Thursday, May 19, 2022
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan

Nara Machinery: a “development-intensive company”


3 years ago

Yorioki NARA, President and CEO of Nara Machinery Co., Ltd.
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Yorioki NARA

President and CEO of Nara Machinery Co., Ltd.

Nara Machinery develops processing equipment for the highly competitive powder industry, where the constant development of new products is a requisite. As “a development-intensive company”, Nara works tirelessly to provide innovative solutions and technology to customers across a wide range of industries. In this interview, president & CEO, Yorioki Nara, discusses the company’s technologies, its unquenchable thirst for innovation, and how it responds to customers’ needs in an ever-changing market.

 

In recent years, we have seen regional peers copying and replicating the manufacturing processes of Japanese manufacturing companies at a cheaper labor cost. You make it your mission to support Monozukuri (Japanese craftsmanship). How would you define the essence of Japanese Monozukuri?

Nara machinery was founded by my father and has a history of more than 90 years. During this rich history, we have only had two presidents, meaning I am the second-generation president. Without a doubt, this is a unique feature of the Japanese private sector. In the Japanese culture, it is normal to stay for a lifetime in one company and the fact that we don’t change president or employee constantly allows us to develop our know-how and improve every process and product that we make. Moreover, thanks to our technology and know-how, we are praised by our customers worldwide and our success is also due to them. Looking at a global perspective, for Nara machinery it is very challenging to succeed in our business because our market is very tight and competitive. However, as mentioned above, thanks to our technology and quality of our product we are capable of meeting our customers need by offering top class products.

In addition, our mindset is also different from many businessmen around the world. Indeed, for most companies, their first principle or objective is to make money, the “money attracts money” principle. Whereas, for Japanese companies, and Nara Marchinery is no exception, our principle is different from this perspective. We focus on creating a product or providing quality service: this is the true essence of Monozukuri or “The art of making”. Obviously, we want to make money and profit, but we personally think that by putting all our focus in our products, production process and technology, it will attract money alone.

Furthermore, at Nara machinery, we get much more excited by upcoming challenges than by short-term profit. Our industry is the powder industry and I could say that every year we are facing new challenges and new difficulties. In our company, finding the answer to these challenges motivates us more than money. Finally, if we are able to find the answer to these challenges, it will undeniably attract money and we will therefore increase our profit. To summarize my answer to your question, I believe that what makes monozukuri and therefore Nara machinery special is: “quality attracts money”.

 

At the eve of the 4th Industrial Revolution, we are seeing a multiplication of new innovative technologies such as the rise of IoT, AI that are affecting the production process but also the end product. As a manufacturer company, comparing to before, how are all these changes affecting your business?

Even though Nara machinery itself doesn’t use technologies such as AI, we have seen that these new technologies have brought to almost every industry and new business method. However, as I mentioned earlier, we don’t use technologies such as AI because in the powder handling business, it doesn’t require it. Nevertheless, we have to adapt to what our customer needs, because at the end of the day, they are the one that bring us new ideas. From that point of view, Nara works tirelessly to provide them innovative solution to create something new.

Moreover, what’s fascinating regarding the powder business is that you can create almost anything that you want thanks to the flexibility the powder material itself, just by changing the particles inside the powder, we can produce a new product, therefore creating new challenges and keeping us motivated.

In addition, in the powder business, it is all about the size of the particles. Nowadays, the new trends are the “nano particles”, and we at Nara, are thinking ahead to find what will be the upcoming trends regarding the “nano particles”. This allows us to always be ahead and prepared to meet our customers’ needs in order to provide them with products that are profitable for both. In fact, this is our philosophy, we dream to create, we follow our dream to create new products and this is undeniably our competitive advantage.

 

Today, Nara Machinery is a manufacturer of powder processing equipment used in many industries such as petrochemicals, chemicals, pharmaceutical energy and food. Could you give our readers an overview of the different segments you are in? And are you looking to expand in one particular sector in the future?

We have numerous amounts of products used in different industries. Therefore, we cannot focus on one in particular because we would be losing business. In regards to the product that holds the largest shares of our sales, we could say that these are the custom-made orders. Each year, our customers are facing new trends and it is our job to meet them in order to keep growing. In that sense, clients from all around the world approach us with very specific description of what they need: whether it’s the character of the powder, the application it will be used for or even the shape.

To conclude, it is impossible to name the product that holds the major share of sales at Nara, for the simple reason that with powder we can create anything. Thanks to our diversified customer base, we have been able to diversify our product portfolio, and adapt to high-technological fields such as electronics, fine ceramics and biotechnology; the constant development of new materials is mandatory in our industry.

 

You mentioned that are many companies in this industry, what makes Nara machinery so special? Is it your 102 patents, your unique Hybridization System or is it the fact that you work hand in hand with your customers?

Nara machinery has always been a “development-intensive company” as we focus on developing new technologies in order to supply a wide range of industries powder processing technology and equipment.

Today, our customers’ needs regarding powder processing have become more sophisticated.  Some customers request powder created through super-fine particle technology, breaking substance into molecular level, or powder with new functions created through mechanochemical reactions.

The history of our technologies follows three main types of equipment: the crusher and mills capable of pulverizing any kind of material, second was the paddle dryer which is a heat transmission dryer machine that processes organic and inorganic granular and powdery material. Thirdly, our unique Hybridization System which is our latest technologies designed to physically produce new functional composite powder material by dry-method embedding fine powder onto the surface of core powder with excellent dispersibility.

Moreover, during our more than 90-year history, one of the major industries that are using our Jiyu mill equipment (which is our first equipment of our history) or any of our mills equipment is the agriculture and the food industry with the milling of fertilizer, pesticides for example.

Regarding the paddle dryer equipment, the major industries that play an important role for Nara machinery is the chemicals industry and especially the petrochemicals industry. Moreover, Nara is focussing on the biomass industry, as we believe it will replace the oil industry and therefore represents the future.

Finally, our unique hybridization system is used mostly in the Electric Vehicles which has replaced the battery industry.

 

Last year you hit 5.7 billion Japanese yen in sales, what is your mid-term strategy to continue that corporate growth?

The sales amount is not our main focus, but we focus on “what’s next?”, or in order words what new technologies we can implement. Indeed, we are constantly engaged in the research and development of software and hardware able to responds to our customer’s needs. Without a doubt, here at NARA, we make anything possible.

 

Throughout the years, your company has expanded beyond the Japanese border. Today, Nara Machinery has a physical presence in Europe in Germany and has an affiliated company in South Korea, and partnerships in the UK and Germany, as well as licenses in the USA and India. Can you tell us more about your international strategy?

My dream is to capture more international exposure, we want to enter new markets and introduce NARA’s new technologies to the world.

Additionally, another dream that we have, is to increase foreign employees at Nara Machinery to 50%. Indeed, today foreign employees at NARA represent 15% of total employees and we would like to go from 15% to 50% in the next 10 years.

 


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