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Hamasho Corporation: pioneering innovation and global collaboration

Interview - July 24, 2023

A captivating conversation with Takayuki Hamaguchi, president of Hamasho Corporation, unveiling Japan's manufacturing acumen and global expansion dreams

TAKAYUKI HAMAGUCHI, PRESIDENT OF HAMASHO CORPORATION
TAKAYUKI HAMAGUCHI | PRESIDENT OF HAMASHO CORPORATION

Over the past 25-30 years, Japan has seen the rise of regional manufacturing competitors who have replicated Japanese manufacturing processes and taken advantage of cheaper labor costs, pushing Japan out of mass industrial markets. Yet we still see many Japanese firms maintain their leadership in niche B2B fields. How have Japanese firms maintained this leadership despite the stiff regional competition?  

I believe this is because innovation is happening all the time, around the world, and in my opinion, EVs are one example of that, and batteries are another. Looking into data centers, if you look at the components used for hard disks and memory devices, you will see that many of them are made by Japanese company. Japan has led the world in industrial components, and we are now seeing countries around Asia and Southeast Asia trying to replicate the manufacturing of these components, and to be frank they have taken the lead in mass-producing them.

Japan is a pioneer in developing these innovative components, and then mass production is followed by countries like South Korea, China, and Taiwan. I believe that as long as innovation continues to happen in Japan, we will repeat this kind of cycle again and again. The same goes for consumer electronics and the automotive sector as well. We have experienced the same flow of events, and if Japan loses its innovative edge, then the country is going to find itself in a tough situation. Thanks to continuous innovation, however, Japan has always been able to lead the way as a pioneer in advancements in technology.

 

In the late 1980s, trading firms like Marubeni and Mitsubishi accounted for 50% of Japan’s total exports. Since then, in the 1990s Japan’s bubble economy burst and many trading firms were seen as superfluous, however, today more than 9000 trading companies operate in Japan. What is your assessment of the role played by Japanese trading companies today in the world economy and how do you see yourself standing out from your competitors?

We value first-stage information the most, and it is important to accurately grasp and understand the information we receive. Solutions with partners need to be optimal and that comes from our company’s wide range of knowledge and expertise. Manufacturers and traders have two distinctive roles; manufacturers are, of course, in charge of manufacturing things, but when they open a factory in overseas markets, they need to send equipment to that local market. Traders in this sense play a role in supporting the transportation of equipment to overseas markets. As there are two distinct roles, I believe it has enabled us to continue to receive orders.

If you look at industrial parks in Thailand or Vietnam, those are operated by traders, and they play a role in inviting companies like electrical manufacturers or auto manufacturers overseas. When the manufacturers want to open up a factory in local markets, traders coordinate with general construction and other companies that supply parts or components to build at the factory. Recently too, traders have concentrated on coordinating communications as well as communication facilities rather than just selling goods to overseas markets. In order to achieve that, we always visit the factories and operation sites to listen to customer needs so that we can make the optimal proposal to the customers. That is why we feel that first-stage information is the most important thing. Once that information is published on TV or in newspapers, it is too late, instead, we need to get the information directly from the production site. That gives us the ability to provide the best support for the clients. I think that is why our clients find us a necessity.

Recently we are seeing technological innovations such as AI and 5G, so in order to keep up with these innovations, factories need to upgrade their equipment for manufacturing. Factories need to be smarter than ever before which requires all new equipment, all new robots, and new ideas for labor-saving. I believe that there is a lot of room for growth in this field, so we are working hard in these fields.

 

We know your firm is currently engaged in the sale of industrial and conveyance equipment, however, you have since expanded into different fields such as pneumatic devices and factory automation (FA) products. Are there any other industries or fields that you would like to expand your presence in?

