Thursday, Jan 17, 2019
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Imada Japan

Supporting ‘Monozukuri’ with Force Measurement Technology


3 months ago

Imada Co., Ltd.
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Mr. Mitsuhiro Imada

Representative Director of Imada Co., Ltd.

The Worldfolio sits down with Mr. Mitsuhiro Imada, Representative Director of Imada Co., Ltd., to discuss the role of Japan’s SMEs within the international manufacturing chain and Imada’s unique product offering.

 

Since the rise of Japan’s private sector in the post-war period, Japanese Monozukuri has been widely spoken about, but often misunderstood. In recent years, we have seen regional peers copying and replicating the manufacturing processes of Monozukuri at a lower cost.
What are the main competitive advantages of Japanese manufacturing compared to its competitors (China, Korea)?
Could you explain to us what the essence of Monozukuri means to you?

The essence of Monozokuri is linked to the Japanese National character of sharing a common goal and contributing to society. When Japan presented its project to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, they used the term “Omotenashi” to describe the country’s attractiveness as a destination. This term is linked to the country’s essence and it represents the Japanese mindset of hospitality, which focuses on “caring for one” rather than “creating expectations.”

“Omotenashi” is a very appropriate word to describe Japanese attitude in every aspect of life. This concept is present in business and in society.  People want to contribute and add value in everything they do. When it comes to working as an employee within a company, everybody wants to contribute as part of the structure. Managers consider themselves as part of a team that shares a common goal. In that sense, Japanese citizens are very compassionate and share the same idea to create something valuable while working together. This spirit has a big influence in regards to Monozokuri. We put our common effort to respond to our customers’s needs. We are committed to assist them and add value for them.

When we think about Monozokuri, we think about Panasonic and Honda as represents of the Japanese manufacturing industry. These companies all have something in common: teamwork. Employees share a passionate idea to create something together as a means to add value for consumers. Their goal is to combine innovation through new product with top level quality. As they go global, Japanese firms aim to gain appreciation and satisfy users by bringing Monozokuri to the world.

 

You mentioned big Japanese brands as Panasonic or Honda as examples of Japanese Monozokuri. In Japan but also in other countries, we find strong companies recognized all over the world, which could not provide such advanced products without the know-how of Japanese Chusho Kigyos. Small and Medium Size companies as yours that represent more than 90% of employment and are essential to big brands by providing reliable components and precise solutions. What is the role of these Hidden Champions in the Japanese manufacturing chain? And how can Imada be considered a Hidden Champion?

Our final consumers do not know about IMADA. In that sense, we are the perfect example of a “hidden champion”. We provide solutions in niche markets and as a consequence it requires a high expertise to understand the possibilities of our products. If you ask very technical experts in the field, they will be familiar with our solutions and they will understand the options our products represent. End consumers however, do not have the technical knowledge required to understand force gauge. To provide a better understanding of the possibilities that we offer, we have designed an attachment allowing the user to fix the measurement device to a given work place. Furthermore, our user-friendly  software enables our client to understand the possibilities of our products while explaining how it must be applied.

Remaining strong in such a limited field is a true challenge. Our company was established by the previous generation of the Imada family with the objective to create high quality and flexible solutions in force measurement. Our goal is to find anything that our clients might need in this industry. We want to provide all kind of solutions to respond to their needs. As you mentioned, Imada is one of those hidden companies developing products for specialized fields. This specialization represents a unique opportunity to provide “only-one” solutions that just a few companies are able to create. Our strategy is to become a super niche company offering the most precise and customized products while adapting to the needs of the time.

Imada experienced an extremely important transition when switching from analog to digital. We have launched digital force gauges equipped with RS232C output, a standard that describes data communication between computer and related devices. Moreover, we developed digital force gauges equipped with USB output and output for USB flash driver for the first in the world. It enables customers to read, print and draw graphs of the testing data from the digital force gauge. Through continuous improvement, we are always working to bring innovative, high quality and precise solutions in a constantly changing market. The spirit of our company is to invest in our R&D division to create new and better solutions for our clients.

 

Imada’s Corporate Philosophy is based on the idea of Pursuing “Possibilities”. As a designer and manufacturer of force measuring instruments you provide solutions in a wide range of industries. Among those different markets, which fields represent the highest growth potential for Imada?

Force measurement is carried out in various industries. Our aim is to provide solutions needed for every field. Traditionally, we started providing solutions for airplanes/aircrafts industry, and we then entered the automobiles and electrical devices industries.

More recently, we have started working in other fields, such as the food and the medical industry.

Food is an important market for us because it affects directly the end consumer. This factor is challenging and requires extra attention to ensure the efficiency of the products. It is not just about measuring hardness or softness, but also solutions for more complex standards and requirements: it requires highly professional skills. We have launched Food Texture Analyzer FRTS series which quantifies texture in force to evaluate the textural properties of food. It supports food manufacturing including food for person having difficulty in swallowing.

Every aspect will affect whether the end consumers will choose us again among the variety of products available.

The medical industry is currently active and precision is especially important in this field.  We are also targeting the fields of automation, introducing AI and robot.

As I mentioned it, the medical field is a complex and unique industry as it requires many specificities. Any company willing to penetrate this market needs to respond to all the regulations and standards required. Companies willing to enter this field need to deliver in terms of high quality and flexibility. As Imada has traditionally been providing solutions to industrial clients, this represents a challenge and an opportunity to learn.

Regarding our strategy within the medical field, we plan to directly in talks with medicals suppliers. Working with those partners is a decisive advantage as they already have experience in fulfilling regulations. We are also working closely with academia to develop innovative solutions in new fields.

 

Imada was established in 1947, could you please highlight the key milestones of your company since inception?

We started providing solutions in the measuring field more than 70 years ago. Initially, we started as an OEM force gauge producer specialized in the aircraft industry.

As IMADA’s analog force gauges spread, we were asked to create digital force gauges by customers. In the 1980’s, we started selling the digital ones. Switching from analog to digital was a real turning point for Imada. It allowed us to provide complex and accurate solutions for our clients. As we advanced, we realized that customers needed to utilize the data acquired by digital force gauges. We addressed this need and in 1986, we started selling force gauges equipped with RS232C output for the first time in Japan.

At Imada, we provide solution application software which draws the graphs and automatically relays them to be analyzed. Not only do we focus on delivering the product itself, but we also offer surrounding services to optimize our solutions.

One of our greatest strength is flexibility. We receive demands from clients coming from all kind of industries. They approach us with a request and by using our technology and our know-how, we are able to develop adapted solutions to respond to their needs.

 

At Imada you started developing your International strategy years ago, since the  1990’s you have been exporting to Asia, America and Europe. Regarding your overseas expansion, what are the plans for Imada in the upcoming years? What markets represent a higher growth potential for your business?

At the moment we are mainly exporting to the United States, Europe, and to different countries within Asia. Looking to the future we would like to expand in the Asian region.

In the upcoming years, we are also looking to expand in terms of “client-service.” Alongside production, we would like to create local service-providers to assist our clients at a regional level. The Monozokuri spirit is not just about providing good quality. It is also about satisfying your clients. In that sense, it is important for us to add-value wherever we can.

 

As a successful company that has been in the market for 70 years already, what objective would you like to achieve at Imada in the upcoming years?

Since our inception, our force gauge solutions support the “Monozukuri” of other companies, and that will always be our goal. We are an example of “hidden champions,” and as such, our mission is to create a better future for our clients.

 


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