First established more than 50 years ago, Gantan Beauty is a research and development-oriented metal roofing manufacturer with a striking portfolio of accomplishments.
First, could you please provide a brief overview of your company?
Mr. Kato: Certainly, our portfolio highlights our involvement in the construction of Okinawa Arena, the venue for the Basketball World Cup, where we provided a black ceiling with insulation and sound absorption. We have also contributed to the renowned Nippon Budokan, where martial arts events are held. While the roof of Zojoji Temple in Tokyo may appear traditional, it is primarily made of lightweight titanium, enhancing its resistance to natural disasters. Considering Japan's vulnerability to earthquakes, we prioritize using such lightweight materials in our roof construction.
Mr. Funaki: We have been involved in various projects, including the construction of art museums in Kyoto. Our work extends to historically and culturally significant places in Japan, such as the Budokan, art museums, and sports arenas. Additionally, we have undertaken roof and exterior wall work for the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, located in the hot and typhoon-prone region of Okinawa. Our technology thrives in such challenging climates. These are some of our major projects, but our portfolio showcases a wide range of accomplishments.
Mr. Kato: Today, one of the main challenges faced by construction companies is the impact of global warming on building materials. Natural disasters like high temperatures, strong winds, typhoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes can compromise the integrity of construction materials, especially roofs. We have actively addressed this issue by introducing flexible frames in place of traditional long grids or frames, which enhance the safety of roof construction and ensure a more secure attachment to the building's structure.
Our company chairman has played a central role in research and development activities that have led to the commercialization of innovative roof attachment solutions. These systems secure the roof to the building and have been proven to extend the life of the structure.
Our product, the "Beauty Roof L200," is a state-of-the-art stable roof that differs from conventional systems, which often had loose connections between roofs and buildings. This technology is highly reliable and has been successfully utilized in numerous projects and buildings, including universities in Okinawa and art museums in Kyoto.
I believe that as our technology proves its resilience over the years in Okinawa, which frequently faces typhoons, there is a growing opportunity to expand our products, particularly our roof reinforcement technology, to Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, which are also prone to seismic activity and natural disasters.
Mr. Funaki: Finding universal solutions that can be applied to various countries can be challenging. For example, metal roofs are not commonly used in the United States, and what works well in one place may not be suitable for another. In a recent disaster in Hawaii, improper roofing materials were believed to have exacerbated wildfires. Wildfires typically start from the top and quickly spread to the entire roof, causing extensive damage. In this case, using some form of asphalt-bonded material that is more combustible might have been the issue instead of using metal roofs.
In contrast, Japan has significant expertise in this field. Taking into account the prevalence of natural disasters like wildfires, Japan has developed roof systems with earthquake and fire resistance. Our high-performance metal roofs excel in strength and durability, minimizing damage risks even during repeated disasters. Personally, I noticed during my business trips to the United States that metal roofing solutions may not be well-suited to the American market.
Mr. Kato: Japan's susceptibility to earthquakes has led us to design our projects in this country to be long-lasting and maintain the highest quality. Many of our roof solutions, including those in Tohoku, Kumamoto, and Kyushu, have been used as emergency shelters.
Each country has its own building codes and architectural styles, forming distinct markets. Do you think it's essential to find local partners in those regions to enter those markets and promote our products?
Mr. Funaki: When expanding into international markets, it's crucial to overcome local regulations and communicate effectively in the local language. We believe that our technology can be applied to regions such as Southeast Asia, where natural disasters like Japan occur.
By obtaining worldwide patents for our technology, we ensure its applicability in new markets. As a technology-driven company, our products and innovations speak for themselves. Our strategy revolves around attracting talented individuals with experience and expertise in our specific technological areas. When we introduce our technology to local engineers abroad, they quickly grasp the concept, making it easier to promote our products. Our customers recognize the value of what we offer right away. While owning excellent technology is essential, effectively monetizing and marketing it in the market are equally important.
