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Molding a better future

Interview - September 28, 2023

One of Japan’s most reputed mold and die-cast manufacturers, TADASEIKI helps to ensure the high quality of its clients' manufacturing thanks to its high-precision, defect-free solutions, which are used in industries such as automotives and industrial machinery.

NORIO TADA PRESIDENT OF TADASEIKI CO., LTD.
NORIO TADA | PRESIDENT OF TADASEIKI CO., LTD.

Japanese manufacturing is at an exciting time. The past three years have seen severe supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 as well as the US-China decoupling situation. As a result, corporate groups are looking to diversify their suppliers for reliability reasons. Known for their reliability as well as advanced technology and high-quality products, Japanese firms are in a very interesting position due to a weakened JPY. Many observers are arguing that this is a unique opportunity for Japanese manufacturers to reclaim their spot and make major inroads into overseas markets. Do you agree with this sentiment? What are the advantages of Japanese firms in this current environment?

I believe that Japanese manufacturers have evolved over the years, and I have my own opinions on why Japanese manufacturing has declined over time and what those manufacturers need to do to overcome global competition. Of course, I agree with your view that this is a very good opportunity for Japanese manufacturers to present themselves globally. Take the iPhone as an example; many Japanese firms are adding value to the manufacturing sector, and the iPhone itself costs over JPY 100,000. If 20% of the components inside are Japanese, then the contribution of Japanese firms should equal around JPY 20,000 worth of value. However, I don’t think this fully represents the true value of Japan’s contributions. Japanese manufacturers produce high-quality components and possess the technology to process them. The problem lies in Japanese firms lacking the ability to effectively present these strengths to the global market. This might be attributed to the fact that Japan is an island nation with a relatively closed history in the manufacturing sector. On the other hand, European countries have competed with each other on a larger continent, which may explain the historical differences between Japan and the West.

Steve Jobs is a person who resonated with me, and I see a lot of similarities between how he conducted business and my approach. He was driven by his craft and the desire to create solutions to everyday problems rather than solely focusing on earning money for his business. The invention of the iPod, for example, aimed at bringing music outside on a user-friendly platform. In terms of Japanese companies, we always strive to pursue our sense of hospitality. Although these senses or feelings may differ, they encourage similar behavior. As a mold and die-cast maker, our mission is to provide products that bring happiness to our clients.

 

It appears it is less of an issue of innovation than it is an issue of communication. As a person who is well-traveled in the United States, Europe, and Asia, how are you overcoming this communication obstacle in terms of your overseas development plan and international business?

Speaking of the weaknesses of Japan, I believe that, in addition to the issues with communication, greed can also be considered a weakness of Japanese manufacturers. In the past, Japanese manufacturers attempted to enter the Indonesian market as laundry machine manufacturers but were unable to succeed. In Indonesia, traditional processes for washing clothes involve two phases. Japanese laundry makers failed to cater to this traditional phase, while LG was able to meet the needs of the local market. The reason Japanese makers were unsuccessful in winning the market was their failure to understand and address the specific needs of the local consumers. Instead, they were driven by greed and a sense of pride, believing that their laundry machines were superior to others without considering the specific requirements of the market. Similar examples can be found around the world.

 

In terms of your international development strategy up until this point, is it only focused on export? Or do you have any plans to establish local manufacturing to provide your die casts directly to overseas clients?

I have personally invested in Chinese and Indian trading companies, and through these partnerships, we are working on exporting our die-casts to these local markets. One example of a die-cast we have produced for the Chinese market demonstrates our expertise in primary processing and transparent molding. The two coatings are applied using our in-house production process.

Chinese people are generally very practical, and if it is more cost-effective for them to produce something themselves, they will do so. However, production difficulty varies across different levels. While they can handle the lower-level tasks on their own, when it comes to more challenging aspects, there is a clear border where they prefer to outsource production to other companies. Outsourcing the production of highly precise die-casts to Japanese manufacturers proves to be the most cost-effective solution. Expanding in these areas, particularly in the Indian, Chinese, and US markets, is a key focus for us.

 

You mentioned two trading companies in India and China, and you also mentioned your intention to establish a similar system in the United States. How did you find these trading companies, and how are you going about finding these partners in the US and other Western markets?

Many Japanese car makers have established their bases in China and India. When comparing cars made in Japan with those made in India, it is often found that Japanese cars exhibit higher quality. However, this does not mean that Indian-made cars should neglect the pursuit of quality. Certain components require high quality for safety reasons. Japanese car makers in the Indian market rely on us for this reason, and I believe the same applies to Indian car makers as well. This process of collaboration is how we have found partners in China and India, and we plan to adopt a similar approach in the US. However, it may be challenging in the US as numerous assembly factories are not inclined to procure components locally. This is why we have had limited opportunities in that market so far, and we have yet to establish strong connections in the region. Our goal is to find a suitable partner in the US to assist us in expanding our presence in that market.

