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Nitoms is leaving no crumbs behind in consumer markets

Interview - June 6, 2023

In addition to the great success of the COLOCOLO™, Nitoms, a Nitto Group company, has developed convenient products with adhesive technologies that respond to customers’ needs.

TERUAKI NAKAMURA, PRESIDENT OF NITOMS, INC.
TERUAKI NAKAMURA | PRESIDENT OF NITOMS, INC.

Please give us an introduction to your background and how you’ve served as a bridge between the overseas market and Japan?

First of all, I have worked at Nitto Denko, the parent company of Nitoms, for 35 years, and I can say that about one-third of my time had been spent overseas. The first thing we stress is the importance of teaching the Nitto culture to the local staff. What I did is send a lot of trainees from overseas sites to the Japanese headquarters and plants here. It isn’t only about teaching the Nitto culture to the local staff however, Nitto Denko have a training system where our personnel are sent from Japan to overseas group companies.  It is a much more bilateral system of communication and idea sharing.

Nitto Group’s original business models, The Global Niche Top™ Strategy and the Area Niche Top Strategy, are very important also and without the mixing of local staff and Japanese national staff, these cannot be realized. We have tried to globalize with these strategies in mind.

 

I think that the COLOCOLO, your lint roller brand, is a great example of this Global Niche Top Strategy in action, given its success in overseas markets. Can you tell us more about the development history of the COLOCOLO brand and how have you managed to translate the success of COLOCOLO from Japan to Korea?

In Japanese culture we really like cleanliness, so we started off by investigating where in the world other such cultures exist. The next step after that was to look into resources and manufacturing because we want to do local production if possible. When we focused on South Korea, we didn’t have a plant or the resources there at that time. On the other hand, in South Korea, there was a production site belonging to Nitto Denko. Finally, we reached an agreement to produce in South Korea at the Nitto Denko plant, and we established Nitto Denko Nitoms Korea, the selling company. We transfer the technology to the Nitto Denko plant in South Korea and they will do the manufacturing there and then Nitto Denko Nitoms Korea will do the marketing for the product.



In South Korea, there was already a culture of using a lint roller on your clothes, but the culture of using them on floors was not widespread. We came to know through our marketing activities that our COLOCOLO product have a possibility of being used for the Korean Ondol which is an underfloor heating system that has kept traditional houses in Korea warm for thousands of years. Once we understood this, we chose to deploy our products in that area.

This was a trial and error process and it didn’t go great to start, however, in the final phase we were able to get a very good product out of this process. I think this explains why we are able to hold a large market share in South Korea. We did have quite a hard time during the marketing process too, but we did have a fair amount of cooperation from the Nitto Denko plant in South Korea and that seemed to have been the key to our success.

 

Can you tell us more about some of the advantages of being part of a group structure like Nitto Denko’s?

They can teach us various technologies and we are able to leverage the network of nearly 100 group companies in 28 countries. In terms of corporate culture, the Nitto Group companies share the corporate philosophy, which is the cornerstone of our spirit, and the Nitto Way, which is a set of values that indicate what every Nitto employee should practice. In addition to the aforementioned Global Niche Top Strategy and the Area Niche Top™ Strategy, we also share a business model such as the Sanshin Activities (three “new” activities), which is a very unique marketing strategy. We Nitoms are also carrying out this Sanshin Activity which stimulate new demand through the development of new applications and new products.



Can you tell us a little bit more about the Nitto Way and your approach to manufacturing? What are the strengths of your company that allow you to create such fantastic products?

First of all for the manufacturing, the mission of our corporate philosophy, “contribute to customers’ value creation with innovative ideas” is our base and all of our philosophies stem from here. Our goal is to contribute to the creation of value for our customers by providing thing that are absolutely irreplaceable for them.

The Nitto way is values to be shared among and practiced by goals employees all over the world. When we are doing business there is a lot of pressure coming in, and there are times when something that seems simple and normal to do, cannot be done. It is during times like these that we come back to the Nitto way, so we can get back on track.

Earlier we talked about the COLOCOLO brand in South Korea, which is manufactured in a plant of other company in Nitto Group. The reason why we can do that is in the Nitto Way it is outlined that we should act according to an “open, fair, and best” approach, and we don’t really have walls between organizations. When we think about the optimization of the company overall, we came to the decision that we should use our existing plants, because if we do that we can produce faster and we can suppress costs. When such big decisions need to be made we always come back to the Nitto Way. It is just a few words in it, however, the Nitto Way really gets rid of the sectionalism of the organization. When in trouble you can always use the Nitto way to guide you back to the light.

