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Suiden Specializes in Expertly-Crafted Industrial Fans

Interview - May 28, 2024

A specialist manufacturer of industrial fans, Suiden crafts innovative, premium-quality products that help companies to create the ideal working environment.

YUJI KAWAI, PRESIDENT OF SUIDEN CO., LTD.
YUJI KAWAI | PRESIDENT OF SUIDEN CO., LTD.

Now is a pivotal time for Japanese manufacturing companies when we see policies, like in the US, that encourage companies to diversify their supply chain for reliability reasons and to reduce country risk with countries such as China, for example. Japan is known for its reliability and very high-end technology, which coupled with the weakened yen at the moment makes “Made in Japan” very cost-effective and attractive on the international scene. Do you agree with this premise? And what are the key advantages of the Japanese suppliers within this macro environment?

We used to produce mainly in the Japanese market, but due to cost increases, we decided to open a factory in Taiwan about 30 years ago so that we could be more cost-competitive. At that time, we also wanted to open a factory in China, but since there were a lot of country risks, we were hesitant to do so. Finally, about 20 years ago, we opened our factory there and we also tried to locally procure materials and components, but in China, although the cost is cheaper.

 

The global ventilation system market is estimated at approximately USD 30 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $50 billion by 2030, with an annual growth rate of 7.8%. Trends like zero-energy buildings, which aim to reduce energy consumption while driving the best working conditions to enhance work efficiency, are said to drive this growth. How do you foresee the next 12 months for your business and what will be the main growth drivers?

We are specialized in the production of industrial fans and the main purpose of those fans is to enhance work efficiency. Our slogan is to give shape to comfortability and under this theme we are continuing the development and the production of industrial fans. There are a lot of large players in this market, but since we are a small company, we target specific needs or markets. Of course, going forward, the environment is going to be the keyword for the business, so we are making a lot of small improvements to our production. Although the total market size is very large, we are focused on what we can do, and what we can cater to. As I mentioned, this focus is quite niche, but our staff members are working very hard on the development of new products and one of those products is the Spot cooler.

 

It’s very interesting to have that diversity of business because, since your foundation, you evolved from being a company providing some parts for fans and making some industrial fans as well to now providing various ventilation products to your customers. You have products in various fields to provide effective working environments. For industrial environments, for example, with their factories and warehouses, but also offices or agricultural environments. Among the different industries that you are helping, which one represents the most growth potential for your business? And are there any new businesses or fields you would like to cater or products or services to?

Our main focus is on industrial fan products but the market itself is going to shrink domestically and the price competition is going to be fierce. However, the price of our products remains high compared to the average because we are focused more on quality, and we specialize in ventilation products. In fact, we have a lot of know-how about the blades and we inspect every blade we produce. By doing so, we maintain the quality. But  if you turn on our fan, then you will see the difference in the performance. Actually, one company told us that our products are expensive, and they can find similar products in China which are much cheaper. I said that they should try those products and then they failed. So, they could not see the difference just by looking at the product, but once they started using those products, they saw the difference in the quality and the materials. We are also providing after-sales service to our clients across Japan and this is another way for us to survive in this industry. So, this is the main focus of our business, but recently we have established a new business division so that we can make various challenges in different fields. I believe that these challenges will not be so easy and that we will have some failures, but without challenges, you will not have any failures or successes. I don’t mind our employees making some failures. We started expanding into applications for the office supplies market over the last few years and through its expansion we are gaining confidence from the customers so although we will continue aiming at solid performance for the core business, we would like to look at other applications as well and make challenges. And as the Japanese population is shrinking, we are also looking at the overseas market. This is going to be also a very hard challenge for us, but I hope that it’s going to bring about success in the future. So now is the time that we are looking at many different fields. 

 

We’ve seen other companies, such as those engaged in environmental solutions and fans and blowers for garbage incineration facilities, large ventilations, and general industries. What added value do your energy-saving models have against pioneers in the field?

It’s very hard to compare us against such a brand because the size of the company is really different, but we are accumulating small improvements so that we can be more advanced. And as in other companies, our company’s development team members are making a lot of trials and errors and doing a lot of tests for new developments. Our original concept aims to optimize efficiency and minimize noise, stemming from extensive experimentation conducted during our development process. So, it’s not easy at all, but we are trying to target what the other, larger companies may not be able to do because we are a small company.

