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TMT: The leader in synthetic fiber

Interview - March 26, 2023

Aiming to be the industry leader, TMT Machinery continues to provide the world’s highest quality products and services in synthetic fiber.  

RYUJI TAKAMOTO, PRESIDENT OF TMT MACHINERY, INC.
RYUJI TAKAMOTO | PRESIDENT OF TMT MACHINERY, INC.

Can you give us a brief introduction to TMT Machinery?

TMT Machinery, a leading company in synthetic fiber machinery, never stops innovating by developing new values that answer the needs of the times. We deliver the highest possible quality in terms of both products and services, earning us a solid reputation and the trust of customers worldwide. We represent comfort and fashion in general apparel and home textile, outdoor seams requiring functionality and durability and industrial materials requiring particular functions and strength. Yarn produced from TMT synthetic fiber machinery changes the appearance of various products, from general apparel to industrial applications, supporting a better livelihood. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon and spandex are used in all ways of our daily life, such as general apparel, umbrellas and furniture. The total technology of TMT Machinery supports the production of such synthetic fibers.

Our spinning system minimizes space and saves energy. TMT Machinery combines its technologies, like its high-speed take-up winders, to achieve high productivity and meet every customer's needs with integrated systems from spinning to take-up. DTY-textured yarn provides functions such as moisture absorption, quick drying and antibacterial by keeping the natural texture of cotton. Yarn is the key to achieving originality and adding value to customers' products. That is what TMT Machinery's DTY machine creates.

DTY machine running specialty yarn, such as monofilament and combined textured yarn, at high speed continuously achieves customers' developing ideas. One of TMT Machinery's advantages is the ability to produce synthetic fibers with high tenacity and low shrinkage. The spinning system of TMT Machinery responds to the diverse range of customer needs with advanced technology and machine performance that achieves strict quality standards, including fiber strength and uniformity.

TMT Machinery contributes to development in various industrial fields through its superior synthetic fiber manufacturing technologies. Taking advantage of the technology and experience it has accumulated over the years in the synthetic fiber industry, TMT Machinery is moving forward to the automation of yarn production factories. In the near future, we will be supporting customers' efficient operations by saving and providing all production and process information.

To become a better business partner, TMT Machinery has its head office in Osaka, with four other facilities domestically and overseas. The Kyoto Technical Center works toward product development that creates the one and only technology coming from flexible ideas and unconventional thinking. TMT Machinery quickly responds to customer needs and provides the most suitable design and solution. Two of our factories in Japan play a role in production; one is located by Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, and our Ishiyama factory is in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture. All employees in the factory work together to support the TMT brand, and improvement activities are constantly addressed by experienced employees under strict quality control standards.

The Matsuyama factory in Ehime prefecture is consistently proactive in using leading-edge technology in an effort to promote higher levels of automation and efficiency, focusing to improve workers' technical skills to build up a flexible and highly functional production line, bringing in the latest automation and high-efficiency technology. Every employee works together to achieve the highest quality at the production site.

TMT Machinery established its overseas subsidiary company, Shanghai TMT Incorporated, in Shanghai, China as a closer business partner through local proactive services and activities. Continuing to develop our business globally, TMT Machinery is expanding its worldwide service network; we provide high-quality service to all customers around the world. TMT Solutions utilizes this network to provide the best solution at the world's highest level, taking over all customers' support and providing quick and accurate solutions to customers' requests.

We also focus on carbon fiber-related business, which expects big growth in aircraft, automobiles and even in the sports industries. TMT's affiliated companies, TMT Kamitsu and CFC Design, are expanding such businesses. Achievement and trust, having the largest market share in the industry and being the world's top-class synthetic fiber machinery maker from materials that are close to our lives to cutting-edge technologies contributing to comfortable and active lifestyles through its synthetic fiber manufacturing technologies, the One & Only Technology, TMT Machinery.

 

In the last 25-30 years, we have seen the rise of regional manufacturing competitors who have replicated Japanese monozukuri processes by taking advantage of cheaper labor costs, pushing Japan out of mass industrial markets. However, we still see many Japanese firms remain leaders in niche B2B fields. How have Japanese firms been able to maintain their leadership despite the stiff price competition? 