The reason we set up companies in China, Thailand, and Vietnam was not to just try to expand our revenue, but rather it was to try and gain more information and exchange that between Japan and the overseas market. By doing so, we are able to provide the most adequate advice to our clients that is tailored and aligned with the direction of different clients. In the past, typically Japanese companies tried to develop new products in Japan and then mass produce those overseas. Recently, however, we have seen new developments happening in China and Thailand, not just in Japan. We would like to obtain that information accurately so that we can exchange or provide that information to Japanese clients. We are trying to contribute to our clients using this type of business model.

The other field that we are attempting to leverage is SDGs, and worldwide there is a growing need for energy saving. We are trying to propose more equipment and devices that contribute to energy savings, and this is another way we are trying to contribute to our clients. Hamasho established a task force team that is engaged in collaboration with foreign companies and we call it “Global Synergy.”

 

Could you go into more detail about some of the collaborative opportunities that you have been partaking in with this task force that you have set up? Are you constantly looking for collaborative opportunities with foreign companies?

Global Synergy is an initiative that we have been putting a lot of effort into recently. We have five people on the team right now in Japan and several others on overseas bases. They share information on local markets so that they can create new businesses. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose a lot because of NDAs and confidentiality agreements, but in one case we designed new equipment and the required components for an engineering business in Japan but then manufactured those components in different locations that were most appropriate for the different components. Let’s take stage frames for transporting equipment, those are manufactured in China and then brought to Japan. The drives for the transport systems however are manufactured in Japan. As you can see, we select the best location for manufacturing so that we can reduce costs and meet delivery.

 

You have highlighted the importance of your international operations, however, the pandemic over the past few years has presented major challenges to global shipping and logistics. Recently this has been exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine. How did you overcome these difficulties? 

In the middle of the pandemic, we needed to export equipment to another country for the opening of a new plant. Without that equipment, the company could not open its new plant and there was a real need to start operating. There were strict restrictions in that local market, but we were able to dispatch the maximum number of supervisors under that restriction to provide support for the opening of that new plant. Luckily, we were successful in opening the plant.

In another case, we were simply not able to dispatch people to the location, so in that case, we remotely gave instructions to the local plant. We asked the local staff to set up cameras in the plant so that we could look at it and give directions to the people there. With the cooperation of the local staff, we were able to successfully achieve the opening of the new plant.

COVID-19 was a global pandemic and during that time there was a shortage of semiconductors and a shortage in shipping containers. Everybody understood how serious the situation was and to a certain extent, companies were just giving up. One example is a manufacturer of digital devise, which delayed the release of its new model by several months due to the pandemic. At the end of the day, everyone did their best with what they had in that bad situation, and the same experiences were felt by our clients. They did not have containers and did not have sufficient semiconductors, but everyone just tried to manage within the extreme limits that were imposed upon us.

 

You recently participated in Index Osaka. What is the next exhibition you plan on participating in, and are you also looking to participate in international exhibitions as well?

We are participating in a manufacturing expo in Thailand from June 21st to June 24th, 2023. We are also participating in the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo from November 29th to December 2nd, 2023. This will be the largest robot exhibition in Asia.

We are planning to showcase robots for automation and inspection equipment that uses cameras and simplified AI technology. We are also looking to showcase our Autonomous Mobile Robot as well.

 

Your firm has a presence in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Moving forward are there any other countries or regions that you have identified for further expansion into and what strategies will you employ to do so?

Recently the focus has been on Thailand, and the next focus has not been decided on but we are considering India. I am currently investigating the country.

 

Imagine that we come back in five years and have this interview all over again: what goals do you hope to achieve by the time we have this new interview? 

Hamasho has always been known as a specialized trader, especially with power transmission devices and bearings. Five years from now, I would like the company to be referred to as a general trader which deals with an even wider range of products and fields, then we would like to educate our sales reps so that they can gain more engineering knowledge as well to conduct engineering sales activities.

I am currently 58 years old, and before I reach 70, I would like to have trained and educated the next generation president of Hamasho. Ideally, I would personally like to live to 95 so that I can be alive to witness Hamasho’s 100th anniversary.


Interview conducted by Karune Walker & Ana Ruiz

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