Neis Corporation’s specialized welding materials and technology are results from decades of research and analysis to provide the best solutions as engineering services to the society of the 21st century. Mr. Yoshio Sato shares with us more details about their welding materials such as the FCW, for the automatic brazing machines, and vacuum solutions, and their digital technology such as the Neis Flow Rate Meter.
Traditionally the Japanese craftsmanship involves relentless pursuit for perfection, and this was defined as monozukuri, but nowadays the modern version of monozukuri is responding to customers’ requests and satisfying their ever-evolving demands. How do you define monozukuri and what is the essence behind it?
I believe the essence of monozukuri is to provide goods and services that fit into the customers’ needs which may include the quality of the products, the cost, and the delivery process. Sometimes we slightly modify customers’ ideas and make it possible to manufacture on commercial basis. Therefore, it is very important to put ourselves in customers’ shoes. In this sense, I believe, we are still in pursuit for perfection - the essence of our monozukuri.
We know that in Japan the industrial boom occurred more than fifty years ago around the time of the 1964 Olympics. For that reason, many industrial projects nowadays are aging, there is a need for maintenance and repair, furthermore, we have an aging population in Japan at the same time. We know that your company develops products such as the Neis FCW, the cord wire which allows industrial engineers to help chemical machinery last longer and produce better quality results. Can you tell us more about how you are contributing to the maintenance and upkeep of industrial machinery here in Japan?
It is true that Japanese manufacturers are still operating the machines that were made fifty years ago. Those machines do not work like they used to.
Sometimes the pipes get broken and cause a leakage. We send our engineers to the actual sites to investigate what solutions can be offered. We either completely replace the machines or simply repair the broken parts. As you have mentioned, we apply our Neis FCW or UP hard-faced steel plates made by our Taiwanese partner to the maintenance work as customers’ choice.
Most Japanese do not like to replace those old machines with new ones, because that might be a waste.
The population in Japan has been declining since 2008 and by 2050 it is expected that up to one-third of the population will be over 65, for this reason many Japanese companies are adopting digital technologies and automated solutions with Big Data, IoT, and AI. Your company has already started adopting digital technology such as the Neis Flow Rate Meter which monitors the amount of fuel such as LPG, oxygen, etc. The meter allows an automated brazing equipment to supply an optimal amount of fuel. Can you tell us more about your digital technology on automations that you adopted? How is this helping to combat the aging population problems in Japan?
We launched this kind of machine more than twenty years ago, and to date, we are still distributing this to the market. Recently, we often engineer a robotic welding machine which fits to our customers’ plant. On the other hand, we do not use such a robot, because most of our maintenance works are based on a custom-made, one-time solution. Of course, we recognize to be facing a kind of paradigm shift, and we must change ourselves. AI may be one of the options. However, we still need to see what the future would be like such as when cars are already fully automated and humans are no longer required to drive, or when the engines are already replaced with electronic motors. We supply the automotive industry with our brazing materials which may no longer be needed when the cars are fully electronic. We must think about what needs to be done soon.
You have your welding material such as the FCW, brazing solutions such as the automatic brazing machines, and vacuum solutions. Which is your main focus among these three divisions? What synergies have you been able to create between these three distinct, yet similar divisions of your company?
These three cannot be decoupled. Welding materials look like the most important due to representing our “neis” brand. However, “neis” materials could not survive without our brazing solutions and vacuum solutions. We are happy if customers do not shop around. They just come to us, we supply not only solutions, but also materials.
You have some prestigious customers. How do you satisfy these demands from your customers? What makes you the go-to partner when it comes to welding and brazing solutions?
We believe our expertise in welding may have good values for our customers. When our customers require solutions to their problems, we invite them to our plant, and we do the testing together and develop something that meets their needs. For example, several customers would like to replace coppers with aluminums because the coppers are getting more expensive recently, and this is very noticeable for air conditioner manufacturers. Replacing the materials with aluminums will reduce CO2 emissions, it is expected that this will be a major trend going forward. As a contributor to the aluminum industry, I believe that the pipes which will be installed in the buildings will be replaced with aluminums in the near future. We are seeing a lot of changes in the materials used in different industries, with these changes that have been made come the need for welding.
Please tell us more about your R&D capabilities and the products that you are currently working on.
We put a strong emphasis on R&D, in fact we are spending more than ¥ 100 million every year. Approximately one-eighth of comprehensive workers are in the research laboratory. We are mainly doing research and analysis on the brazing of new materials in which we work together with our customers in many cases after we conclude the non-disclosure agreement with our customers. We are in collaboration with Tohoku University in which we are working on a new brazing material through a subsidy from Hyogo Prefecture.
You might think Japanese partnerships that you created had come to a saturation point because the market here in Japan is fully saturated. Are you looking for international co-creation partners?
We would like to seek new partner in the Southern region of Asia upon the end of Covid-19 global pandemic.