Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017
Industry & Trade | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japanese Industrial Strength

Yamato Scale: Delivering the Japanese “master’s mind and technique.”


7 months ago

Mr. Kawanishi, President & CEO of Yamato Scale Co.,Ltd.
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Mr. Kawanishi

President & CEO of Yamato Scale Co.,Ltd.

In this interview for the Worldfolio, Mr. Kawanishi, president & CEO of Yamato Scacle explains how his company is revolutionizing weighting scales through technology and expertise

Mr. Kawanishi, could you share your views on the current economic situation in Japan? What are the challenges and opportunities faced?

After World War II, the Japanese economy and industry developed incredibly fast. The reason for this soaring growth was due to the reputation of the “made in Japan” products. Our products were synonymous with quality and reliability, and the world knew them as such. To be specific, this was especially true for manufacturers. Home electronics appliance manufacturers like Panasonic and Sharp, audio equipment makers like Sony, Camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon, as well as watch manufacturer such as Seiko, had been supporting the Japanese economy with their global expansion.

The common basis for the good reputation these products enjoyed resided in a sophisticated “master’s mind and technique” philosophy. This devotion to delivering the best is unique to Japan, and it is inherited from shrine architects and cooks from Kyoto’s cuisine.   

Those products’ main concept used to be primarily framed with mechanical technology, and electronic technology as a sub frame. But now the products’ concept, LCD televisions and smartphones for example, seems to have lost their ancestral “master’s mind and technique.” The main frame has been shifted to electronic technology, which has increased the importance of capital investment towards software development and production, with response to low price competition. However, if the competitiveness of a product is based on its software development, then it cannot last for more than a year. Companies that fought to lower the price of their production investments have been beaten by corporations with large cash-flow capabilities from emerging countries. Japan’s Government and private sector need to understand that even flagship corporations, whose main business heavily shifted to electronic technology, have faced a harsh market situation. In recent years, we have seen historical companies coming near to business discontinuance due to escalated software developments and low price competition.

 

In what sectors do you see the highest potential for growth?

The volume of consumption in Japan will decrease in the next 30 years due to our negative demographic line. Japan’s decreasing birthrate and aging population will have an impact on business opportunities. To a large extent, what it means is that there will be “No more needs for new houses”, “No more demands for new land” and “No more requests for new cars.” The Japanese consumption market will shrink, and it simply cannot be avoided.

In this situation, one of my answers as to what sector has a higher growth potential would be the businesses aimed at oversea markets, regardless of industry or products. Japan must learn from countries such as Germany. Germany has enjoyed a positive trade balance for years, with exports largely surpassing imports. To create a similar model, Japan needs to develop products conceived accordingly to the “master’s special technique” and “master’s mind and technique philosopies. By applying these unique-to-Japan philosophies, which are inherited from Japanese shrine architects and Kyoto cuisine, we will be able to develop ultra-competitive products at a global level.

That being said, and because their main frame is mechanical technology, sectors such as automobile, machine tools and robotics still enjoy great potential. Those products have kept the “master’s mind and technique” philosophy, allowing them to remain competitive on an international level. Japanese manufacturing, also known as “Mono Tsukuri,” will increasingly be regarded as the “world’s top manufacturing.” As global markets will continue to exponentially embrace products issued from “Mono Tsukuri,” it will keep on playing an important role in the Japanese economy.

 

How do you ensure that these problems of electronic technology are not reproduced within your own company?

About 30 years ago, our products’ main fields were industrial scales for steel plants and for the chemical industry. Truck scales, price computing scales, agricultural, and bathroom scales, our products’ main purpose was to indicate how many grams, kilograms or tons of materials were present in a given measure. This type of weighing is called unfixed weighing, and at the time, it represented 90% of our business.

The problem with unfixed weighing scales is that even if you achieve a very high degree of accuracy and capability, it cannot provide much advantages to the customer. User’s requirements for unfixed weighing scales are simply not high. Therefore, this business can easily fall into low price competition. The characteristics of these products were similar to the ones whose frame is software technology. At the time, Yamato Scale had a low exportation percentage. So I shifted our main business to one with greater potential. In just a few decades, I transformed Yamato Scale’s model. To keep Yamato sustainable, it seemed essential to shift our main business to fields where the main frame was mechanical technology.

