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Coupling the future

Article - October 31, 2022

With its unique CUPLA products, Nitto Kohki has made itself indispensable to some of the world’s largest firms and industries.


“Nitto Kohki has placed importance on energy and labor saving, and also on producing good products.”
Akinobu Ogata, President, Nitto Kohki Co., Ltd.

In an era where regional competitors are replicating the concept of monozukuri and threatening to push Japan out of mass production markets, it would be easy to conclude that, for some companies, quality plays second fiddle to cheap labor costs.

For Nitto Kohki president Akinobu Ogata, however, nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, he says, customers the company had previously thought lost have returned and helped increase the coupling giant’s market share. The pursuit of excellence not only obliges Nitto Kohki to invest proper time and money in research and development, but also helps to differentiate the firm from its competitors. Having a reputation for quality, meanwhile, means Nitto Kohki’s coupling products continue to be used in leading-edge industries, such as semiconductors, where reliability is by far more important than cost.

Operating behind the scenes sometimes means that Nitto Kohki’s work slips under the radar, but Mr. Ogata isn’t interested in global acclaim. It is far more important to be “contributing to society” which the company does in various, often unheralded, ways. Many manufacturers, for instance, use Nitto Kohki couplings for handling electrolytes used to fill lithium batteries, and, as Mr. Ogata points out, a contribution to the advancement of electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles also represents an important contribution to carbon neutrality in general.

But Nitto Kohki doesn’t only contribute to society through its products. There are, as Mr. Ogata emphasizes, “actions that can be taken as well". One such action was to develop equipment to suck out the sputum of patients with dyspnea. Mr. Ogata adds: “Large-scale blackouts occurred in Hokkaido when the area was hit by the 2018 Hokkaido Eastern Iburi Earthquake. I sent our aspirators and dry cells to the stricken area two days after, as I thought our dry cell drive equipment was useful when electricity was not available. Our aspirator was also required by many hospitals that were looking after Covid patients. I was glad to see it was helpful for healthcare workers and patients.”

People are at the heart of Nitto Kohki’s company philosophy, whether they are employees or not. Take engineers, for example. There is concern in Japan that the country’s aging population will lead to the rapid spread of automation, placing human jobs at risk. Mr. Ogata, however, does not see engineers’ jobs as precarious; it is more a question of reimagining their role.

“At Nitto Kohki,” Mr. Ogata says, “we have a corporate motto: ‘development provides corporate insurance’. That ‘development’ encompasses four important meanings. Firstly, the development of products that contribute to society. Secondly, the development of the sales market. Thirdly, the development of human resources. And fourthly, the development of a system for organization management.”

Presently, it is the last of these that appears to be the most significant. “From now on,” Mr. Ogata continues, “I think it is going to be important for engineers to engage more in process management.” That is, ensuring company products meet standards of safety, security and quality through machine maintenance and an increased focus on research and development.

Looking to the future, Mr. Ogata is keen to build the company’s reputation overseas. On the one hand, there are global needs for labor-saving where Nitto Kohki can contribute with its ‘delvo’ electric screwdrivers. To this end, the company has recently entered into a collaboration with a major robot supplier to attach ‘delvo’to robotic arms. On the other hand, there is Europe and the U.S. Nitto Kohki is not a name most Western firms currently recognize – a by-product, no doubt, of the company’s much valued discretion – but Mr. Ogata is confident that will soon change. More generally, he is open to overseas collaboration: “If any overseas firms have an interest in our technology and want to have a discussion with us, we are always willing to engage.”

Whatever happens, it is unlikely that Nitto Kohki’s company values will change. The key is people to contribute to society. Employees should feel happy about the work they do. If, in turn, society values the work that Nitto Kohki does, the company will continue to develop. That relationship, of course, is symbiotic. Working for the good of society drives excellence; selfless excellence paves the way for success.