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Masters of Monozukuri

Mr. Naoki Hori, President of Yamashina Corporation

Mr. Naoki Hori

President of Yamashina Corporation

Yamashina Corporation manufactures a wide range of fasteners, bolts, screws, pins, resin, and thin plates for the automotive industry. In this interview, Naoki Hori discusses the superiority of Japanese manufacturing and presents some of the company’s latest innovations, such as the world’s first aluminum nut specially developed for carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

What are the competitive advantages of Japanese "Monozukuri" (craftsmanship) manufacturing in Japan in comparison to China, Korea and Taiwan?

In order for us to ensure that we maintain high-quality standards, we give priority to the knowledge and technology that go into the processing, assembly line and manufacturing, not only in the choice of materials but also in the know-how. We utilize this combination of technologies and skills to consistently produce highly reliable products.

What I mean by saying our "know-how" makes the difference is that even if such competitors utilize the same structure, type of factories and processes, they still will not be able to replicate the quality of Japanese products. Even though their materials, raw materials, and manufacturing processes are the same, our know-how remains unique and superior; it cannot be surpassed by anyone.

This is visible especially for the automotive sector, where the meticulous, complex effort and competence that go behind the entire process represents our true advantage. We aim for perfection, consistently.

In Japan, our field of know-how can be defined as "suriawase," or the ability to tune and tailor our products to fit certain characteristics. As a result of developing "tuning technology" in the "suriawase field", we are able to meet our customer’s need and ensure client’s satisfaction.

Finally, to complete "suriwase technologies," our national ethos of perseverance and tenaciousness are key. The sense of commitment to fulfill and achieve our goal is an essential part of the Japanese character and personality, something that we manage to achieve through a strong unity and, therefore, a strong organization.

How do you ensure your client satisfaction?

Firstly, in order to develop and deliver the highest quality products, R&D is vital as it allows us to continuously satisfy market demand. Secondly, dialogue, innovation, invention and technology are necessary to complement and reinforce such a system. Thirdly, we constantly revise the whole manufacturing chain providing solutions and suggestions to our clients on how things could be improved, while giving consulting services. We manage to reveal needs that customers don’t even know they had by mitigating between the different parties involved.

How did your company survive the rise of low-labor competitors and what makes your products relevant?

There was a point in our history when mass production at a cheaper cost was a priority, but we have now shifted to a different business model and became "added value" product creators. To create and provide value in order to satisfy our customer’s needs, we advise them on their entire supply chain, instead of simply focusing on the processing side. That is the reason why we are not simply masters of "monozukuri" (creation of things,) but of the entire supply and service chain.

What have been the key milestones of your company, since your foundation?

We started in 1917 by manufacturing bullets and other army-related devices. We are known for being the first Japanese manufacturer to successfully mass-produce cross-recessed screws and stainless steel tapping screw.

In 1969, we received the ‘Minister’s Award’ from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for the superiority of our products. Being appreciated for our skills and rewarded by the government represents a fundamental moment for Yamashina Corp, as it is from that point that we were really able to increase our turnover.

Today, we are experiencing tremendous changes in the automotive industry, especially in the use of materials: the end of the combustion engine and the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles has created a demand for new and lighter materials such as resin and aluminum. What is the impact of such new trends and how do you cater for this new demand?

We regard this need for lightweight material as a strategy for product development.

In response to such demand for lighter material, we succeeded in developing the world’s first aluminum nut specially developed for CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic), and we started selling it. This is one of our cutting-edge products for airplanes and automobiles. CFRP is a conductive material, and when it comes into contact with metal in a corrosive environment, the metal causes galvanic corrosion. Our nuts prevent this galvanic-corrosion. The developing process has been very challenging and required a lot of effort from our side: R&D and innovation played a key-role to achieve success.

Talking about our products and materials, we are also developing aluminum bolts, lighter and more in demand.

Can you tell us a bit more about your international strategy?

Our core bases overseas are in Thailand and China, and it allows us to serve our international clients globally. However, I am sure our business will grow and expand, as the demand for our products is growing too.

Thanks to the support and contribution of our allies in Europe and in the U.S., we will be able to face such expansion through continuous implementation of innovation and technology.

In terms of exports, which countries are the most interesting for the future?

Seventy percent of our products are in the automotive sector. So when it comes to this industry, any country represents an appealing market, from the U.S. to Europe, and we have no boundaries, geographically speaking.

Your client portfolio is diverse as you also serve the medical, robotics and construction fields. Can you tell us a bit more about your diversification model? Are you considering targeting new industries in the future?

Today, there are many opportunities for diversification. In the automotive field we are working on diversification progresses, such as lighter weight material and pieces for electric vehicles. Furthermore, there are many business opportunities in robot engineering and automation. Car manufacturers are also working on such technologies. Looking at the future, we will consider all these opportunities and will devote our energy to developing leading technologies in each sector with potential.

Japan is a leader in the automobile manufacturing industry and largely invests in research and development. As a consequence, this phenomenon also affected and produced a positive effect in other industries, from medicine to construction.

Which goals would you like to achieve in the next 10 years and what would you like to be remembered for?

I would like to continuously succeed at the domestic and international level, and boost our growth and global expansion, supporting our main clients everywhere they go. I am confident and positive that we will be able to achieve our objectives through our efforts and keep prospering as ‘Hidden Champions’.


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