When it comes to manufacturing, ensuring that components are precise in their shape and dimensions is crucial, with an even a slight error having the potential to cause unwanted challenges. For over 65 years, Fuji Seiki has been providing high-quality precision molds to its clients so they can manufacture the best products. In this interview, President of Fuji Seiki, Tekeshi Ii, discusses the successful history of the company, the result of the company’s strict adherence to its quality standards, and what the future may hold for his firm.
Japan has become famous for manufacturing since World War II based on the monozukuri philosophy. Nowadays, it also encompasses responding to different customer requests quickly and meeting global market needs. What is the essence of monozukuri to you and how would you define Japanese manufacturing?
I believe that what defines most Japanese companies is that they do not have to focus on their size. What matters more is the personal perspective for the long term, and the level of satisfaction with the end product. This differentiates Japanese companies, since foreign ones are more focused on quicker profits and short-term margins, whereas with Japanese firms, the people define and take them to a brighter future, reaching new heights and achieving greater customer satisfaction. In the end, Japanese companies look further ahead, and this underlines the excellency of Japanese production.
How is your company reacting to the demographic changes in Japan? What steps are you taking to recruit new workers?
We definitely have challenges recruiting new graduates and employees for not just our company but manufacturing overall. New graduates are not as enthusiastic towards working on the production site. In regard to the ageing of society, we can see this trend all over the world, and this particular problem goes beyond just recruiting issues, but also touches upon the idea of having and raising a child. However, here at Fuji Seiki, fostering human capital is the most important for us. We are reaching for quality over quantity through OJT or other specific educational programs to highlight the best out of human capital. In this way, we can compensate the lack of human resources in our company and in society. That being said, these challenges are bigger than our company, and must be dealt with through legal entities and at the government level.
Are you looking to recruit overseas?
Yes. Even at our overseas locations, our official policy is that the sites have to be run by local employees, although in the beginning, there are expats supporting them in the initial stages, and this policy is in place to educate them in Japanese standards. Currently, we have four overseas locations, and our aim is to run our China and Indonesia sites with local employees within 5-10 years.
How do you implement digital technologies in your business?
In terms of the design, we do use CAD and CAM, which is something that most companies have in their portfolio, but digital technology is something that is actively entering mold manufacturing. We have digital technology projects planned for our company, so we can say that it is beginning to play a bigger role in the industry. Of course, IT is indispensable in this industry, and they complement the conventional processes, but with ultra-precision mold manufacturing that has integrated design processes, there is more of a traditional way of doing things since it relies on experience that was accumulated through a number of years.
As an integrated manufacturer making precision molds and components, what type of mold is your main focus, and could you give us an overview of it?
Since our establishment, our main focus and has been the manufacturing and sales of precision molds, tailor-made for the medical industry. The medical industry occupies most of Fuji Seki’s manufacturing and design in this area, and recently we manufactured molds for petri dishes and syringes, supplied domestically and outside of Japan. It is hard to compare this industry to others, but the food and beverage industry can be similar, for example producing molds for hinge caps, and pudding cups. Fuji Seiki is also in the automobile industry, manufacturing fuel related parts and beyond. Nowadays, electronic components and the optics industry uses a wide range of molded parts, and Fuji Seiki has an active portfolio in these fields.
What key technologies is Fuji Seiki looking to implement in the future?
As a company that manufactures molds, we have to have various technologies, but beyond that, we are an outline and proposal company. This allows us to make high cycle, high-performance precision molds and long-cycle life molds, and they come out from proposals from the customers themselves, discussing what type of product they wish to see. From our side, we ensure efficiency and low production cost, leading to good feedback from the customer.
How do you ensure consistency and quality of your products?
Throughout the whole manufacturing process, giving the customers the feeling of safety and reliability is crucial, and balanced manufacturing mass production is required, and that is our aim. The prototype on its own is not part of the production cycle, because there are other parts involved in the process. That being said, we are able to provide the customer with a stable production line in the initial stages of production, and we outline these initial stages as the most important, especially discussion stages with the customers. They have a lot of questions for us, and sometimes misunderstandings can occur, but if we clear this stage, the remaining processes are smoother.
Internationally, you are present in Thailand, China and Indonesia. Could you tell us about the benefits of having these locations?
Currently we are not that optimistic with expanding to other countries. We have to think about how to optimize our products, and China gave us the practical experience that evolved us into our current state. Also, we were able to foster human capital which has been important, helping with the efficient running of the four locations we have. For now, though, we are not thinking about further expansion, getting into new fields or industries.
What type of customers are you looking for and in which countries?
It depends on the Japanese companies since we always follow their trends and expand our businesses after them in the same way. This happened with our foreign locations already, but as long as there are customers we will be there. Currently we can see a big concentration of Japanese companies going beyond Asia, expanding into European and US conglomerates. If other companies come up in those countries and if they have a need for precision made molds, we will be there for them.
With digitalization being a big part of your business, what type of partners are you looking for?
The basic principle of cooperation and co-creation is to benefit your own side. Both sides want to see mutual benefit, and if we share mutual interests, have the same philosophy, and had mutual understanding, we will gladly cooperate, especially in the technical field. They can be any company, as long as we share the same principles and wish to achieve mutual goals.
Your company is celebrating its 67th anniversary this year. Imagine that we come back in three years and have this interview again: what would you like to have achieved and what is your dream for the company?
In production, we act as a tier two company on an OEM basis. There is a tendency with some tier one companies not being able to fulfil the demands of the customers, especially in the automotive industry, or simply not being able to follow the production structure, and this is where tier two companies come in. We would like to position ourselves as not just an OEM company, but also develop our R&D capabilities so we can provide more solutions to our customers, enhancing our capabilities. Our goal is to cross that boundary into tier one.