Monday, Dec 10, 2018
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan’s Chuken Kigyo

Toyoda Van Moppes: enhancing machine performance


4 months ago

Azuma Arai, President of Toyoda Van Moppes LTD.
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Azuma Arai

President of Toyoda Van Moppes LTD.

Toyoda Van Moppes is a leading manufacturer specializing in diamond rotary dressers and super-abrasive wheels. In this interview, Azuma Arai discusses the technology behind the company’s superior products, how these products enhance their customers’ productivity, and the scope for TVM to strengthen its presence in both the overseas and electric vehicles markets in the near future.

 

The term Chuken Kigyo is a Japanese concept that defines a strong medium-sized enterprise. While largely invisible to the general public, these corporations are the strength of the Japanese industry. What is the role of Japan’s “Chuken Kigyo” in the manufacturing chain?

While invisible to the end-consumer, “Chuken Kigyos” play an essential role as a part of the manufacturing chain. Through their specialized expertise and know-how, these “hidden makers” allow Japan’s larger corporations to manufacture reliable and technologically advanced products.

Toyoda Van Moppes makes products for grinding processes, therefore targeting processing manufacturers. There are important components inside automotive engines, the crankshaft and the camshaft. Our products are utilized for grinding the above mentioned devices, and we have acquired a 70% market share domestically. Our customers include all of Japan’s car, motorcycle, truck manufacturers, etc.

Since the beginning, we have produced diamond dressers for forming wheels. We supply these products to major Japanese bearing manufacturers and we have acquired a domestic market share just below the 50 percent line for the bearing industry.

In short, our products are present in the overwhelming majority of Japanese cars. As these firms penetrate international markets, Toyoda Van Mopes supports them by following their overseas endeavour. Under our current breakdown, around 50% of our revenue comes from international markets.

 

Can you tell us more about your history and your core products?

Toyoda Van Moppes began commercializing diamond tools in the 1970’s. CBN tools were added in the 1980s, with products such as vitrified, resin, and metal bonded CBN wheel. Since then, our wheel business expanded together with the growth of Japan’s automotive industry.

We have specialized in the utilization of super abrasive grains, such as diamonds and CBN (Cubic Boron Nitride), to refine our technology.

The structure of CBN is similar to that of diamonds. About 60 years ago, General Electric Company successfully developed CBN, whose hardness is second only to diamonds. While the usefulness of CBN technology was not immediately obvious, it became recognized for its superior characteristics when applied to grinding wheels 10 years after. Historically speaking, it was originally marketed by General Electric.

Thanks to our historical expertise, we have been able to add CBN grinding wheels to Toyoda Van Moppes’ portfolio, and it has grown into our main product.

Today, Toyoda Van Moppes employs its advanced CBN expertise to compete internationally. Our CBN products enjoy greater longevity, precision and robustness. When a manufacturer uses a general bonded wheel, wheel replacement occurs with higher frequency, therefore stopping their production line. Using CBN wheels allows manufacturers to pursue longer and steadier production. While the initial cost of our products is higher than general bonded wheels, we allow for higher productivity, precision and reliability. In the long term, this increased efficiency reduces the average cost-per-product. Once we demonstrated the advantages of CBN wheels, our customers quickly adopted our solutions.

Although our products are “invisible,” they support the manufacturing industry and provide optimization, reliability and cost-reduction. Throughout our history, we have survived by putting a particular emphasis on innovation. However, “innovation” here must not be understood as “product development” only, for it also encompasses “production process” and “management.” At Toyoda Van Moppes, we are a consistent technology-oriented company.

 

What are the main trends affecting the grinding field?

To compete internationally, we pay a particular attention to the needs of our customers. In the grinding business, the most important features are “long life” and “sharpness” (the ability to cut). Generally speaking, these two characteristics are conflicting. While “long life” leads to lower cost, sharpness enhances productivity. On the one hand, some of our customers require “long life.” On the other hand, some demand extreme “sharpness.” Naturally, many clients ask for both.

 

Can you tell us more about the technologies that you develop?

Toyoda Van Moppes is a company oriented towards “material technology.” For example, a Vitrified CBN wheel is produced by combining a CBN grinding grain and a binder (glass). In order to enhance the characteristics of our products, we are continuously conducting research on these elements for the best combination of glass and CBN. For example, vitrified CBN wheel is produced through the combination process of burnt and hardened CBN grain and binding material (glass).