We will focus on zero carbon or energy-saving types of solutions going forward. We will continue doing what we can do and we would like to make a transition to the new generation of the product just as the automakers are making their transition to EVs.



Coming back to your products, Suiden’s portable exhaust fan L-series is your new product, which belongs to the energy-saving models that we mentioned before. Your ability to reduce power consumption by up to 44.7% compared to the previous model is a very impressive achievement. Ensuring a robust and durable build while incorporating features like reduced noise level and advanced overheating prevention devices adds complexity to meet the diverse needs and application environments to which you are offering these products. Could you provide us some insights into the specific technological advancements or design modifications implemented into the portable exhaust fan L-series to achieve such a significant reduction without compromising its overall performance? 

For this product, our development team made a lot of trials and errors. They made a lot of fine-tuning to the blades; they made a lot of small adjustments to how they twist the blades and how they set up the angles or the distance or clearance or the location so that they can come up with the most appropriate noise level and efficiency. We also measured the volume of the airflow so that we could come up with the most appropriate blade size or shape. By doing so, they came up with the best design for the blades and then they also measured the distance of the airflow as well. So that’s how they developed this product. Now that the design is fixed, it looks like a simple product, but it incorporates a lot of complicated techniques.

Regarding its application, since it has achieved the reduction of noise and increase of airflow while maintaining performance, the main target was the factories. However, it is actually used in many different applications, such as gymnasiums in schools, because recently they have had the problem of students getting heat stroke in summer. An air conditioner doesn’t really work in such a large facility, so it is more efficient to exhaust the heat by a large volume of airflow, so that’s why they use the product. In fact, the other day when I was watching TV, I saw our product in a pub in the Kansai area. This product has extensive floor coverage and the volume of the airflow is much different from the older version. The noise is also reduced compared to the older version. For these reasons, users are using this product in applications that we never expected.

 

It makes sense because air conditioning is very expensive and not very environmentally friendly, so that’s the best compromise that you can make. So it’s very impressive and I look forward to seeing more from it. You mentioned that you’re interested in expanding overseas as well. Other companies that I have interviewed emphasize how important partnership and co-development are in order to reach overseas markets and to leverage the capacities of others to invest in the new markets that are being targeted. Can you explain to us what role partnership plays within your business model? And are you searching for new partnerships, especially with overseas companies?

Doing business in overseas markets has been my dream. Japan is such a small country, so we need to look at the larger market overseas going forward, but at this moment. For us to expand business opportunities, we would like to find local partners. The reason is that the local markets have their own local rules and different voltages for electronic products. There are also restrictions on international trade. So, every time we enter new markets, we encounter such problems and we struggle with them. For example, the other day in Thailand, a potential client asked us to make an adjustment to the voltage for our product so that they could use it in that market. So, we are working on such adjustments for local markets and I believe we have made a small step forward.

 

Your company is celebrating its 77th anniversary. Let’s say that we come back three years from now for your 80th anniversary and we have this interview again with you. What goals would you have accomplished over the next three years?

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of struggles to secure human resources. It’s been harder and harder to hire new people, so I’m turning my eyes toward existing employees and trying to focus on education and updating the skills of existing employees. Human resources are the assets of this company so we’d like to advance together with the employees and we are trying to strengthen internal communication. At this moment we have JPY six billion in sales but by the time of the 80th anniversary, we would like to grow it to JPY ten billion. That’s my dream. To achieve this goal, we are working hard on development and we are also dedicated to diligent monozukuri (manufacturing), and we will continue to produce high-quality products going forward. My personal philosophy is to have self-awareness and appreciation. For self-awareness, it is very important to reflect on myself on each occasion. I also think that it’s very important to thank everyone around me, so as a business owner, I would like to thank everyone inside and outside of the company who is relevant to us. As such I’d like to speak about what we have achieved by then. I also like to be positive and I speak about this to my employees. I don’t like to be negative. I always tell them, it’s very important for us to support each other. I also tell my employees to go outside of the company, to look at other industries or other companies. So I think our company is quite open and we would like to increase the opportunities for our people too.



 

 

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