The first reason we have stayed in business is our corporate action guideline, which is to be a customer-derived company by exceeding expectations, listening to our customer's voice and responding to their needs. In order to be competitive, we constantly focus on differentiating our technology, like the One & Only Technology, as well as having better Quality Constant Delivery (QCD). TMT has contributed to finding solutions regarding the challenge of increasing productivity and achieving good quality yarn in synthetic fiber machinery, which has always been our goal.  For example, the length of the bobbin holder has tripled in the past 20 to 30 years, from 600 millimeters to a 1.8-meter bobbin length. The number of thread lines and yarn ends also became three or four times higher, demonstrating that productivity increased by that amount in the past three or four decades. The processing speed of polyester is as fast as 5,500 mpm, the same speed as a bullet train that operates at 300 kilometers. Moreover, the length of a full-package FDY polyester is 1,200 kilometers - the distance between Osaka and Tokyo. Because we cannot allow a yarn break or even a filament break, we must have an extremely high-performance machine to produce quality yarn. These are our contributions to the synthetic fiber industry. Beyond all that, our business is making fiber for clothing, food and housing – three fundamental aspects of human life. Therefore, making fiber is a business that will never be eliminated, which is another good reason why we are in the business.

 

How did you achieve the goal of increasing the number of threads and the speed of processing? What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?

To run a long but small diameter shaft at high speed, you must have a very good design of the bobbin holder, as well as high-precision machining milling technology. We specialize in the skills and technologies related to synthetic fiber machinery, including the yarn traversing system and electronic control system that controls the speed of bobbin holders. Also the spinning and quench system must be optimized for increased threads.

 

Japan is the oldest society in the world and has a rapidly shrinking population, creating two major challenges for companies. The first is a labor crisis and the second is a shrinking domestic market. What are some of the challenges and opportunities this demographic shift is presenting for your company?

The lack of labor is certainly a problem, especially these days because engineers choose to go to big companies. Recruiting good engineers is always challenging, but we can still hire good people who wish to work actively in the global market with us. The internal training system we have put in place plays a vital role in educating our workers. Also Murata Machinery, one of our parent companies, does a similar business to us, so we collaborate with them in R&D, particularly digital technologies. The effect of Japan's demographic situation is relatively small because 95% of our business is overseas, of which 80% is in China. Only 5% of our business is domestic.

 

Can you tell us more about the DX initiatives that you are currently undertaking?

We think that the future of synthetic fiber factories will not depend on people. Our engineers imagine a dark factory without lights with few operators. To do that, we must utilize AI, IT and DX technologies. For example, high performance cameras and sensors to detect defects and analyze the facilities.  Defective products should be reduced significantly online with such technology.

 

TMT Machinery was founded in 2002 as a joint venture between three of Japan's leading synthetic fiber machine makers - Murata Machinery, Toray Engineering and Nabtesco Corporation. What was the reason behind this joint venture, and what synergistic benefits did these firms bring you?

These three Japanese firms were intensely competing against each other. Hence, they unified and merged their management together. The merging of these three companies allowed us to take advantage of their technologies, patents, manufacturing facilities, sales network and service support system. We picked the best spot of the three companies and became one. Although we started from a small organization, we are remarkably competitive. We were very much ready to compete with our competitors. Also the timing of TMT's establishment in 2002 was perfect because China started to grow dramatically after joining the WTO in 2001 and became a world of opportunity. I think China's GDP grew more than 10 times in 20 years. Similarly, synthetic fiber production grew more than 10 times, where approx. 85% of 60 million tons produced every year is from China. 

 

Your product divisions can be broken into four main segments: synthetic fiber spinning winding systems, high-speed take-up winders, processing machines and elemental technology & applied products. Which product division are you currently focusing on, and which do you believe has the most potential for future growth?

These four categories - spinning system, take-up winder, draw-texturing and elemental technologies - are all required to produce synthetic fibers. If you purchase each one from different companies, the responsibility will be divided. When clients make an order from TMT, we take responsibility for everything and support them until they can produce high-quality yarn. Those four segments are imperative, especially POY and DTY, which are the volume zone of the synthetic fiber business. We must be competitive in that regard. 



You have developed a unique POY spinning winding system which includes the Eco-Orca as well as the Orca Winder - the world's first POY winder to produce 15k packages at 12-end. How are your POY winding systems superior to more conventional ones?

First is its 1.8-meter bobbin length with 15kg x 12 packages. The thread can be conveniently rolled on the same floor because it has an elevation control system. We are also developing an automatic yarn threading robot. These are not employed throughout the full production yet, but some customers are reaching the commercial stage now. In the future, I think we will see more robots in synthetic fiber factories.

 

Are you developing these robots yourself?

We buy the robots from suppliers, but we design the total systems.

