Sunday, Nov 18, 2018
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japanese Automobile Industry

The leaders of automobile Lifts


1 month ago

Mr. Yasutoshi Sugiura, President of SUGIYASU CORPORATION
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Mr. Yasutoshi Sugiura

President of SUGIYASU CORPORATION

For this interview, The Worldfolio sits down with Mr. Yasutoshi Sugiura, President of Sugiyasu Co., Ltd. to present his world-renowned “Bishamon” brand and the strategy they employed to acquire a 70% market share in the Japanese automobile lift market.

 

Since the rise of the Japanese private sector, ‘monozukuri’ has been widely talked about but often misunderstood. Now, with the rise of competitors such as China and South Korea, the art of ‘monozukuri’ is being copied at a lower cost. From your point of view, what are the main advantages of Japanese ‘monozukuri’ when compared to that undertaken by companies in China and South Korea?

The term ‘monozukuri’ not only embodies the action of manufacturing ‘things’, but also the philosophy behind the manufacturing processes that provide products of unparalleled quality – a quality that is truly unique to Japan.

Foreign companies may be able to mimic ‘monozukuri’ but the quality of the products are far from the Japanese standard. For example, in our industry, there is a large difference between lifts procured from abroad and those offered by our company. Lifts from foreign companies will display a maximum lifting weight of 3 tons and will be sold with that exact characteristic. Lifts from our company that are said to display a maximum lifting weight of 3 tons will actually be able to handle 6 tons. The difference between the weight lifts are said to handle (static load) and the actual weight they can handle (flexible load) is called the safety margin. Our company values quality and safety equally and we believe that both go hand in hand in this industry. Therefore, we do everything we can to manufacture lifts of the highest quality and that provide the greatest extent of safety to our customers. The substantial safety margin that our products possess is one of our main advantages compared to products offered by foreign companies.

One of the ways in which we are able to keep the quality of our products high is by producing material in-house. In this way, we are able to monitor everything that happens from start to finish and can perform quality controls ourselves to make sure we are providing our customers with high-quality, safe and durable lifts.

Therefore, in response to your question, I believe that what separates Japanese companies from foreign companies is the effort put into the research and development, and manufacturing processes to offer customers world-class products.

 

We have seen that your lifts cost more than those produced by international manufacturers, sometimes by a wide margin. When you are in front of clients and you are trying to convince them to spend that extra dollar on your products what do you tell them?

Bishamon has become a leading brand in automobile lifts both in Japan and around the world – in fact, our market share in Japan is approximately 75%. The reason for our success really all comes down to the trust our customers have towards our brand name. Since our inception, we have put quality of our products and safety of our clients first, and have always delivered on our promises. Our clients know this of us, and have the utmost confidence in our ability to respond to their needs.

Another reason why we have instilled such trust in our brand name is because of our transparency towards our customers. We offer factory tours whereby clients are given the opportunity to see everything that happens in our company and in our factories. This in-person experience allows us to show first-hand the time, effort and quality that we put into all of our operations.

 

We are at the eve of the 4th industrial revolution and we have many technologies that are not only changing products themselves but also the way in which we produce them i.e. factory automation and IoT among many others. What has been the effect of these new technologies on the way you produce and on your products themselves?

Currently, our production bases feature state-of-the-art facilities that enable us to manufacture products of exceptional reliability. With advanced FA and ergonomic working environments, we are able to produce high-quality, world class products for our customers. I believe that in order for us to continue serving our clients efficiently and responding to their needs, we must perpetually improve the technology we have in our hands and approach our manufacturing processes with an innovative mentality. We hope to maximize our use of IoT in the future to improve administrative work as well, and have our employees within various lines of our operations interconnected. In this way, we believe the company will be more unified and will work like a well-oiled machine.

 

Your company will be celebrating its 70th anniversary next year. Could you give us the key milestones of your company since its inception and tell us a bit about the evolution of the company’s corporate philosophy?

I believe that one of the most significant events for our company was the Lehman Shock in 2008 and how we dealt with its aftermath. For the first time in Bishamon’s history, the company found itself in a ‘make or break’ situation – our sales dropped 50% and there were concerns about whether we could rescue ourselves from this fall. However, the company came together and eventually prevailed. We increased the scale and efficiency of our operations and successfully recovered from the damage suffered in 2008. We now stand as a leading brand in the industry of automotive lifts globally.

One way in which our company has evolved over the years is in the advertisement of our brand. In the past, we did not focus our efforts on advertisements and relied purely on the high-quality of our products to attract customers. However, now we are involving ourselves with TV and radio advertisements and have even displayed ads on the billboards of the Tokyo dome and the Nagoya dome. By doing so, Bishamon’s name is gaining more exposure and we have experienced a significant increase in profits. 

A second way in which our company has evolved is in the introduction of new business lines. For example, in the past 8-10 years, we have implemented a new operation for special orders and have reoriented certain manufacturing processes to fulfill the needs of our customers. This has given our clients the opportunity to customize the products they want from us and to obtain lifts that are tailored towards their exact needs.

 

How do you want your brand to be perceived?

As a company, we are not only concerned about how our customers perceive us, but also about how our employees view themselves within this company. For customers, it is important that we are viewed as a trustworthy company that delivers products of the highest-level of quality and durability. As for our employees, we want them to be proud of working at Bishamon and to know that they are playing important roles in the success of our company. Our corporate philosophy is to maintain a positive energy and spirit within the company so that our employees feel inspired and motivated in their work.

As we continue to move forward in our endeavors, I would like for Bishamon to be recognized as a ‘big name’ company such as Sony and Toyota. I think we are unique in what we do and how we do it, and I truly believe in the ability of our employees to continue promoting the success of Bishamon in the future.

 

With the Japanese ageing demographic becoming a more and more prominent issue, it has been important for companies to expand abroad. Can you tell us what your internationalization strategy has been and how you plan on developing it in the future? Which markets do you believe have the most potential?

Currently we do not plan on expanding more than we already have. The reason for this is because our profit rates from our international products is quite low – only 10% of our sales come from abroad. Therefore, we have decided to focus our efforts in the markets we are currently present in, particularly that of Japan. However, because the Japanese market is shrinking it is important that we continue to look into foreign markets and see how we can be strategic about where we can operate our businesses in the future. For now, Thailand and Vietnam look like promising markets. It is still too early to tell you concretely what we will do but when the time is right, we will pick up our internationalization strategies once again. When that happens, I can guarantee you that Bishamon will be ready to thrive and establish ourselves as leaders within our industry in foreign markets.

 

If my colleague and I were to come back in 10 years and interview you again, where would you like to see Bishamon in terms of its progress and what objectives do you hope to have accomplished in that period of time?

This might sound odd, but we do not actually have a concrete long-term goal. The reason I say this is because I believe that situations are always changing, even on a daily basis, and that strategies have to be continuously tailored according to the changes occurring. However, there are certain aspects of this company’s operations that I hope will be improved over the next 10 years.

Firstly, I hope that in the time frame given, Bishamon will have successfully re-initiated its internationalization strategies and that the company will have established more factories overseas. Secondly, I hope that Bishamon maintains its high level of quality by continuing to focus efforts on quality control, but to also increase the scale of its sales and trading operations which I believe are essential to a successful business as well. Lastly, I hope that Bishamon can improve on the efficiency of its customer care. Our newly established toll-free call center has allowed us to better communicate with our clients in order to respond to their needs. I would like for Bishamon to continue valuing the importance of excellent customer care in order for us to continue providing our clients with the highest quality of both products and services.

 


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