BreakThrough Interview

Presence Shown by an SME in a Niche Market Where Large Companies Do Not EnterYokobiki Shutter Co., Ltd.

2017.03.15

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Installation example of a horizontal pulling shutter

  • This article covers the challenge of an SME that sells horizontal pulling shutters, which have many advantages compared to general vertical shutters.

Developed a smoothly moving horizontal pulling shutter on its own

Yokobiki Shutter Co., Ltd. was established in 1986 as a subsidiary of Chuo Shutter Co., Ltd. Chuo Shutter, founded in 1970, manufactured shutters but its main operations consisted of repair and maintenance of other company’s products. While general shutters are opened and closed vertically, there were some major manufacturers selling horizontal pulling shutters that move to the side instead and are opened and closed horizontally. However, there were many cases where the shutter soon moved poorly, due to the collection of trash and sand on the moving part of the tire attached to the bottom of the shutter. While carrying out maintenance of horizontal pulling shutters, Chuo Shutter realized that the problems of conventional products can be overcome by setting the moving parts of the tire on the top of the shutter, and this led to its development of the horizontal pulling shutter (patented). Chuo Shutter established Yokobiki Shutter as a company to carry out the manufacture and sales of the horizontal pulling shutter.

Just like a curtain, horizontal pulling shutters are shutters that can be opened and closed horizontally, and it has several benefits compared to vertical shutters. When using a vertical shutter, the width of one sheet of shutter is set between 7 to 8 meters, so it is necessary to construct pillars in between and connect multiple sheets of shutters when installing a shutter that is long in width. In contrast, when using a horizontal pulling shutter, it is possible to install a shutter with a length up to a maximum of approximately 50 meters with one sheet. In addition, its structure that allows it to form a curve is a feature not found in vertical shutters, and it also does not require a shutter box to be placed on the ceiling.

Horizontal pulling shutters can form a curve

Improving technological capabilities by handling many full-customized orders

Yokobiki Shutter provides its products to major general contractors, other manufacturers, builder’s offices, and general customers. There are probably many opportunities to see a horizontal pulling shutter at shops inside shopping males and station kiosks. Horizontal pulling shutters have also been installed by many automakers, power stations, mint bureaus, etc. The shutter is basically designed based on full customization according to the order, and the company has handled various customization requests in terms of design, too.

Recently, there have been increasing inquiries directly from general customers who came to know about the company through the Internet. President Shinjiro Ichikawa states, “Sometimes we receive requests that surprise us from customers who want to install a horizontal pulling shutter at home. They are really persistent about the details.” By meeting such demands, the company’s development and technological capabilities have improved, gradually leading to an expansion of its product lineup. All products can be opened and closed electrically, but it creates the shutters based on the standard of “being able to open and close effortlessly even by a grandma” for instances when it needs to be opened and closed manually. Final adjustments are done by hand by craftsmen before delivery.

Installation example at a station kiosk

Aiming for a disaster prevention shutter that can withstand tsunami

Mr. Ichikawa states confidently, “There is no way that an SME can beat a major company when competing face-to-face. But, I believe it will not lose in a field that it is specialized in.” The domestic shutter market mostly consists of vertical shutters, and the market size of horizontal pulling shutters is around 1/200 of vertical shutters. Yokobiki Shutter has successfully established a solid presence in a niche market not significant enough for major manufacturers to newly enter. The company will continue to challenge itself in fields where large companies cannot compete, implementing a policy of strengthening competitive edge in those areas. “There are other small and medium-sized manufacturers selling horizontal pulling shutters, but we appeal to customers with our strong crime-prevention ability. We will further enhance this ability while also carrying out the development of disaster prevention shutters,” says President Ichikawa.

Many lives were lost due to the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Great damages were caused due to the intrusion of water through windows even though the building structures remained intact. President Ichikawa states, “If we can block the intrusion of tsunami with our shutters, then I’m sure we can protect the living space. Our goal is to create shutters that can withstand tsunami.”

President Shinjiro Ichikawa

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Yokobiki Shutter Co., Ltd.

Developed a smoothly moving horizontal pulling shutter on its own

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