 

In molding and die casting, burrs are unwanted little protrusions that occur when it comes to high-quality, resin-based products. We understand that it is very hard to prevent these burrs. Could you tell us a little bit more about your processes to ensure that you achieve burr-free molds when manufacturing your products?

Burrs in die-casts are primarily caused by gaps, and in the past, the precision of machine tools was not as high. When using these tools or blades to mold die-casts, the final product would not be as accurate as the drawing, requiring additional manual processing for improved precision.

Over time, machine tools and blades have become more precise, resulting in improved overall precision. We believe that we have now reached the level of producing burr-free die-casts. However, in emerging countries, they are still employing outdated methods and cannot even fathom achieving the level of Japanese burr-free die-cast manufacturing.

The occurrence of burrs is typically due to dimensional errors. For some of our products, primary processing is done in the block, while secondary processing for the blue coating is done through extrusion. To prevent paint from entering the gaps between parting lines, we meticulously remove these gaps. This is an achievement of Tadaseiki in creating burr-free die-cast molding, showcasing a truly unique technology that only a select few companies could envision achieving.



When producing a seamless line like this, it is important to recognize the challenges faced in achieving such a level of precision. Throughout the manufacturing process, we have gained valuable knowledge and experience. We are capable of creating seamless surfaces through techniques such as grinding and milling.

In the past, a famous Japanese TV show featured unique Japanese technologies. One episode showcased wire-cutting technology, where the line between two components was virtually invisible. Even King Charles III visited Japan to witness this technology. This is just one example of the many unique technologies and solutions within our industry. This particular technology is relatively straightforward.

Regarding more challenging technologies, such as milling, we have the expertise to meet any request, no matter how complex or difficult. Our ability to adapt to customer specifications is highly valued by our clients. Additionally, we provide measurement services for die-casts to prevent deformation and residue. Ultimately, the success of achieving precision lies in the design and meticulous execution during the manufacturing process.

While it is true that higher levels of precision can be achieved with a larger investment, our company prides itself on delivering cost-effective precision.

 

From our research, we found that the automotive sector is of importance for your firm in addition to industrial machinery components for industrial machinery as well as other applications. Both in the short term and the long term, are there any new applications that you find most exciting or that you’re putting the most energy into for this technology?

One area that I find particularly exciting for future development is decorative die-casting. This technique finds application in various industries, including automotive. As the automotive industry shifts towards electrification and autonomous driving, the comfort of the interior space becomes paramount. This requirement remains consistent, whether for traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles or their newer counterparts. The die-casts and components currently used for interior parts can still serve their purpose. In fact, these components undergo extrusion rather than a painting process, making the manufacturing process simpler. We aim to expand and enhance this approach in the future.

It is worth noting that decorative die-casts go beyond mere aesthetics. Our company can incorporate functionality into these components. I strongly believe that this field, which utilizes resins, will experience significant growth in the coming years.

 

There definitely is a consensus that as we go into autonomous driving and EVs, even the aesthetic of the cabin is becoming really important. You mentioned just now that not just the appearance is something you see an opportunity in, with the function being another area. Could you elaborate on how you’re adding functionality to these kinds of products?  

Through extrusion molding, we can control millimeter magnetic waves, allowing precise manipulation of their effect on objects. By incorporating an extrusion-molded filter, only the desired heat can be selectively transmitted or reflected. Essentially, the extrusion molding filter provides control over magnetic waves. This capability is particularly valuable in addressing electromagnetic interference and managing heat generation in electric vehicles (EVs), where numerous electronic devices within the cabin present challenges. We are privileged to be selected as a partner by Toyota for resolving such EV-related issues.

Moreover, this technology finds relevance in liquid silicone molding applications. Typically, mass production of liquid silicone molds is hindered by the occurrence of burrs. However, our technology enables efficient mass production. Rather than pursuing entirely new concepts, we focus on perfecting our foundational technology.

Many customers emphasize the importance of precise die-casts in their research and development endeavors. When faced with issues stemming from inaccurate die-casts, they struggle to identify the root cause. Consequently, they seek flawless die-casts, which is why they rely on our expertise. Numerous customers attest to the impeccable accuracy of samples produced from our die-casts.

 

Your business was established in 1964, and next year you are going to be celebrating your 60th anniversary. Imagine that we fast forward to your 65th anniversary and we come back to conduct this interview all over again. What goals or dreams do you hope to achieve when we return for that new interview?

While I am confident that Tadaseiki can sustain its operations beyond our 65th anniversary in 2029 at our current scale, mere survival is insufficient to thrive in Gifu or Japan as a whole. We need to contribute to our local community and enhance our company's communication and marketing capabilities. We are actively pursuing collaborations with the local community, recognizing that our ability to contribute to Gifu hinges on increasing revenue and expanding our workforce. Over the next 5-6 years, our sales target is JPY 6 billion, and over the next 12 years, we aim to achieve JPY 12 billion. While meeting these goals may not be a requirement, setting clear targets is a fundamental aspect of any business. Ambition serves as the driving force and catalyst for numerous aspects of business worldwide.

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