyo” (SMEs) are known for providing complex parts to larger organizations, they do not stop there. Japanese SMEs have the technology and expertise to manufacture and provide original and unique products.

 

What has been the influence of Industry 4.0 on FUJIDENOLO?

Japan is currently facing a decreasing demographic line combined with an ageing society, naturally leading to a decline in labor force. Therefore, we are forced to automate and utilize robots to support our productivity. In Aichi prefecture, the home of Toyota, there is a high demand for labor and a shortage of manpower. Under such circumstances, factory automation is crucial to boost productivity, reduce costs, and propose a solution to manpower shortage.

Furthermore, the Japanese Government has recently passed work-style policies applicable to every industry. In comparison to the West, but also to China and Korea, we are known to have the longest amount of overtime work. In order to alleviate this situation, we must automate and use innovative technologies to lessen our employees’ burden.

Furthermore, the rise of IoT, Big Data and digital technologies have provided SMEs an opportunity to enhance our marketing and branding visibility. Nowadays, interconnectivity has facilitated promotion.

 

How did FUJIDENOLO begin to manufacture its own original products?

We started by offering complex parts and components to the aerospace industry. When I became president, I decided to set new guidelines for the future of the company. Our core vision was to “become a firm that can produce its own original products.” Once that objective was agreed upon, we implemented it by hiring special engineers that could handle product design and development. I do not know if you can call it innovation, but once we decided what our vision was, we were resolved to achieve it and unwilling to stop. This vision was the founding stone of the success we are experiencing today.

Here in Nagoya, we also have the chance of having the reputed Nagoya University. We applied to Nagoya University in order to conduct collaborative projects with their technological development center. These collaborative efforts between FUJIDENOLO and Nagoya University’s researchers and teachers led to the creation of the MAGGUARD. The MAGGUARD is our self-developed ferromagnetic material detector. This device contributes to MRI safety by detecting any sized ferromagnetic objects which should not be brought into MRI rooms. The development of the MAGGUARD is a great example as to our capacity to develop original products.

 

FUJIDENOLO was established in 1970. Can you run us through the key milestones of the company since inception?

The first airplane made in Japan was the YS11. Our firm provided the window paints for the YS11, marking the start of FUJIDENOLO. Because we started as a part provider for the airplane industry, the number of products we manufactured was slim but extremely complex and technological. We began as a niche company, limited in production capacity but with an unrivalled level of quality. The second business segment we entered was semiconductor manufacturing-related machinery.

As all our products were tailor-made, the production quantity remained slim, but the quality and reliability of our devices kept growing higher. Thanks to these two business segments, we were able to develop a historical expertise in the production of complex components and devices. That expertise is what allowed us to grow into what we are today.

We then ventured into the medical equipment business, providing parts and equipment for complex devices. The medical sector matches our strengths: slim in quantity but extremely demanding in terms of technical capability.

At that moment in time, we changed our company’s vision and decided to create “original product.” At FUJIDENOLO, our mission has, and always will be, to nurture and expand human potential. As a people-centric enterprise, we realized that the medical industry allowed us to support human health while contributing to the betterment of society. It was an instant match.

 

You changed the name of your company a couple years ago. What is the message behind this new name?

At FUJIDENOLO, we believe that human development is at the core of our mission. This new name is a reflection of our commitment to develop individuals. In the business world, leaders decide the path and interest of their organization. My interest was in people; in humans. While other leaders may be interested in growing their equity, products or technology, I chose to devote myself to growing people. This philosophy of mine became the philosophy of the company.

The ability to create original products was a way to put in action the philosophy of developing people. One of the most important requirements for one’s self-growth is his capacity to challenge and surmount obstacles. Developing original products was our challenge, and together, we surpassed it.

As we started producing original products, we decided to change our name. “FUJI-“ was kept from our old name, Fuji Plastic. “-DENOLO” was added and stands for DEsignand TechNOLOgy. This wording is an oath to our commitment to develop original designs sustained by innovative technology.

 

What current innovative products are you currently working on?

We want to create a sensory device that allows its user to monitor their health from home. This device would allow the user to analyze and measure their own blood pressure, heart beat, sugar level and blood circulation. Thanks to software, the data collected from home would be sent to a specialist who can treat and analyze the provided information efficiently and in a timely fashion. This device will be preventive, for it will allow individuals to catch abnormal situations before eruption, while cutting the burden of having to travel to a doctor.

 

Are you looking for partners in the medial field to develop such a product?

To make this idea a reality, collaboration is a must. We have already conducted a partnership with a Kyushu-based firm specialized in software design. For data management and cloud computing, we are currently looking for system integrators and cloud experts. We are currently considering collaborating with large corporations, such as Softbank.

 

Can you tell us more about your international strategy and the potential of FUJIDENOLO abroad?

As an island nation, Japan has historically been isolated from the rest of the world. Our culture, language and geography reflect our uniqueness. Thanks to its large domestic market and its advanced technological level, Japan never needed to go abroad. We were able to manage and create everything on our own.

With today’s shrinking domestic market however, there is a need to internationalize and go overseas. Our Ferromagnetic Material Detector, the MAGGUARD, is sold to MRI machine operators. The number of MRI machines in Japan is of 5,000. In the U.S.A. and in Europe, the number is threefold. Considering these numbers, our markets must be overseas and we must look abroad to expand.

In terms of strategy, we have put our efforts in providing the best products in terms of quality, functionality, complexity and after-sales services. As we will not be able to compete in terms of cost, we decided to offer the best quality available.

When manufacturers invent a product, the final item tends to become a reflection of their vision. But that is not the right approach. Our approach is to develop solutions that respond to the needs of the market; created by the market and for the market. For the MAGGUARD, our engineers interviewed MRI technicians in order to understand exactly what their needs where. As we pursued design development, we ensured that these needs were reflected in the final outcome.

 

What geographical markets are you eyeing for the future?

High-quality medical equipment is directly correlated to economic development. The more developed the country is, the more potential there is for us. Consequently, Europe, U.S.A. and Japan are top priorities, together with Singapore, the U.A.E. and more recently China.

 

Can you tell us more about your mid-term strategy and its objectives?

The goal of our fourth mid-term strategy was to create the basis to becoming an Original Product Manufacturer by having 30% of our sales coming from the medical sector. Next year will mark the last step of that strategy. Looking at the future, we aim to provide five to eight items in the healthcare market.

 

What goals would you like to achieve over the next 10 years?

My own personal objective is connected to the core philosophy of the company: to focus on developing human potential and to cultivate the capacity of the individual. The success of ChukenKigyos comes from the time and efforts invested in cultivating people and human capital.

At FUJIDENOLO, we offer a variety of training sessions for our employees. We do our utmost best to nurture the minds and potential of every worker. Ten years from now, I aim to be a person that has successfully trained and developed his employees. Ten years from now, I would like to open a training center in Hawaii and be a teacher for anyone that wants to learn.

 


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