Mr. Kato: Personally, I take pride in my role as a successful salesman. I genuinely enjoy my work within the company, and I find great satisfaction in knowing that my work forms the foundation for all the products we develop and introduce to our customers. Over the course of my career, I realized that the traditional approach of focusing on showcasing individual expertise within the company doesn't align with our unique situation. Instead, I shifted my focus to introducing our technology. Fortunately, our company has established a reputation for having exceptional technology, which sets us apart. During the economic instability of the Lehman Shock, many companies faced challenges in selling their products, especially those with a financial-centered approach. We have been fortunate to have a strong technological foundation and a progressive research and development department that can overcome any financial crisis. I deeply appreciate the years I have spent at our company.
Are there any new products or technologies currently in development that you would like to introduce?
Mr. Funaki: Currently, we are actively working on two ongoing projects. To protect technological innovation, our company has obtained over 5,000 patents. Since Japan is a hub for the development of cutting-edge technologies that can be easily imitated by other countries, patent acquisition is crucial. Having the appropriate documentation in place helps safeguard our company from potential legal claims and disputes. Additionally, I look forward to introducing our new generation of roofing materials. In our TV commercials, we specifically address common issues in Japan, such as heavy autumn rains which can clog gutters due to falling leaves. Our innovative roofing system provides a solution by ensuring that rain, leaves, and snow flow smoothly through the pipes, preventing blockages and associated problems. The gutters we have designed at our company are designed to allow rainwater to enter securely while preventing leaves from getting in and causing blockages. Furthermore, the integrated design with the roof gives it a sleek and beautiful appearance.
When it comes to safely replacing roofs, many homeowners consider upgrading or changing their roofs. However, with traditional roofs, changing rafters can be a complex and expensive process. The constraints of scaffolding and roof structure for these renovations can be particularly inconvenient, especially in densely populated areas where space is limited. It is often challenging to install scaffolding for such projects. We received numerous inquiries from customers who wanted to replace their roofs, but traditional scaffolding was not practical due to constraints. To address this issue, we have introduced an innovative roof replacement system with flexible scaffolding. Instead of installing scaffolding on the sides of the building, our system is designed to be installed on the top of the building. We have incorporated a movable gondola lift with a ladder on the side of the building. This setup allows operators easy access to any part of the roof that needs repair or replacement. In particular, this system provides spacious and safe maneuverability, catering to the needs of the elderly and addressing the labor shortage in the construction industry.
As a metal roofing manufacturer in the construction industry, we face various challenges. However, our new system reduces the required workforce and significantly improves the efficiency and reliability of roofing projects.
Due to population decline and aging, there is a shrinking workforce in the construction industry, resulting in a shrinking domestic market. One way for companies to address this challenge is to begin establishing offices in overseas locations such as Southeast Asia, the United States, and Europe. Are you considering the establishment of overseas offices in the future?
We would like to explore new business opportunities, but the limited availability of skilled personnel and associated financial costs make it difficult to prioritize international expansion at this time. Masu. However, we welcome cooperation with individuals or organizations overseas who wish to utilize our technology. We welcome business negotiations as a means to introduce our products to the world market.
If we were to revisit this interview five years from now, do you have any personal goals or ambitions for the company that you would like to have achieved by that day?
Mr. Funaki We are planning to establish a new research and development center and have exciting plans for the upcoming year. This facility will serve as a crucial hub for collecting valuable information and strengthening our existing knowledge base. We strongly believe that knowledge is key to understanding market trends, customer needs, and catering to the preferences of customers both domestically and internationally. The primary purpose of this center will be to gather valuable information and enhance our existing knowledge base. This knowledge will drive our efforts to develop cutting-edge technological solutions, whether it's for renovating residential roofs, installing solar panels on roofs, or designing rain gutters that prevent debris buildup. We have future technological advancements in mind to provide better services to our customers, both domestically and internationally. These initiatives will be our primary focus moving forward. Our company's foundation lies in patented technology that has been proven highly effective through extensive academic research. We are currently preparing to introduce our technology to potential partners, both domestically and internationally. Mr. Kato will continue to lead our sales activities.
The name of our company, "Gantan Beauty," is derived from the Japanese word "元日" (Gantan), which means the first day of the year. It symbolizes a fresh start and new opportunities, and I was born on January 1, 1942, making me 81 years old today. I have been affectionately called "Gantan" since a young age. This name not only represents my own name but also encapsulates the essence of our company. Just as our technology speaks for itself, our company name tells a story.