Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japanese Monozukuri

IMV Corporation, maker of the largest vibration testing system worldwide


3 weeks ago

Mr. Jumpei Kojima, President of IMV Corporation
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Mr. Jumpei Kojima

President of IMV Corporation

Since its establishment in 1957, IMV has been deeply involved in research and development in the field of dynamics, especially vibration engineering – manufacturing vibration testing systems and measuring systems for key industries worldwide. President, Mr. Jumpei Kojima, speaks to The Worldfolio, about Japanese Monozukuri, IMV’s philosophy and his plans for the future

What does Japanese Monozukuri have that its competitors (China, Korea) do not? What are the differences between Japanese Monozukuri and the manufacturing methods Korea or China are developing now?

One of the main differences between Japan and our competing countries such as Korea and China is that we have good teachers and individualistic leaders from companies such as Toyota and Honda that have a lot to teach Japan. Because of the influences of such companies, we kept growing with repeated tries and errors to meet their high requirements, as an example to both encourage us and enable us to grow ourselves.

 

Why do you think Japan has this reputation of high quality and on the other hand the reputation of struggling on commercializing their ideas?

A major contribution to this is the language barrier. However, it should be kept in mind that even with this obstacle, there are many Japanese companies who have had success in overseas markets such as Sony and Panasonic. Although this is a good thing a negative consequence is that some companies feel too comfortable in thinking that foreign markets will accept their products just because they are from Japan and so they are - in some way - resting on their laurels.

 

With regards to the USA, do you see the ‘America First’ policies of President Donald Trump as a challenge or as an opportunity?

Should the Trump administration have longevity then the ‘America First’ policy opens an opportunity for IMV Corporation. However, if the policy ends prematurely then it will be necessary to rethink the plan and the subsequent consequences. It is especially true in America, that the person leading the country brings with them very different economic and business plans. IMV understands that there is a way in which to proceed with each individual leaders’ business plans and economic policies.

 

Your history in research and development, vibration testing and measurement systems started in 1957. Today your company is a world-leading supplier of high reliability vibration tests and measurement systems and has more than 60 years of existence, more than 300 employees and international operations. What historical milestones would you like to highlight?

IMV Corporation is divided into three major areas: Vibration test systems, Vibration measurement and Test Laboratories. The third major area - Test Laboratories - was based in Japan and established in 1988 with the purpose of focusing particularly on monozukuri. We develop and manufacture vibration test systems, but we are not the user of the equipment. However as the IMV engineers who worked in those testing facilities became increasing familiar with our facilities, we could better understand the needs of the customers. We were also able to analyze the company to identify our weak and strong areas by communicating with the customers. So, an important part of our history started with these testing facilities, thirty years ago, when our kaizen process and our policy to improve, first began.

 

The IMV Group’s mission is to   ̈Secure the Future ̈, featuring the F.I.R.S.T. strategy of Future, Integrity, Reliability, Strength, and Technology as pillars for the company. Can you tell us about your philosophy, your competitive advantages and your best-selling products?

The corporate philosophy of F.I.R.S.T is basically a guide line for the direction of our company and in a sense, it is an in-company policy. Its aim is to provide clear guidelines and set up directions for our company so going forward we will benefit from any business or transaction outside of the company. So, the F.I.R.S.T strategy has been implemented with the improvement of IMV Corporation in mind. As far as competitive advantages are concerned, I did not have the aspect of competition in mind when creating the philosophy.

It is important to recognize that it shouldn’t be assumed that a product will sell overseas, based purely on the reputation of Japan. It is necessary to have reliability and trust as a company and to keep building on this foundation to maintain good business. Whilst products are important, services are also essential; in a way, you can say this question about the best new product depends on products having good service and that the two aspects combined complete the total package.

The American market in general has two primary areas; the automobile industry and aerospace -  large machinery. One of the products which I am proud of our company recently creating is the largest vibration testing system worldwide. Another product I would wish to highlight is a simultaneously three axis vibration test system. IMV Corporation is one of only two manufacturers that produce such systems; namely ourselves and Shinken. Today, Shinken are no longer a competitor, as IMV Corporation purchased Shinken in February 2016.

