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What's going on in the field of cutting-edge technology?
Reading the news from different angles reveals the true state of Japan. ――Osamu Katayama, journalist
Precision Machining for All Production Needs
“YUKI Precision is almost sixty years old, but its advanced nature, global perspective and bold attitude toward taking on challenges are just like those of a freshly founded venture company.” Katayama Osamu visits a small “R&D machining shop” with a grand vision, where sales have increased nearly fivefold in just the last ten years.
YUKI Precision is headquartered in Chigasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Its building looks just like that of any other small factory in town. After going up the steps outside the office building and being guided to a meeting room, however, I found that the room was equipped with a monitor and a camera for television conferences, technology confirming that this was no everyday small factory operation.
Otsubo Masato, the third president of YUKI Precision and its founder’s grandson, explains, “Currently, our sales in the fields of aerospace and medicine account for around 70% of our overall sales. Our scale is gradually expanding. We had twenty employees in 2006, but we now have thirty-nine.”
Otsubo Masato, the third president of YUKI Precision
YUKI Precision started by manufacturing screws and engaged in cutting the shafts of electronic appliance parts, including public telephone booths. Otsubo grew up observing the operation of the factory founded by his grandfather in his boyhood, and liked to assemble plastic and radio-controlled models.
His father, the second president of YUKI Precision, never encouraged him to take over the family business, and Otsubo himself did not intend to do so. He studied nanotechnology and design engineering in the Department of Engineering Synthesis at the University of Tokyo, and in 2000, after his graduation, he joined INCS Inc. (now SOLIZE Corporation), a venture company that was a contemporary market leader with its 3D CAD and 3D printers.
Otsubo learned the series of processes involved in mold tools at INCS.
Otsubo says, “I was involved in every process, ranging from making mold tools using 3D CAD, to entering locus information in processing by CAM, to operating machine tools by myself, to making molds for injection molding by molding machine.”
In addition, Otsubo engaged in research on processing, such as improving the accuracy of dies and changing materials. He also participated in the “high-speed die factory” project of making a mold tool in 45 hours, the fastest in the world, engaged in the launch of a factory and even manufactured the company’s own machine tool.
Otsubo also experienced technical consulting. INCS established a fund and embarked on the business of acquiring a mold tool manufacturer and rehabilitating it. At the target company, Otsubo rehabilitated it while overseeing everything, including technology, sales and marketing and management.
Otsubo obtained a great deal of empirical knowledge from a wide range of experiences over the course of six years at INCS.
Hard Times: The Switch to a High Added-Value-Oriented Business Model
YUKI Precision, the company run by Otsubo’s family, had found itself in a difficult predicament.
YUKI Precision’s jobs mostly related to the parts of public telephone booths and other parts, such as optical fiber connectors. But as the mobile phone became more widespread, jobs related to public telephone booths decreased rapidly and jobs related to optical fiber were also thrown into a difficult situation, affected by the collapse of the IT bubble in 2001. The company was almost on the brink of bankruptcy.
Says Otsubo, “I knew that my father’s company was in a predicament. If the company collapsed, my parents’ home would be gone because my father was a guarantor as an individual. I thought that if I ever helped him, I might be able to get the troubled company back on its feet with the knowhow I had acquired at INCS.”
In 2006, Otsubo joined YUKI Precision as its managing director.
In rehabilitating the company, the first thing Otsubo did was to focus on YUKI Precision’s strong points. He liked machinery by nature. He worked in a factory wearing work clothing himself and conducted specific examinations learning how to use an automatic screw machine.
Otsubo says, “YUKI Precision has employees who use a craftsman’s skill in automatic screw machines. I used the words “craftsman’s skill,” but an automatic screw machine itself only operates as it is set to operate. It is people who write the program, and it is also people who operate these machines. Because I acquired lathing techniques by myself, I became familiar with the machines by changing the blades and programs depending on their specific idiosyncrasies.”
However, machine tools were imported goods and could not be differentiated. When Otsubo thought about what he should emphasize as YUKI Precision’s strong points, he became extremely anxious as to whether he would actually be able to survive in the years to come.・・・