Tuesday, Jul 23, 2019
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan

MTC, the ethos of supporting customers


4 weeks ago

Kazuhiko Hasegawa, President of Metal Technology Co. Ltd.
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Kazuhiko Hasegawa

President, Metal Technology Co. Ltd.

“Learning , becoming better and then excelling at what we do is the MTC way, or what we call: the metal solution”

 

 

Can you tell me who and what MTC is?

Metal Technology Co. Ltd. was established in 1960 by a group of ambitious and passionate researchers, who were originally employees of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken). These researchers wanted to contribute to society through the development and commercialization of their research accomplishments. The company’s core business was established from non-oxidizing heat treatment. We have expanded into numerous metal-related business fields and accordingly, our business activities have developed in unison with this; including new process methods, parts assembly and material development. Our core desire is to help, not only our customers, but the society we are part of. This involves the sharing and discussing of ideas and the understanding that there are many challenges that must be faced. We seek to use our knowledge and expertise in the field of engineering, to find the ‘metal solution’, which is the best solution for all parties involved. Over the past 60 years MTC has grown to 8 factories here in Japan and with one facility located in Suzhou, China. We currently employ more than 550 people who are dedicated to our pursuit of the metal solution for both our customers and society in general by offering excellence in our core technologies of: HIP, heat treatment, brazing/ welding, additive manufacturing, forming/ machining, and inspection, simulation, analysis and design. We have boldly moved innovation forward by listening to and working with our customers under the system of “suriawase” leading to the utilization of new technologies and techniques. This is what makes MTC stand out from the crowd.

 

Your company is a pioneer of modern powder metallurgy and HIP in Japan. Can you tell us more about this unique technology?

In the field of material technology, some of the most prominent innovations were the introduction of powder metallurgy and Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP). HIP is a processing technique which allows for the properties of both powder materials and solid materials to be improved utilizing both heat and pressure in an inert atmosphere isostatically. This technology allows for specialized materials to be used in a variety of industries including semiconductors, aerospace, automotive, medical devices, etc. resulting in many of the innovative products available today such as smart phones by allowing for the manufacture of extremely thin screens. In 1984, MTC introduced the first HIP unit into Japan. Many of my fellow managers questioned the usefulness and future of this relatively new technology; however I believed that it would become the backbone of MTC’s production. We are now the second largest HIP company in the world and MTC also has the world’s largest unit, the Giga-HIP with a working zone of 2,000mm in diameter and 4,200mm in length. This ground breaking unit comes from our commitment to our customers and to HIP technology. We understood that this technology would allow us to best meet our customer’s needs and we pursued it aggressively.

 

How has material technology influenced the development of smartphones?

With the advancement in material technology, we have worked closely with our customers to utilize these advancements to their advantage. As you know, when mobile phones first entered the main-stream market, they were large, bulky and frankly cumbersome. As technology advanced, there was a revolutionary transition to what is now referred to as a “smartphone”. This leap in engineering would not have been possible without the advances in core material technology and HIP. The miniaturization and enhancement of semiconductor components is the key behind the exponential growth of the telecommunications industry. As we have mirrored this approach in technology development, MTC has seen similar growth as the telecommunication industry. The potential for HIP to influence other untapped markets is extremely high and with the culture of collaboration we have in Japan, the only limit to what we can do is our imagination. This is how we bring new ideas to our customers.

 

What are the advantages of your HIP technology?

Our skill, know-how and experience with HIP technology allow us to create structures and shapes that other processes would struggle to make. For example, imagine that oil and water could be mixed; this is what HIP allows us to do with dissimilar materials. The sintering of different powder metals not only allows dissimilar materials to be bonded, but to maintain or even improve their metallurgical properties. When metal is melted, its core properties and characteristics are altered impacting the quality and characteristics of the finished product. HIP does not have these issues. Furthermore, we continued to make investments to enhance our HIP capabilities transforming our production into a fully integrated chain. By combining various stages of the material process, we have been able to eliminate other peripheral processes to fabricate our customer’s parts into a single process. This allows us to reduce labour and material costs and waste, while dramatically reducing the turn-around time. This brings me back to my point about “suriawase”. Our collaboration where both customer and supplier work hand in hand to develop the customer’s part utilizing the strengths of both parties to bring about something that exceeds what either could have done alone. We are not just part of the process, but are part of the solution.

