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Japan: Innovative Midsize Firms Prospering
Source: the-japan-news.com
Source Date: Monday, December 30, 2013
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Japan
Created: Dec 31, 2013

Midsize companies that are enjoying a large share of their respective markets both at home and abroad using accumulated manufacturing technologies are drawing attention.

The following are reports about such companies, which have developed products that are beyond the reach of competitors through high-level innovation and other factors.

Shikoku Kakoki Co. based in Kitajima, Tokushima Prefecture, is Japan’s first company to develop machines specialized for packaging beverages such as milk and juice in paper packages with tops shaped like gables.

Most leading milk product makers have introduced the machines, called Gable Top Filling Machines, and the firm holds an about 70 percent share of the market in Japan.

The company was established in 1961 as a manufacturer of tanks for the food industry. It entered the filling machine business after a recommendation by a partner company in 1968, first developing the products for bottles, cups and paper packs.

Industry experts say there are only two companies worldwide that have such advanced technologies to fill and seal packs in antiseptic conditions. Shikoku Kakoki thus has little concern about competitors.

The company has also entered the packaging materials and food business, which are closely related to filling machines. The advanced technology has contributed to product development in these fields.

As part of its food business, the company produces tofu. As its tofu can be made and stored without being touched by human hands, the product can last for 180 days, without using preservatives or other chemicals.

About 40 percent of the company’s sales are from machine-related products, about 30 percent from packaging materials and about 30 percent from food products.

The company, which is enthusiastic about entering foreign markets, exports filling machines to more than 40 countries.

Yoshinori Hata, deputy chief of the company’s international business department, said, “We’ll reinforce our business in North America, where demand has started to appear, and in Southeast Asia, which has a combined population of 600 million.”

Fuchu, Tokyo-based Goto Inc. first developed a domestically made lens projector-type planetarium in 1959. The company’s CHIRON II planetarium was certified by the Guinness World Records as the most advanced of its kind.

The CHIRON II projector was delivered to the Tama Rokuto Science Center in Nishi-Tokyo, Tokyo, last year. It can project about 140 million “stars.” Its highly precise technology allows it to show an image of the Milky Way in the form of a collective entity of tiny star lights.

The company was established in 1926 in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, as a telescope manufacturer. Its founder visited a planetarium in the United States in 1955 and came to believe small-lot production of large-scale and highly precise machines was a field that should be taken on by small and midsize companies. The company then entered the business.

In terms of sales of projectors to planetarium facilities, the company holds an about 70 percent market share in Japan and an about 40 percent share in overseas markets. It owes its competitive edge to its accumulated technology and the enthusiasm of its employees.

All production processes, from lens polishing to making glass original plates on which positions of stars are printed, as well as assembling the machines themselves, are done at its Fuchu plant.

Many of the company’s employees are astronomy enthusiasts. “Their deep knowledge and love of beautiful starry skies are a key part of the development of our products,” a company official said.

The company exports to 28 countries and territories in North America, Europe and Asia, and aims to expand its sales channels in Southeast Asia and other emerging countries.

In a showroom of Hiroshima-based Kumahira Co. near its head office, stands one of the world’s largest vault doors. The door, which is two meters in diameter and weighs 32 tons, was once used by a major bank.

The company was established in 1898. After losing assets in a fire, the it began manufacturing vaults, developing its own special steel that is highly resistant to fire.

The large vault door symbolizes the legacy of the company, which has contributed to the protective capabilities of vaults.

The company holds an about 70 percent share in the market of vault facilities for financial institutions in Japan. It has also developed watertight steel doors based on technology it developed through vault manufacturing.

Orders for the watertight doors are on the rise because of increasing public awareness about disaster prevention.

The company’s other products include security gates for receiving visitors at the entrance to companies, systems to record entry into and departure from offices, and the management of keys and security cameras. These products have earned the company a high reputation, helping it develop into a general safety service systems firm.

Masateru Suwa, 65, the company’s president, said, “Objects of crime prevention are shifting from money and precious metals to intellectual property such as information.”

There are many methods of identity authentication for entering and leaving rooms, such as cards, security codes and biometrics. About one-third of the company’s 150 employees work in the development divisions, meeting the diverse needs of its clients.

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