Our corporate philosophy is to “secure the future” in all kind of aspects. Our customers use IMV's products to ensure reliability and performance. For example, by using the vibration testing systems, we indirectly improve other companies’ products such as car or electronics and by using the vibration measurement systems, we directly improve social infrastructures such as bridge, buildings with the IMV measurement systems.

Now there is an increasing connectivity between us and our society so we raised a new model which uses Wi-Fi to detect and transmit signals to protect social infrastructures from potential seismic danger which is very useful for our customers. This is a very important product for us and in the future, we would like to extend the installation of these machines and equipment to every house and apartment. With the approaching 2020 Tokyo Olympics there has been a focus on manufacturing buildings and as Japan is a society focused on manufacturing ability this is a B2B industry involving large construction companies.

However, the end goal of IMV Corporation is to produce a personal product for each house and apartment to be able to monitor their house in the form of a diagnosis. When tragedy hits, to analyze the seismic ratio velocity value and life threat level and allow people to protect themselves. Our plan is for each person to carry a sensor for the security of their home. This is in line with the fourth industrial revolution where it is matching artificial intelligence and IOT. This product is not currently being distributed in the US but I realize the potential in states such as California which suffers from high seismic activity or tornados and the constant task of rebuilding itself.

 

Can you tell us about the Eco-Shaker and your plan of how to deploy it in America?

The purpose of the Eco-Shaker is to decrease the cost of energy. With the cost of energy already being low in America - to be realistic - the Eco-Shaker has a limited market in the US. So, in general we are not planning to market the Eco-Shaker in the American market however there are still some areas of potential. For example, the heavy industries where energy consumption is constantly used for product testing may be a potential area where the Eco-Shaker may prove useful.

Our system is mainly ultra organic for use in areas with a large consumption of electricity, for example a Test House owner owns so much of this equipment and continuously tests their testing specimens for 100, 200 hours or sometimes three months and therefore consumes a lot of electricity.

The cost of electricity is very high in Japan as it is in other countries in Europe and as such, we foresee the Eco-Shaker being welcomed into the market to save energy whilst contributing to the environment friendliness, with a quiet operation. Research showed that the US market understands the product, but with low energy costs they cannot see a real need for the Eco-Shaker, with the purchase of this product possibly incurring higher costs than before. However, we are passionate in expanding the scope of this eco-friendly system.

 

In 2014 your company made a collaborative strategic agreement with Kelly Space Technology and you are focusing the enhancement that you can both benefit from through this mutual collaboration on the automobile and aerospace segment. How can your company benefit from this strategy and what kind of business opportunities might arise for IMV in the states due to the agreement? 

The American business market is sectionalized by region with each region focusing on diverse types of industry. The decision to partner with Kelly Technology who are based in California with connections to NASA was the result of our goal to focus on aerospace technologies and testing technologies. The American market is very advanced and in terms of testing technology, they are well ahead of other countries so we identified the value of partnering with America to work on the products and services we can provide.

 

You have been part of the company for quite a long time and at the same time you and your family are major shareholders. Being President of such an important cooperation, what is the key message as a leader you would like to convey?

I have been President for a little less than two years and one thing I noticed was that the previous presidents, including my father, are very different people with different ways of thinking. From an American or European perspective, Japanese companies are viewed as very meticulous and serious and somewhat stiff, however, Japan is gradually adapting to more modern times, as is people's way of thinking.

Today a diverse mixture of people with different backgrounds are joining the company which poses both positive and negative aspects - this could make us more flexible but at the same time we need a balance among them. The important thing is to the raise the good parts and bring them into the forefront and to do that I feel that communication is essential for everybody in the company regardless of what level employee they are.

My hope is that this philosophy of equal communication through the company can make a shift from hierarchy towards a, not exactly flat type of operation, but to a more line of management division where delegation of responsibilities is distributed outside of the direct line of management. For example, one of our newly joined young engineers has recently completed the project of installing testing equipment in America. Generally speaking, a project leader with a manager title should handle this kind of job, however we  allocated responsibility and authority to him, because we believe that he would grow with this opportunity. 


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