 

Back in 2016, Nitto Medical and Nitto Lifetech were integrated into Nitoms, and you expanded. How the past 7 years have compared to your expectations?

The industries of the companies were different as well as the business models they employed. As a result of the integrated merger, we had diverse personnel who had experiences and different things to contribute. For example, for former Nitoms we had COLOCOLO, and they had the business route for the DIY sector. Around the time, in Japan drugstores had been expanding and in that situation, former Nitoms didn’t have many products to sell. Former Nitto Medical delivered surgical tapes to hospitals through distributors, but with these sorts of products we have received inquiries from a lot of drugstores. That is why Nitoms today using our packaging and design techniques to deliver more product lineups than before to drugstores as well. This is just one example of a synergistic effect, but we do have examples coming up right now. This sort of synergy is gradually developing.



One unique product you have in your lineup is the PE porous film Breathron, which we understand is not just used as industrial materials, but for many other consumer applications. Could you give us an overview of this technology and its development history? What other new applications are you exploring?

This sort of film technology utilizes Nitto Denko tech, and for this Breathron film, we took over the manufacturing facilities of Nitto Denko. They have been developing water-prevention high-grade films for smartphones, whereas we Nitoms on the other hand create films that used for daily necessaries. To create this film we start with polyethylene resin and then we add additives there to create a film. We then pull that in order to create porosity. That is how we create pores that will block water but not air.



With this technology, the Breathron film is used for pasting hand warmers as a material. With this film, we also have created a dehumidifying agent, which has a long and wide moisture-absorbent surface that sucks the water right out of the air. The dehumidifying agent is surrounded by our Breathron film so that water that has accumulated during dehumidification doesn’t leak out. Right now, we are trying to come up with more applications and it is actually a joint development. For now, the average temperature of a pasting hand warmer is about 50 degrees Celsius and we are looking into increasing the heat temperature to around 80 degrees so that we will be able to apply this technology for keeping food warm for food delivery.



With this film, we are also looking at going into the medical field, and are pursuing its potential to reduce hypothermia during disaster periods. Since the risk of death from hypothermia in a large number of people due to a major winter earthquake in Japan has been publicized, there is a need for treatments that lead to rewarming urgently and effectively. If we can develop this kind of application, we can then leverage our existing hospital routes afforded to us by the synergies within the Nitto Group.

 

You mentioned this technology is a joint venture. Could you tell us more about the role that collaboration or co-creation plays in the group? Do you always conduct joint ventures within the Nitto structure or do you also work with outside firms?

Various patterns are there so both scenarios occur. As for the Breathron film I mentioned earlier, the improvement of specifications for high-temperature applications is Nitoms' technology, but the improvement of heat generation performance requires collaboration with companies outside the group.

 

Do you have any experience doing this kind of co-creation or collaboration with overseas firms?

With Nitto Denko, we do have R&D centers in the US and also Singapore, and China. Each of these R&D centers is going through collaborations with private sectors, public companies, and universities. In Nitoms case, what we do will be technology focused, with partners doing marketing and sales activities.

 

What is your international development strategy?

Depending on the product, the location we want to go to can differ, for example, we are looking to send the COLOCOLO to the US. With COLOCOLO in the US we are currently targeting affluent pet owners, so in this respect we think we need to globalize by having a segmentation of the market. With COLOCOLO our next market after the US will be China, and in fact we have already started local production and sales activities there. Additionally we started to export Japanese products to Southeast Asia for sale. Countries that share the same culture for cleanliness will be targets for potential sales activities.

Moreover, Nitoms is the active user of “hot melt technology” in the Nitto Group. Hot melt technology is an adhesive technology that does not use any organic solvents and is environmentally friendly. Regardless of which country we focus on, our mission is to deploy this technology globally.

 

Imagine that we come back on your very last day of your presidency and have this interview all over again. What would you like to say in that interview and what are your dreams for Nitoms that you would like to achieve by then?

In 2 years time Nitoms will celebrate its 50th anniversary, which should be in  April 2025. It is said that a lifetime of a company is 30 years, so for us to celebrate 50 years is a very happy and momentous point for us. Right now, for our new employees coming in, half of them are female, so I think that from now on the young employees will continue growing and diversifying based on the cultivation of the company. I believe that on the last day of my presidency, Nitoms will be a place where young diverse personnel will be excited to do their job.

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