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Let’s amaze the world: Interview with Yoshiaki Sugino, President of Sugino Machine (1/2)

October 11, 2019

A period of automotive reform is an opportunity

Sugino Machine (Uozu City, Toyama Prefecture) deals in a wide variety of industrial equipment, including machine tools. Mr. Yoshiaki Sugino, who was appointed president in June 2019 says proudly, “It is in our company’s DNA to think, ‘Let’s make new things and amaze the world.'” He explains, “The automotive industry is currently undergoing a once-in-a-century period of reform. It is an opportunity for our company, which has a lot of technologies to offer.”

– Sugino Machine develops and markets a wide variety of industrial equipment.

Our business is divided roughly into two domains: One is our Precision Machine Division, which deals with machine tools, washing machines, deburring machines, surface finishing tools, and other items mainly for the automotive industry. The other is our Plant Equipment Division, which supplies industrial equipment to a variety of industries. It covers a broad range of markets, including civil engineering and infrastructure, petrochemical, food, energy, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other markets. Our goal is to be a “glocal (= global + local) niche leader.” This means to be a leader in various niche (narrow) markets by disseminating local technologies to the rest of the world.

– What is the technical field to watch?

Material atomization technology is most likely to grow. It has been utilized in cosmetics, medicine, printer toner, electronic parts, and other products. Materials mixed with water are discharged from opposing high-pressure nozzles at the speed of Mach 2. The materials collide against each other at a total speed of Mach 4, crushing them into smaller pieces. While conventional atomization technology mainly grinds materials, it poses the problem of contamination generated on the grinding mill side. With our technology, materials are crushed against each other into smaller and smaller pieces, without generating impurities.

– It is an application of cutting with high pressure water, called water jet cutting, isn’t it? Why is your company able to try so many new technologies and new fields?

In the first place, it is in our company’s DNA to think, “Let’s make new things and amaze the world.” Our company possesses technologies in six fields: cutting, machining, washing, burnishing, atomizing, and fibrillating. These are seemingly random, but none of them are odd or unusual. All of them are derived from high-pressure technology and core pneumatic technology, by combining or applying them. Recently, we have been engaged in column robot development and manufacture and sale of biomass nanofibers, materials based on high-pressure technology.

– To develop new hit products, you need to be sensitive to changes in the market.

It is generally agreed that the automotive industry is undergoing a once-in-a-century period of significant reform. I do not think that gasoline-powered vehicles will be suddenly replaced with electric vehicles (EV) or fuel-cell vehicles (FCV). However, the nature of inquiries has changed rapidly since the beginning of 2019, and EV- and FCV-related development projects have overwhelmingly increased. I think that gasoline-powered vehicles will not take the lead in terms of investment from now on even if there is an extension of existing work, and I do not think much will be allocated to budgets for new development projects. Machine manufacturers would not survive for long if they were to continue doing the same things as previously in such an environment.

 – The waves of change are really severe, aren’t they?

I believe it is an opportunity for our company, which has a lot of technologies to offer, unless we make mistakes in judgment. It was recently discovered that there has been a dramatic increase as a whole in projects related to not only EV and FCV but also CASE (which stands for connected, autonomous, shared and electric). While our company has relationships with a variety of industries and customer segments, there have been a considerable number of CASE-related inquiries in which we have heard information from completely different industries that is in fact from the same source. Consequently, it is important to improve our sensitivity to changes in the market to catch the next big wave. I would like to take advantage of the strengths of our various products and technologies to open up new fields as our predecessors did.

Source: SEISANZAI MARKETING Magazine October 2019 issue

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