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GMB: supplying high-quality parts to drive the future of automotive industry

Interview - February 17, 2021

Since its founding in 1943, the GMB Group has been providing products not only to Japan but also the global automotive industry as an independent auto parts manufacturer. In line with the market needs, we are working together to improve quality to deliver satisfaction and trust to our customers. To achieve that goal, we are based on the idea that "a company is its people", and we put emphasis on human resource development, and aim to be a sustainable global company that allows each employee to feel worthwhile and to work with the spirit of "Harmony", the company philosophy.

MAKOTO MATSUNAMI-SAN, PRESIDENT OF: GMB
MAKOTO MATSUNAMI-SAN | PRESIDENT OF: GMB

As the president of a company that manufactures highly reliable products, what is the essence of Monozukuri for you and how do you implement it in your company?

Monozukuri cannot be defined by one word or one sentence, it is something complex that goes beyond explanation. Personally, for us, there are 4 Ms: men, method, machine, and material. All these elements combine to realize the manufacture of products of the highest quality. Although the materials and machinery can be easily replicated, the devotion and determination of the Japanese craftsman in the manufacturing process generates an essence of Japanese excellence unmatched in the rest of the world.

 

Having 12 manufacturing plants overseas, how do you ensure high-quality products whether they are produced here in Japan or overseas?

The process that we have to carry out is in our essence and in our heart, we do not need any explanation. That generates a good sustainable workflow and a great environment and that can only be found here in Japan. The experience and professionalism of our workers in Japan allow us to carry out the production phases that demand the greatest precision and later, the assembly phase takes place in the rest of the overseas production plants. High-quality production is the core part of the quality of the material. If the raw material is a success, if it has a good quality, we can maintain the same high quality of production abroad as here in Japan.

 

Could you please tell us how trends like AI or factory automation affect your business?

In our plant in Japan, you will not find any trace of these technologies but instead, in GMB Korea they have been introduced on a large scale. Korea is much more aggressive in keeping up with the latest technologies and is ahead of time. My company was born here in Japan but we are giving the preference to the affiliates we have overseas as our shareholders expand, the one in Korea for example is the leader in terms of the automotive industry. Like in the Keiretsu system they do not have total dependence, we support them technically and provide knowledge to create a synergy.

 

The automotive industry is facing massive changes due to electrification, the emergence of autonomous vehicles, and the fact that manufacturers are looking for lighter materials such as aluminum. How is this affecting your business and how are you adapting?

I would like to make it clear that although there is an upsurge in this type of engine and technology, change is not going to occur shortly and those trends have not impacted the manufacturing process. The benchmark is here in Japan but the market aggressiveness is happening in Korea, GMB Korea became a very important supplier for a Korean car marker and I can say that the automotive manufacturing industry is stable and in great demand for combustion engines. We can say that Korea is where the world trends are faster adopted in terms of human resources and business-wise. We are aware of the Industry 4.0 and even though we cannot go beyond our prescribed things we believe there will be a time when we will adapt the innovations to our business.

 

Could you give us an overview of the products and which one is the top-selling product you have?

The materials used in our Transmission Driving Spool come from Japan, its sophistication creates the difficulty of manufacturing so we could say it is unique worldwide. It is the element that produces the shift between the conventional engine and the electric one. We are proud to say we are producing more than any other company.

Another part of our drivetrain line products is our Universal Joint which is needed on FR vehicles, the number of suppliers of this part is decreasing so we are taking advantage of it. Even though the European market is really hard to penetrate, we are having good financial results as we presented the Universal Joint to a European car maker. New Oceania and the Asia Pacific market area is good in terms of turnover in profit, our big market opportunity is in Asia. There was a big drop because of the coronavirus this year so at the moment we are experiencing a harsh situation which we expect to overcome.

 

Do you have any upcoming products that you would like to share with us?

There are two major areas where we expect to manufacture new products on the Japanese market, first the after-market and second the electrification of cars. Taking into account global trends and these two areas we will be able to create new products needed in the automotive industry.

 

Investing in R&D is a must in Japanese companies to be more competitive in the global arena, what is the role that R&D plays within your company regarding the global market?

R&D is a crucial part of every manufacturing company, at this moment when mentioning the word innovation in the automotive industry the trend is EV. It is a sphere that is out of our knowledge, so in the future, we will have to get feedback from EV makers or even GMB Korea to introduce our new enhancements. The key is to be informed, to know the international panorama and to know how the rest of the companies are acting

 

What role does co-creation and collaboration play for your company? Are you actively looking to find new partners overseas?

There is a tendency for Japanese companies to go global, at the moment we are not doing any kind of co-creation manufacturing with other affiliates or financial institutions. Our technology is very precise and part of our achievement comes from maintaining secrecy.

 

What is the competitive advantage of GMB?

I would say that our company as such does not have any competitive advantage, what makes us unique is that we have the knowledge of the work we have to do and we do it excellently. In Japan, we have a mindset "Let us sustain the business, do not exceed the capacity focus on making your business stable.” Our business structure is unique, for example, 90% of what GMB Korea does is independent of us; that is a strength and an advantage if we compare the business structure of our competitors with ours.

 

In our interview with JETRO, we discovered that almost 80% of the Japanese companies are going overseas to grow their business. What is your international strategy and how important is the international market for GMB?

The expansion overseas is part of our midterm strategy objectives. We are present in a large number of countries so we strongly believe that the strategy is to enhance our presence in these countries rather than to seek new locations. Besides, we must observe the international scene and take into account the trends of the moment if we want to go to a new location.

 

When you go overseas does GMB go alone or do you search for partners regarding distribution?

Take the Korea example, we think of them as a partner company apart from being a group company from the operational view and also from the innovation view. If we could blend more firmly to adapt both strengths of the two countries, Japan and Korea, we will be able to accomplish even greater things.

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