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High quality purified

Interview - August 21, 2018

The Worldfolio sat down to interview Shin Ito, president of the ROKI TECHNO, a company which manufactures filter cartridges, filter systems, ozone generators, ozone system, and water purification systems. Mr. Ito discusses Japanese attention to high-quality manufacturing, applications of ROKI TECHNO’s products, and the company’s internationalization strategy.



What are the main competitive advantages of Japanese manufacturing compared to its competitors (China, Korea)? Could you explain to us what the essence of Monozukuri means to you?

The essence of Monozukuri is related to the concept of quality. Japanese manufacturers have set  high-quality standards, we focus on providing reliable products to respond to our customers’ needs. If Japanese customers would have to choose between Made in Korea or China and Made in Japan they would choose our products. For years we have been providing long-lasting products through quality.  Other competitors provide lower price products but they are not retaining the same quality level over time, so in the long term -Japanese products tend to be more cost-effective.

Japanese Monozukuri also focuses on the customer and its expectations. We anticipate what they need and what they expect as a means to provide those standards and respond to their requirements.


Companies like yours have been working for years to provide products for big companies recognized all over the world, they would not be able to provide such advanced products without the know-how of so-called ‘Hidden Champions’ – medium-sized companies like yours that are essential to big brands. What is the role of these Hidden Champions in the Japanese manufacturing chain? And how can ROKI TECHNO be considered a Hidden Champion?

In fact, companies like ROKI TECHNO are essential to provide solutions to big brands and contribute to create sophisticated final products. In Japan, many of those companies are often considered ChukenKigyos. From my point of view, that concept can lead to misperceptions as it unites both small and medium size companies under one single group regardless of their specificities. ­­­­

For instance, many of those Hidden Champions that are behind big brands are leaders in terms of innovation, they provide shining technology solutions. Because of that, even if those companies are not that big in terms of size they are essential to providing solutions in the market.  As a consequence it does not seem accurate to unite them under one unique category. While largely invisible to the general public, these corporations are the strength of Japanese industry, and they are often found to be market leaders in niche fields or behind some of the world’s best-known brands.

In Japan we use this other term, Kuroko, “ stage assistant”, a term used in the drama stage. They are invisible to the public but they assist the main actors as a means to ensure the success of the play. I find that term to be much more appropriate to define ROKI TECHNO. While invisible to final consumers and difficult to understand for the final consumers, as we focus on niche fields, we provide essential components for big brands.

As an example, I would refer to water purifiers, a worldwide popular product that we can find in most homes. Consumers in every country acquire those products and ROKI TECHNO produces the filters for most of them. As you can see, even if we remain invisible for final consumers we are in everybody’s homes.

In the food industry also, we provide our technology to worldwide recognized brands, they use our filters for their final products so again we remain hidden to the final consumers but those products sold in every country use ROKI TECHNO’s solutions.


ROKI TECHNO celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018, could you please highlight the key milestones of the company since inception?

As you pointed out, ROKI TECHNO has been providing solutions in the market for many years. In that sense, I would like to highlight 2 turning points for the company.

The first one is related to ROKI TECHNO’s contribution in the field of videotapes and audiotapes. When those products became very popular in the world wide, we were able to contribute by providing solutions in this very specific field. Nonetheless, through these years we have been diversifying our products and nowadays we benefit from another essential trend on the market.

In that sense, another key milestone for us took place when we started providing solutions for the beer market. It is an overseas market representing significant growth opportunities for our company. Some years ago lager beer represented the trend in the market but draft beer has gradually replaced it, it has become the standard nowadays.

The main difference is that lager beer was based on the process of pasteurization. Beer was treated with mild heat to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf-life. When switching to draft beer, companies had to adapt the process and now they need filters to clean the liquid as part of their process to treat draft beer. ROKI TECHNO provides a large variety of solutions in the filtering field so of course it represents a good opportunity for us.


ROKI TECHNO operates in 2 main businesses, the filter related products and ozone generator solutions. How do you benefit from the synergies between both core businesses of ROKI TECHNO?

ROKI TECHNO operates in 2 main businesses, the filter-related products and the ozone solutions. However our sales come mainly from filter-related products representing 90% of our sales.

In that sense, the Ozone business needs to develop to increase the operations in that area. Rather than focusing just on developing the ozone business to increase profit in this field, we are thinking about penetrating our filtering technology to new areas. Through this strategy we intend to evolve from a totally hidden solutions supplier to a b2c products company, for instance we are providing humidifiers in the field of consumer products. Based on our purifying technology, we have launched humidifiers products allowing effortless humidification by simply adding water. We have developed sophisticated products for customers to place them in a dry location to relieve dryness with just the right amount of humidity.They do not require electric power and are eco-friendly and soundless. Also, we have put an extra focus on design to add value for our clients. You can find humidifiers in a large variety of silhouettes, from Tokyo cityscapes to the beautiful natural landscapes of Kyoto.

In terms of supply chain, we keep working with b2b solutions for both, developing our b2b components and our b2c products so at the moment we are looking for other b2c suppliers to keep working on this new project. In May, we started working with an M&A German company. They have offices here in Japan and we are in talks with them to consider new opportunities and expand our b2c products.


So as a Japanese manufacturer that has plants abroad, how do you ensure that your quality remains top-notch when producing outside Japan?

ROKI TECHNO is very committed with this idea of Made by Japan. We value Made by Japan as a means to provide higher quality products to keep the essence of Japanese Monozukuri. Our products have been 100% Made in Japan for many years and we have now a plant in Malaysia where we manufacture some components as well.

Our long experience has allowed us to acquire an expertise to provide the best quality solutions in the field. Through this experience we have been able to transfer the know-how when manufacturing abroad. We maintain the same quality level regardless the location where we manufacture the product, this is a key point for ROKI TECHNO strategy. Quality policy is the same both in Japan and in Malaysia.


ROKI TECHNO is nowadays present in Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and the U.S.A.
Can you tell us more about your international strategy? Which markets show the greatest growth potential for the company?

Regarding sales operations, we have already sales representatives in Asia (Malaysia, Singapore and Korea) and America (Los Angeles).  Also, we are always considering potential opportunities abroad. Europe represents an interesting market for us at the moment and we are currently analyzing opportunities there.

On the other hand, for us it is important to anticipate our customers needs to be able to respond to future requests. In that sense, we are experiencing a big demand coming from the American market. In order to respond to these trends we are considering establishing a new plant in Latin America. It represents a challenge, especially considering the scenario since Trump’s election but we are working on that project.


ROKI TECHNO provides solutions for a wide variety of fields, from electronics to food and chemicals. Which industries show the greatest growth potential for the company?

The electronics field represents a great growth potential for us. For instance, whenever new mobile phones are launched, we consequently experienced sales growth. The electrical vehicles are also high demand. In the electronics field, products normally have an average four- year life cycle so we can expect a constant demand and a stable trend. Nonetheless, we do not focus just on one field and we try to diversify to guarantee the stability of the business. We are exploring further opportunities in the food and chemicals industries to keep growing in those fields as well.


As the president of a successful company that has been in the market for 40 years already, what objectives would you like to achieve in the upcoming years?

The main goal for us is to achieve a reputation for our people, our employees. We want our employees to be happy and feel proud about working at ROKI TECHNO. Our human resources are valuable to achieve our objectives and in that sense employee’s satisfaction is fundamental for us. We aim to become a "100-Year Company" under our management philosophy and motto, we believe that our company can provide employees a platform to develop their abilities and give them an opportunity to realize their full potential. We strive to fulfill our dreams and contribute to industry, the environment, and society.