 

In recent years, the demand for extra fine denier false twisted yarn has increased due to the growing popularity of sportswear and innerwear. How does this development help meet the increased demand for the extra fine denier false twisted yarn material? 

We have an R&D facility in Kyoto, where we develop texturing technologies. With such pilot machines, we can test new devices. We demonstrate spinning and texturing special yarn and invite our customers. Such trial runs with customers are always fun and ideas will grow.

 

What role do partnerships play in your business model, and are you currently looking for partners in overseas markets?

Our main market is China, and automation demand in the synthetic fiber factory is expanding. We need to strengthen partnership there. We are also looking at countries in Southeast Asia, like Vietnam or Thailand. Recently, many synthetic fiber producers from China, Korea or Taiwan have been going to Vietnam, so we have plans to open up an office there next year.

 

What opportunities do you foresee in the Vietnamese market for your company in the long run?

We foresee an opportunity in technical service and part supply, as well as procuring parts from Vietnam to Japan. 

 

COVID has had major disruptions on global shipping & logistics over the last two years. Quarantine measures have impacted human resources, the grounding of commercial air flights has restricted shipping capacity and in addition to a near tripling of oil prices, 77% of international ports have reported delays in the last year. How have these disruptions affected TMT Machinery?

Our business was not very affected from 2020 to 2021 because China did not yet have a serious problem then. However, the Shanghai lockdown this year has posed a tremendous difficulty because we could not obtain parts from China. Since we could not finish the assembly of our winders and other systems; our deliveries were delayed. Our services were significantly reduced in the first quarter due to these problems in logistics. Also, shipping from Japan to China has been getting delayed. 

 

What are you doing to mitigate these impacts and be ready to deal with future pandemics?

Our three manufacturing facilities, TMT Shanghai, TMT Matsuyama and Ishiyama can share the risk. While we can use digital technologies, one of the basics of business is the need to meet with people face to face. Our sales manager stayed in China during the pandemic.

 

How do you maintain the same quality in Japan and overseas?

We dispatch our Japanese engineers and management staff to ensure our quality-first policy in our products and the assembly of our machines. TMT Shanghai is already making good quality products. We have dispatched a president from Japan, but the management and leaders there are mostly Chinese people. 

 

How are you able to adapt your machinery to suit the production of various synthetic fiber materials, such as nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic and spandex, that have unique characteristics and properties?

Spinning technology allows making microfilament as well as unique cross section fibers, and the draw-texturing machine gives that functionality. 70% of yarns are synthetic fiber, while the rest is from natural fibers. Golf wear used to be made with 100% cotton, but it is now made of 95% polyester and 5% spandex, making it very comfortable, quick drying and stretchable. We collaborate with our customers to develop such yarns, based on the ideas coming from users and clients. 

 

TMT Machinery offers various types of synthetic machinery lineups and one of your most successful is the ATi series. What can you attribute to the success of the ATi series? 

ATi stands for advanced technology and integration which we started to introduce in the new wonder series afte TMT’s foundation in 2002. TMT introduced the best technologies and patents from three companies to complete the most competitive machine, ATi series high speed take up winders are our best seller machines.

 

What strategies do you have for Vietnam going forward?

Beyond Vietnam, the most important strategy for TMT is not to lose China, as it is the largest market. To do so, we must continue to develop the next-generation machines, including POY, DTY and FDY. We have to support the customers in Vietnam better since our services are only coming from Japan right now, which is not good. 

 

You are also open to expanding to new horizons, such as India and Southeast Asia. Would you be looking for partners, joint ventures, M&As or establishing new manufacturing capabilities there?

We already have marketing and technical service partners there, since we do not do everything from Japan. In Kky markets like Taiwan, India and Turkey, we have excellent partners to support our business. We also have those networks around the world, like in the US and South America.

 

What would be your midterm strategy to continue your corporate growth as a company? 

Our new vision is to become the number one company in name and reality in the synthetic fiber machinery market. 

 

Imagine we come back in five years to have this interview again. What would you like to tell us? What are your dreams for this company, and what goals would you like to have accomplished?

As our new vision says, we will be the best in synthetic fiber machinery. We have accelerated our development of new-generation machines. Furthermore, we have group companies for the carbon fiber business. We have a joint development to use carbon fiber material in synthetic fiber machinery because carbon has unique characteristics. It is light, strong and has great thermal conductivity. This is just one example of “the one and only technology”. Our goal is to contribute to glorious apparel industries as well as the industrial synthetic fiber market to make people’s lives better. I would like our employees to honor that too.

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