To enhance our products’ characteristics, we conduct continuous research towards the best combination between glass and CBN. Following our business model, our wheels are not mass-produced. Our products are manufactured unit-by-unit to address what each individual client demands.

To explain this extreme customization, our “Monozukuri” can be compared to a “menu” or to a “recipe” tailored to each customer. In this “menu,” we carefully explain all the characteristics of the purchased product, such as the manufacturing process employed or the material combination utilized. When a client decides to change products, we utilize their “recipe” to produce a new one. Depending on the customer’s production and processing method, orders are passed on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Regardless of the frequency between orders, these “recipes” allow Toyoda Van Moppes to guarantee that the new products are identical to the ones previously purchased. This unique model enables us to gather an outstanding amount of data that we utilize to have an impeccable replicability and inspection track record. This guarantees micron-level accuracy and reliability.

 

What other improvements do your products bring about?

Traditionally, the majority of our customers require a 3-step grinding process: rough-grinding, mid-grinding and fine-grinding. By using our products however, this 3-step process transforms into a 2-step one! By reducing this processing time-frame, we contribute to enhancing productivity.

 

How do you address the changing demands of your market?

Because our customers’ needs can vary, our R&D capabilities are crucial. In today’s world, enhancing the “sharpness” and the “longevity” of our solutions isn’t enough. In addition to these requirements, our clients require improved quality and accuracy of the processed surface. We are also seeing an increased demand for “energy-efficiency” and “quietness.”

The requirements of our customers are increasingly complex, and in order to match their demand, we promote a pro-active approach to R&D. Instead of waiting to be asked, we research future technologies ahead of time. Despite our technological strength and internal resources, we conduct outside projects with Universities and Research Centres to remain pro-active. Because our customers require a variety of materials, we also collaborate with world-leading CBN producers. To keep on exploring the possibilities brought about by our technology, we closely collaborate with these corporations to develop the best materials possible.

 

How will you utilize innovative technologies, such as IoT, for future product development?

Many machine tool manufacturers accept Industry 4.0 and utilize IoT to gather product information. As machine tool manufacturers, the data accumulated through IoT is rather general, for it analyses the tool in its entirety. At Toyoda Van Moppes, we would like to transform our products into data-accumulators. Therefore, instead of gathering information “about the tool,” we will gather information “within the tool.”

 

How does the longevity of your products impact your sales balance?

Our products are affected by a dilemma called the “technical shrink.” The long life-cycle of our solutions creates a reduction in new orders. To pursue revenue growth despite the “technical shrink,” we have expanded our CBN customer base. We conduct new customer development under three angles.

Firstly, we make corporations that still use general bonded wheels switch to CBN ones. In our industry, around 50% of our potential customers still utilize general bonded wheels. By showing them the quality of our products, we attempt to replace the abrasive wheels they use.

Secondly, we want to capture international customers. While we boast a 45% market-share domestically for CBN wheels, we have only captured a small one internationally. To pursue international growth, we have divided our operations by regions: North America, China, South East Asia, Europe and India. Since each region has distinctive clients, we want to enforce a regional strategy tailored to each area.

Thirdly, we diversify our product portfolio. We are currently trying to expand our products’ application from “automotive engine” to new fields, such as tool grinder machine manufacturers, cutting machine manufacturers and even moulding machine manufacturers. Furthermore, we believe that our products can bring solutions to a growing market of EVs (electric vehicles). Since EVs are recognized for their quietness, they require advanced noise reducing technologies.

Twenty years from now, the EV market will inevitably bloom. As our products are used in conventional internal combustion engines, if EV growth continues as it is it will create a drastic revenue-drop for us. While many people will tell that it is a challenge, I believe that penetrating the EV field is a wonderful opportunity for Toyoda Van Moppes.

 

Ten years from now, what expectations do you have for Toyoda Van Moppes?

Toyoda Van Moppes remains a small-sized company, and our global share is below 5percent in the super abrasive grinding tool field, which includes grinding wheels, rotary dressers and all related grinding tools. Since there is no large-scale international super-abrasive manufacturer, I do believe that there is plenty of space for us to grow.

Within the upcoming years, I would like to have doubled our market-share. According to our mid-term strategy, we want to double our sales volume by 2022. This objective is not a “dream,” it is a “target plan” that we will realize. In order to do so, we will expand our product portfolio and our sales network. Furthermore, we would like to construct a brand new production site that matches our ambitions.

 


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