 

Can you tell us more about the activities of your engineering division?

Our Engineering Division is responsible for the design and prototyping of our client’s products. After detailed and multiple discussions between MTC and the customer to develop the part based on our customer’s needs, our engineers verify the validity of the designs and make adjustments to facilitate both ease of production and mass production for our customers . As I mentioned before, our engineers maintain close communications with our customers in order to create suriawase, a Japanese concept that can be translated as “fine tuning.” The engineers and salespeople work together to understand exactly what the customer requires. After that, MTC manufactures the said product. Our engineering division has played a prominent role in the development, fabrication and installation of complex parts for Japan’s nuclear research particle acceleration programs. We have also been commissioned to design and produce crucial components for the development of nuclear fusion technology. This includes neutron experiments at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC), as well as the world’s largest nuclear fusion project, the ITER project currently being assembled in France. In addition, we also focus on medical equipment and various other new fields. From the medical field to the nuclear area, our technology enables us to turn our client’s dreams into a reality.

 

With activities in the medical, machine tool, aerospace and electronics industry, your client-base is highly varied. What advantages does this diversification model procure?

Traditionally speaking, SMEs are specialized manufacturers, meaning that they excel in one specific area. The issue with such specialization is that it makes you vulnerable to macro-economic changes. If the only industry you cater to experiences a downturn, or if it becomes irrelevant due to disruptive innovations, the risk of failure is intensified. As a defensive strategy, we chose to diversify our clientele to minimise macro-economic changes. To give you an example, when certain industries slowed down we decided to enter the aerospace market, which has a 5% annual growth rate. As the amount of planes, pilots and travellers continues to expand, we observed that there was an increased need for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services. As such, we filled the gap and became the only Japanese SME to offer MRO services for the aerospace industry. Since then, we have successfully added both FAA and EASA certification allowing our MRO client base to expand world-wide.

 

Can you run us through your international strategy?

Maintaining a close relationship with our customers and internalizing their needs is a crucial part of our business model. This is evident by our opening a facility in Suzhou, China to serve our customer’s Asian needs. In terms of growth, we see Asia as having the highest potential.  That being said, we also closely monitor the latest technological trends coming from the European and American markets. Leaps in technology can happen at any time, and anywhere. As such, we keep a close watch on what is happening in the global market with the purpose of expanding both our knowledge and know-how. Asia is the fastest growing market for HIP technology, but Europe and North America still lead the way. We are always hungry to learn more, become better and then excel at what we’ve learned. This is the MTC way.

 

In 2013, you established the ‘Kinzoku Giken’ factory, located in Suzhou, China. How do you ensure that MTC’s quality remains the same whether it is manufactured domestically or overseas?

When dealing with cultural and communication barriers it is very important to have a strategy that is tailor made to the circumstances. As such, we invested heavily in education and training in both capital and time. We focused and centred our training on the Japanese “Monozukuri” spirit. I personally visit our Chinese facility every two to three months and am always impressed with how “MTC” the factory feels. One of the most impressive indicators of how the employees have embraced this philosophy is the incredibly low turnover rate of our employees. We are well below the Chinese average and this means that our operators have become specialists and their knowledge and experience is industry leading. As a result, we are able to maintain a quality standard second to none. The dialogue we maintain with our local managers is focused on understanding and adjusting our perspective to the needs of our clients. To be successful, our employees from top to bottom must place themselves in the shoes of the customer in order to understand their needs and requirements. This client-centric approach is the core of Japan’s ‘Monozukuri,’ and we have successfully imbedded it within our overseas personnel. The success of this business model gives us confidence in anticipating future overseas ventures.

 

What legacy would you like to leave at MTC Kinzoku?

In 2010, I put my vision for the future to paper. I focused on three key aspects:

First is to strengthen and develop our engineering division globally. Second is to expand our international presence for example as we have done in China. Third is to develop our capabilities in the aerospace market and gather all the necessary certifications to operate as a third party OEM. If I can achieve these three goals, I will consider my tenure as president to have been a success.


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