Thursday, Apr 25, 2019
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

OEM, Japan

The future looks bright for Olympia LEDs


2 months ago

Mr. Junyo Asano, Managing Director of Olympia Lighting Fixtures Industries Ltd.
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Mr. Junyo Asano

Managing Director of Olympia Lighting Fixtures Industries Ltd.

Olympia designs manufactures and sells Industrial Grade LED Lights & Fixtures for the Commercial Lighting Industry. In this interview, managing director, Junya Asano, discusses the rise of LED lighting solutions and their advantages, as well as other innovations such as its award-winning Akirina hydroponic grow-light system.

 

What are the advantages of the “Made by Japan” brand?

What distinguishes Japanese monozukuri from manufacturing in other countries is the concept itself of “craftmanship.” Japan’s way of perceiving “Monozukuri” goes beyond the simple creation of an object. It appeals to inner feelings related to pride, usefulness and attention to details. Olympia Lighting has been engaged in the lighting business for more than 50 years. After procuring, manufacturing and selling our products domestically, we established plant locations in Shanghai and Vietnam. Our overseas expansion began some 15 years ago. Thanks to the production experience acquired at overseas plants, I learned that there are various regional characteristics to “making things.”

The main objective of Japanese manufacturers isn’t to make something. It is to produce an object of high quality. A creation they can be proud of and that clients will enjoy using. In Japan, the culture of "treasuring customers" is the foundation of the majority of businesses. Therefore, we aim to systematically deliver high quality in order to fulfill the requirements and desires of our clients

 

In recent years, large Japanese corporations have been criticized for losing the innovative edge that made them successful in the 80s. Experts have argued that Japan’s true innovative power has moved into the hands of SMEs and specialized manufacturers. As the president of a medium-sized enterprise, do you agree with this claim?

Historically, monozukuri worked alongside big companies. SMEs provided specific parts and components to larger firms, who then assembled all these devices together to create an end product. Large enterprises and smaller firms held hands and walked together through the long path of production. Nowadays, the situation is changing.  monozukuri has been adopted by SMEs and these firms have had a certain success in releasing products under their own brand. Historically in Europe and elsewhere, there are many cases where small and medium size enterprises produce their own brand products and sell them internally and externally. Such a situation is coming to Japan.

The Japanese market is shrinking. Inevitably, SMEs will have to come up with new creative ideas to maintain corporate growth. As they are forced to innovate to cater for our ageing society, a number of smaller firms have been growing and have managed to introduce some interesting concepts and ideas into their final products.

Olympia Lighting originated in Tsubame, Niigata prefecture – the home of Japanese metalworking. All around that area, you can see the gradual increase of SMEs’ strength. Several companies make component parts for major brands, such as Apple. Such companies are rapidly globalizing by displaying their in-house branded products to exhibitions and tradeshows.  

 

The global LED market is expected to reach a 100 billion dollars by 2025. What are the main advantages of LED lighting and what are the trends in this market?

The 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake was a major reason for the advancement of LED lighting in Japan. With the serious power shortages the catastrophe provoked, demand for efficient energy consumption surged at once. Installing LED lighting was among the most promising measures. Thanks to the rapid development of LED lighting, technical innovation advanced accordingly.      

In overseas markets, the change to LEDs is likely to become full-scale in the near future. Today, companies that are focused on the environment have begun to switch to LED lighting, and have reduced energy costs by doing so. LED technology in Japan is advanced and of outstanding quality. Nevertheless, few companies have gone global. Consequently, there is potential for SMEs to export their energy-saving lights. We can see that trend happening and we are part of that trend. 

 

Your hydroponic indoor plant grower, the Akirina, was rated as a “UK best buy product” by the Independent in July last year. Can you tell us more about your expansion strategy?

The further expansion of Olympia Lighting involves Akirina and several other brands linked to living space and lighting itself. The idea is to provide a total coordination for interior living spaces. In the future, we plan to introduce interior items different to lighting. In living spaces, growing vegetables brings an element of nature that can be enjoyed as decoration or as food. With interior items including lighting, we want to bring comfort and richness into living spaces. We want our customers to feel the value of the space they live in.

