Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan

The company promoting a healthier medical and agricultural future


6 months ago

Mr. Hiroyuki Nakamura, President of Aglis Co., Ltd.
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Mr. Hiroyuki Nakamura

President of Aglis Co., Ltd.

Since its beginning in 1990, Aglis Co., Ltd. has been providing unique systems for the agricultural sector, in addition to its medical products supplied to hospitals. As Aglis grows year-on-year, the company continues to reach new innovative heights, seen with their BUDDYTAPE grafting system. In this interview, President Hiroyuki Nakamura, discusses Aglis’ innovative work, along with its history, successes and dedication to achieving future goals.

Currently, 28% of Japan's population is over the age of 65, and that number is expected to rise to 33% by 2030. This will have two major impacts on companies: one is the shrinking domestic market and the other is the shrinking labor market.

What measures is your company taking to face this demographic challenge?

Our company is engaged in businesses related to the most familiar and fundamental areas of human life: medicine and agriculture.

We plan to secure the market share necessary for corporate management by developing unique products with high added value (convenience, economy, environmental friendliness, etc.) even as the domestic market shrinks due to population decline.

This will also create opportunities and preparations for market entry into the large market of Southeast Asia.

As for my thoughts on the declining labor market, I believe that the fact that our company's main business is in the fields of medical care and agriculture will allow us to feel human and social contribution that is different from the ever-changing information-based society and service industry. We will continue to be a company where each individual's experience and ingenuity can create further growth for the company and the individual. We will continue to improve our working conditions and environment, and actively encourage applications.

As the company develops, we plan to actively recruit workers who will realize the production work, as our working environment and the content of the work are easy for women workers who have finished raising their children in the Yame area.

In the agricultural business, we also plan to hire some foreign workers, as some of the work is done in the summer and requires physical strength.

 

COVID-19 had both positive and negative impacts. On the one hand, hospitals were struggling to cope with the pressure on their inpatient models. On the other hand, the government is stepping up its efforts in telemedicine, providing diagnostics at home. What has been the impact of COVID for your business?

The declaration of a state of emergency and the enforcement of the law to prevent the spread of the disease restricted our business trips and sales activities, which has interfered with our business plans, and many of them have been delayed.

However, due to delays in many of our development and business projects, we have had to review our future plans as the outlook for product launches has become slower.

 

Japan's manufacturing philosophy, Monozukuri, is famous throughout the world. Since the end of World War II, Japan has been constantly developing and producing high quality products with the concept of Kaizen. As a manufacturer of agricultural and medical products, what are your thoughts on manufacturing and its advantages?

The high-quality product standards in Japan cannot be described in words. I can only say that they are extremely high for many reasons, especially when it comes to the medical industry, as it is important that the products meet the needs of the people in the hospitals. Therefore, not only must they be of high quality, but they must also be free of defects in the production line and have the best possible functionality. This can be described as "monozukuri" in Japan.

Also, customer expectations for quality are high, so we have to reach their expectations and demands as much as possible. When it comes to dialysis, the highest quality is required for products related to it, but the defect rate of our dialysis disinfection care kits is 1 in 1 million, which is very low, even in this field. However, we are aiming for an even better standard.

 

Not only large companies, but also small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) like yours are engaged in manufacturing. In what ways are Japanese SMEs able to create niche specialized technologies?

Our company has been working on product development with ‘niche’ and ‘uniqueness’ as our basic philosophy for corporate growth since our establishment. We cannot compete in a large market where the leading Japanese companies are expanding.

In the fields of medical care and agriculture, there are many ideas for product development by getting to know the field well and listening to the opinions and requests of the people who work there. In order to commercialize these products, unique and ingenious development technologies are needed to meet the needs of the field. The commercialization of these products requires a high level of concentration and high level of workmanship, which is the specialty of the Japanese people. We are proud of the added value, convenience, and economic efficiency of the products we have created, which has led to our sales performance.

To commercialize a product, production technology and production environment are required, so we select a company to commission the manufacturing of the product after preparing the patent, utility model, and other copyrights, and after finalizing a manufacturing contract, we commercialize the product and start selling it.

The key is to create a niche that large and influential companies cannot enter.

 

In the agricultural sector, there are products such as Buddy Tape and elevated belly systems. In the medical division, we have disinfection treatment care products such as SEE packs for dialysis. Which of these two divisions do you focus on and what products are selling well both domestically and internationally?


Buddy Tape


Initially, BUDDYTAPE for tree grafting in the agricultural sector spread rapidly in the domestic tree grafting market due to its convenience, environmental friendliness and high success rate. It used to be popular in Europe and the United States, but now its use is spreading to Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. Compared to conventional PE tape, it is highly regarded for its high activation rate, workability (PE tape needs to be removed later), and environmental friendliness (UV degradation). We are developing a new grafting technology using BUDDYTAPE for grape seedling production. Grape production takes place in 7 million hectares worldwide and most of this land is for wine, with new seedlings replanted after 30-40 years. The projected annual number of grafted trees is 500 million.

For many years, grafting wax has been utilized, but there are issues with the preparation work and the success rate after planting, so we are working on a new technology that will greatly improve seedling production. The mainstream system for strawberry upright cultivation is in Japan, but recently, we have received offers from China as well, due to the reputation of the Aglis upright system. With the aging of strawberry farmers, we believe that this system will become even more widespread, as it enables high yield and quality.

