BreakThrough Interview

IGUCHI ISSEI Co., Ltd. Changes the Common Sense of ManufacturingIGUCHI ISSEI Co., Ltd.

2017.03.27

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President Issei Iguchi

  • This article covers the story of a unique company that continues to grow rapidly using an original processing technology, in an aim to develop an innovative Japanese manufacturing method that defies the common wisdom in the industry.

Proposes a manufacturing process that does not require mold or cutting by using an original sheet metal processing technology

IGUCHI ISSEI Co., Ltd., established in 2001, is a manufacturing company that has leveraged an original approach that challenges the common sense in the industry to continue to grow rapidly. The company name comes from the actual name of its founder and president, Issei Iguchi. “I thought it would be best to have a company name that is memorable at first impression,” says Mr. Iguchi.

The company uses an original sheet metal processing technology to carry out precision processing without mold or cutting. Although the common wisdom in the industry is that molds are essential in order to mass produce a product with high precision and at low cost, this is a burden to manufacturers because it requires a large initial investment to produce the molds. In addition, the common practice is to conduct cutting work with a machining center when requiring precision down to micron units. And yet, IGUCHI ISSEI has developed a processing technology that makes possible the same level of precision and quality as molds and cutting work through sheet metal processing, which is considered unsuitable for precision processing.

Because this method is unthinkable according to the common knowledge of manufacturing, the company faced a situation where it struggled to have customers believe its technology when it was first established. Thus, it provided many prototypes at free of cost, and started from having customers verify their reliability.

Manufacturing sample

Pursuit of an original technology that other companies cannot achieve

As a result, a certain office automation equipment manufacturer acknowledged the technology of IGUCHI ISSEI, finally leading to its adoption. After it received an Encouragement Award at the 1st Shibusawa Eiichi Venture Dream Award hosted by Saitama Prefecture in 2006, it got media coverage and the number of companies using its technology quickly increased. “The elimination of several thousands of molds for creating a single product enables a significant cost reduction, and because it also does not produce iron turnings as a result of cutting work it is also eco-friendly,” states Mr. Iguchi. The method of eliminating molds and cutting work claimed by the company gradually began to be accepted in the industry.

The company is using a general-purpose laser processing machine at its factory, but it has been able to gain the know-how of processing materials with high precision based on continuous research and errors accumulated over many years. “Even if, for example, a different company were to install the same machine, I don’t think it would be able to produce the same results as us,” says Mr. Iguchi.

Furthermore, IGUCHI ISSEI is rigorously carrying out the implementation of ICT in its operations. This is because it believes human work should be to think how something should be made, and all work that can be completed by machines should be left to machines. Mr. Iguchi shares, “The quality that is required of employees is that of a data scientist, and going forward it will become important to use a scientific approach in conducting manufacturing.”

Tokorozawa Office

For the future of Japanese manufacturing

While many large companies are moving their manufacturing bases overseas, there is no choice but to discover high added value that only Japan can produce in order for the Japanese manufacturing industry to survive. Mr. Iguchi states, “For example, if labor cost in Japan is 50 times more expensive than the Asian region, then Japan just needs to create the products in 1/50 of the time.”

From 2015, it has been serving as the liaison company for NANTOKANARU, which is a one-stop service that is part of METI’s SME support project. As a leader of a group of SMEs with cutting-edge and original technologies carefully selected from various industries, IGUCHI ISSEI centrally manages operations ranging from preliminary discussion, manufacturing, delivery schedule and quality management, to shipment, in response to orders from home and abroad. The number of participating companies increased from 11 companies in the beginning to 20 companies, and it has become a project to transmit the advanced technological capabilities of Japanese SMEs to the world.

Also, one of the features of the company not seen in other companies is how it has more female than male employees. On top of that, most of them have an arts background and, conversely, male employees with a math and science background are the minority. At IGUCHI ISSEI’s factory, female employees play a central role in operating machines. “Oftentimes, experts have knowledge but that tends to become an interference, and perhaps amateurs find it easier to accept our way of doing things,” shares Mr. Iguchi.

Female employee operating a processing machine at the factory

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