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Championing safety and innovation: the remarkable journey of the world’s leading high-tension washer manufacturer

Article - November 9, 2023

With a history dating back to a single man’s blacksmith shop in 1928, Ono looks forward to its centenary.

“As the top market share company for high-tension washers, we will continue to meet the expectations of society and constantly challenge new goals.“

Mamoru Ono, Chairman, ONO MFG Co., Ltd.

In a time of global uncertainty and shifting market dynamics, the Japanese manufacturing industry finds itself at a crossroads. The COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions have disrupted supply chains, prompting multinational corporations to seek reliability and diversification. Amidst this backdrop, Ono Manufacturing continues to build on its own journey, with the United States an important part of that.

"When things are going well, people are happy, but when things are bad, they try new things to discover solutions," says company chairman Mamoru Ono. "We tried many things and listened keenly to exactly what our customers wanted."

Multinationals seek to reduce risk in their supply chains, where Japan's legacy of trustworthiness, reliability, and advanced technology comes to the fore. And from being a tier-two supplier for Mitsubishi Motors to becoming a leading player in the market, Ono’s resilience during Japan's "Lost Decades" led to significant growth.

"The bubble economy burst in the 1990s, and the following years were known as the Lost Decades," says company chairman Mamoru Ono. "In terms of our business, nothing was lost, they were of great benefit to us."

Adaptability is key, and the company's evolution is emblematic of its ability to respond to market shifts. From exporting via major trading companies to working directly with boat bolt manufacturers, Ono navigated changing strategies to maintain a consistent presence in the U.S. market, understanding the value of tailored services

"We made significant investments in facilities in a unique manner, so from our perspective, the Lost Decades were actually 20 hard-working years," Mr. Ono explains. "Without them, our company would have continued blissfully in the economic bubble without making any investments or innovations."

Localization is another means of building for the next generation with plans to establish local production in the U.S. coming true through a collaboration with Unytite. This venture aims to supply products that meet U.S. specifications, aligning with the company's strategy of combining mass production with specialized, value-added production, despite smaller lots yielding lower profits. Balance is vital.

"We have exported to over 20 countries worldwide, including unique examples in Iran and Thailand, and all 50 U.S. states, a country I hold great affection for. This is something I hope will be reciprocated one day by people there for my company."

Ono’s success over the years can be attributed to its ability to provide high-quality products consistently, and the chairman reflects on some achievements with pride.

"One project that stands out is the Aqua-Line in Tokyo Bay, with our elastic washers likely crucial in safeguarding it during the 2011 Great Tohoku earthquake. I’m also proud of our involvement in the construction of the Great Seto Bridge," he concludes, acknowledging the importance of the younger generation to take the company’s success forward with modern know-how and technology.