Back in the days, material blending scales and industrial packer scales represented around 10% of our products. The main objective of these scales is to weigh materials at a fixed weight. I thought that these kind of products, whose purpose is to calculate a fixed weight, would definitely be growing because they could directly contribute to users’ merits. From increasing productivity to minimizing cost structure, fixed weighing scales demanded technical innovations in mechanical and sensor technology. Since then, Yamato stacked innovations in both technology and management. In just a few decades, and with the efforts of a top management system, we shifted our main business field to one where mechanical technology has more importance.

Today, fixed weighing scales in Yamato’s products account for more than 60% of its portfolio; it has become our main business. Furthermore, the percentage of exports has also increased to account for over 50% of our sales ratio. These two developments have ensured our business expansion in growing fields. I can say it: Yamato has transformed itself. Today, we are proud to show the world that our products are “made in Japan” with our advanced technology.

The first priority of this transformation was not to increase our own profitability, but rather to enhance the profit of our users. If we continuously pursued the development of our innovative technologies, it is for the benefit our customers.

 

Can you tell us more about the history and recent evolution of your company?

Kawanishi Machinery, our predecessor, was founded in 1920 and its main business was aimed at the production of airplanes, textile machinery and industrial measuring instruments. Today, we still produce and sell testing machines related to airplanes, such as wind tunnel balance for aircrafts and passenger cars, which are used for the development and design of airplanes and automobiles. These devices use technology which measures six components of a force: lift, drag, side forces and pitching, rolling, and yawing moments. These testing machines are essential to secure high performance- capabilities and vehicle-safety for airplanes and cars.

We also still have industrial measuring instruments. Our non-stop axle weigher of vehicles for highway road control is still one of our main products. Axle weighers can weigh high speed driving trucks when the front wheels come to a 70cm-width of a weighing table. It is only for 0.05~0.1 second that the front wheels are on the weighing table, with rear-wheels coming on just a moment after them. In practical terms, it means that the rear wheels come before the weighing-sensor can be stabilized. But at Yamato Scale, and thanks to our vibration analysis-technology, we have made it possible to grasp weighed value correctly before the stable time.

Our measuring technology for the 6 components of a force, and our vibration analysis technology are bot incorporated into our innovative weigher for fixed weighed package. This product’s main aim is related to the food business, and it has greatly contributed to improving our users’ productivity while also reducing their material costs.

The transformation we undertook to develop this innovative technology has made our business grow at a rapid pace.  Over the past 10 years, our business has lived continuous upturns in terms of “sales,” “profit,” “capital ratio,” and “finance.” We owe this positive trend to our continuous technological innovations.

 

As the CEO of a company soon to reach the 100 years’ milestone, what legacy would you like to leave behind once you hand over the company to your successor?

Our company is celebrating its 100th anniversary three years from now, and from our perspective, 100 years is not a milestone of retrospection; it is a starting point for another 100 years to come.

My responsibility as CEO is to greatly solidify Yamato’s business model as it reaches its 100th anniversary, while securing Yamato’s sustainability for the future. This May in Dusseldorf, we will attend the Interpack exhibition, the largest exhibition of the packaging industry. There, we will exhibit a new concept machine we realized which embodies our idea to “make the impossible possible.” Furthermore, we will exhibit our 10-year-old model but modified with our measuring technology of 6 components of a force combined with our vibration analysis technology. We will do that to show how just a few days of modification can revolutionize a machine, improving the accuracy of measurements while also providing great user-merit. Our aim is to show that this evolution does not simply imply the mere feeling of satisfaction, but it also creates a money-saving opportunity for its users.

As a member of the executive management, I push myself to always deliver the most that I can do. To be motivated, I tell myself that “my rivals are Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton,” and this audacious comparison helps me to thrive for the best. Furthermore, as the leader of an executive business, my motto is to “always be a developer combined with a manager.” For me, what is most important is to achieve a synergy between “being a man of culture and a globally oriented manager.” Before doing something, I always repeat theoretical thinking to myself. I thrive to surpass my current situations by being prepared to face and achieve all conditions necessary for success. My motto is simple: “Once I have an aim, I never miss my target.”


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