 

What countries and regions will you focus on in the future and how will you go about that possibility? Will you work with a trading company or use an independent distributor?

In order to promote BUDDYTAPE, it is necessary to have a salesperson who understands the principles of fruit tree growth and grafting techniques. In addition, it took about three years for BUDDYTAPE to gain a reputation for grafting. In order to continue this business and promote it in the future, it is necessary to have a trading company with a wide range of human resources and a sales organization that fully understands the business development and the existence of distributors who can conduct sales in each region. In order to realize this policy, we have been working with a leading trading company in the field of agriculture since the beginning of the 31st term to develop our business globally. This is expected to accelerate the development of grafting technology for grapes.

 

The product is available in 50 countries around the world. Are there any regions that have high potential for this product?

There are fifty countries in the world. Companies from developed countries are expanding their operations in countries that were once considered underdeveloped (Southeast Asia, South America, Africa, etc.), and workers who were previously plentiful as agricultural laborers are now being hired by companies that have expanded into the agricultural sector. BUDDYTAPE's improved working environment and high success rate will be the greatest improvement in such a labor shortage, and it is expected that many nurseries will adopt BUDDYTAPE.

While BUDDYTAPE is widely used in deciduous fruit trees (apples, cherries, pears, etc.), it is also expected to be of great use to growers of citrus, coffee, rubber, and flowering plants (roses, etc.). Recently, tape has begun to be used to cover the cut ends of banana bunches as a new application, and for whiskey and scotch because the tape can be used after opening the package for long-term storage. As the population in the Asian region increases, especially in China and India, and food shortages become a concern, there will be even greater demand for safe, high-quality fruit. We believe that the best solution to this problem will be BUDDYTAPE, which enables the production of new varieties of fruits and increased yields through high grafting technology.

 

What is the current focus of your R&D strategy? Also, how is the company responding to feedback from customers and meeting their needs?

In the agricultural sector, the aforementioned development of grafting technology for grapes is important. It has been 20 years since the commercialization of the AgriSystems elevated cultivation system, and we have seen various improvements and new demands. In addition, after 20 years, the system needs to be replaced. Under these circumstances, we are developing technology that will enable us to improve the high installation system and replace the system for existing customers smoothly and at low cost.


Elevated Strawberry Cultivation System


In the medical sector, we are developing a new coating device that will replace the cotton balls and swabs used for disinfection procedures in hospitals, and will offer high functionality, excellent economy, and high safety. When completed, this new product will greatly improve disinfection methods in hospitals and will be a product that is highly evaluated and attracts attention. We are also working on the commercialization of a multipurpose disinfection treatment kit using this new disinfection tool as a major development theme.

We would like to develop further as a comprehensive manufacturer of disinfection care products by utilizing the experience and technology we have cultivated in our main product, the disinfection care kit for dialysis.


ES Kit

EPACK


Who is the main target for this kind of product, hospitals, clinics, or B2C?

The target of this product is hospitals and clinics, especially surgical and gynecological surgeries and other surgical sites, while smaller variants are expected to be used in schools and homes. We expect to triple the sales of Lysis Kit, and we are hoping to increase the annual sales of 3.6 billion yen in Japan by another 10 billion yen. There is a medical committee that decides which products are allowed to be sold and which are not, and in Europe it is very difficult for foreign companies to enter the market, but there is still a lot of potential. I believe that it is only a matter of time before these products are introduced to the wider medical market, as we will be able to see if they are superior to conventional products in terms of functionality, economy, safety, and environmental friendliness.

 

What role does co-creation play in your R&D? Are you looking for co-creation partners overseas to develop new products in the fields of agriculture and medicine?

To realize a development theme as a product, the key step is to select a contract manufacturer and a contract distributor, and to finalize a contract to ensure success by mutually agreeing on the contents. To do this, it is most important that the other party fully understands the patents and utility models that we have acquired, and that the manufacturing and sales are consigned to the other party. For a new product to be successful, it is necessary to clear various issues such as human resources with the technology, manufacturing environment, and investment funds. We believe that co-creation with a company that has a proven track record and corporate strength in the field is an absolute prerequisite for overseas expansion.

 

If you were to do this interview again in five years, what would you like to say? What is your dream for Aglis? What do you hope to achieve by then?

We are developing new products in the medical sector. New disinfection tools used in Japan and Asia are cotton balls and cotton swabs, while brushing sponges are used in Europe and America. Compared to these, the new disinfectant application tool is superior in terms of functionality, simplicity, and safety. For the time being, we will establish the product in Japan and promote further product development in the field of disinfection treatment in order to expand its use.

As for overseas expansion, after confirming the added value and evaluation of these new products and building a production and sales system, we believe that carefully selecting companies for co-creation and expanding overseas will be a major management decision for the next growth of Aglis. Five years from now, when I am interviewed again, I would like to see the results of our efforts in the growth period in both the medical and agricultural fields. I would like to see how our medium-term growth plan of 15 billion yen in 5 years and 20 billion yen in 10 years would look like.


SEE pack

Cellspo V


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