 

In our research we found that you have an integrated system from design to production. Could you explain more about this system and how it benefits your clients? 

Before any product is released by Olympia Lighting, it passes through a thorough process of design, production and quality check. As Olympia Lighting’s mother factory, the Niigata plant has all these functions. The departure point is the design itself, which is tailored to the needs and trends of each individual market. After several stages of DR (design review), it passes to the production stage. Up to this point, the Niigata Factory is in charge of being the mother factory, and instructions for production are issued from there to Shanghai and Vietnam. While the final assembly is mainly done at our overseas plants, the Niigata factory assembles special products with short delivery time, but also manufactures items with high production complexity. Of course, at all factories, fine quality inspections are carried out at production completion. In Japan and abroad, we work to ensure that the Olympia Lighting quality is respected.

Moving on to the sales side, Olympia Lighting will strengthen both B2B and B2C approaches. Especially in Japan, where we will attend large events. We have engaged in the construction of related facilities and our renovation projects will also increase. We will prioritize and expand our development to B2B clients.

 

Can you tell us more about your B2B segment?

In the B2B segment, we have placed our emphasis on office design and interior, and their related contractors. By utilizing this approach, we can access many business opportunities such as hotels, offices, condominiums.

Meanwhile, as a new movement in Japan, the plant cultivation business utilizing LEDs has been in the spotlight. Plant cultivation is a method of growing plants using indoor LED devices. Plants are grown steadily regardless of season and sunshine, and because they do not use agricultural chemicals, safer food can be supplied. At the Niigata Factory, we are pursuing plant cultivation experiments using LEDs, which has led to the accumulation of know-how. Olympia Lighting is one of the few companies in Japan with both LED lighting technology and cultivation technology. LED has various business uses, and Olympia Lighting is a company that can explore all these different possibilities. I think that this diversification will be the foundation for future developments.

 

Throughout the years, your company has expanded beyond the Japanese border. You established a factory in Shanghai in 1997 and in Vietnam in 2013. You also export to the US and Europe. Could you tell us more about your international strategy?

We are currently focused on our existing production facilities: Niigata, Shanghai and Vietnam. If the superiority of Shanghai and Vietnam disappears due to rising manufacturing cost and procurement of parts, we will need to set up a new production base. For the moment, it will be enough to sustain our existing model. What is most important to us is that no matter the manufacturing location, the concept of “Japanese Monozukuri” must be respected and exported abroad. From China to Vietnam, we want all our factories and employees to embrace Olympia Lighting’s art for craftmanship.

With regards to overseas revenue, we will expand our sales network in major countries of the EU, especially in the UK, which has already proven itself as a successful market. In Asia, we will aim at expanding our B2B business, mainly based in China and Vietnam thanks to our factories.

 

If we were to come back in 10 years’ time, what main goals or objectives would you like to have achieved for your company? 

Our objective: “to create a good living environment so that people live a fruitful and peaceful life” will remain untouched. We want to create positivity through the arrangement of lighting in households. That's the overall idea of products produced by Olympia Lighting. 

Under this objective, the mainstay OEM/ODM will continue to be a pillar of management for the future. However, we will also aim for further expansion. We will spare resources to expand our brand and product recognition. For example, by utilizing online tools, we will directly connect with a variety of international customers through our own web development platform. On that platform, we will expose the drawing and designs of the products we anticipate, quickly realize it, and provide items that are pleasing to our customers. If our clients wish it, we can bring European design concepts to Olympia Lighting’s overseas factory in a timely manner, and commercialize them with the Japanese quality seal while providing a reasonable price. By demonstrating such flexibility in each field, from manufacturing to sales, we will increase our business expansion and reliability. I want Olympia Lighting to become such a company,

Within the huge world of the lighting industry, LED will continue to grow steadily. Among its most prominent players, I would like to transform Olympia Lighting into a company that has a respected and acknowledged presence.

 


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