Smashing Old Concepts: Showcasing Revolutionary Cast Metal at the Exhibition for Creating New ValueAIZU Kojyou Co.,Ltd
President Naoki Suzuki at Aizu’s office. Minami Aizu, Fukushima is located in one of Japan’s heaviest snow regions
Aizu Kojyo Co., Ltd. follows the motto “MADE IN AIZU - Best in the World” as a precision metal casting company, located in their hometown Minami Aizu, Fukushima. Basic technology from England was adopted and advanced to invent the world’s only “H-Process Method,” which enables ductile precision casting to match the complexity of lost-wax casting. This unique manufacturing method provides both massive cost reductions and faster production turnaround for items like automobile parts. Currently, they are enjoying a flood of attention from many automobile parts makers and other companies.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also selected Aizu Kojyo for its “GANBARU Small and Medium Enterprises 300” list in 2015, and awarded recognition as a “Regional Future Driving Company” in 2017. In 2018, Aizu Kojyo won the gold prize at the 4th Fukushima Industry Awards. It’s clear that high expectations are rising fast for this wonderful SME and the role it will fill.
Aizu Kojyo first joined NVCE in 2015, and results have grown year after year, but NVCE 2017 brought a massive number of inquiries from other companies.
That year was the first time they showed examples of their company’s original development of low-weight precision cast metal pieces and processing-free items achieved through mass production with fast turnaround and low cost. Exhibition visitors from a broad variety of fields showed interest, leading to new development projects and a large increase of orders. We asked President Naoki Suzuki for more information.
Why did you join the New Value Creation Exhibition?
We joined after receiving encouragement from the Japan Science And Technology Agency and the Fukushima Center For Industrial Promotion. As the name “New Value Creation Exhibition” describes, I think that the premise of this event is creating new value. Cast iron is ancient technology, so at first glance, you probably wouldn’t think of us as “new value.” But the pieces that our company makes are smashing old concepts, it’s a whole new era of metal casting. We decided to join NVCE because wanted to share our accomplishments with the world.
How was your experience at NVCE?
Most of the trade shows we joined before were pretty industry-specific, like automobile manufacturing. But NVCE truly goes beyond that kind of categorization, there were people from every industry possible. The visitors who looked at our booth were genuinely interested, and they had good comments and questions like “Could you use it this way?” and “Can it handle this kind of casting?”
We were able to connect with people that we’ve never worked with before, like college professors and robotics companies in other fields, and it’s leading to new business opportunities.
Can you share a case example of those business opportunities?
Aizu Kojyo was pretty much a specialist in car parts production, but we were approached by a manufacturer of medical supplies, which is a totally different field from car parts.Medical equipment also uses tiny cast metal parts, so they put in a request, and we made it.
There were other fields that I never even expected, like office supply parts. They said they were interested in our company’s cast parts for things like desk parts and metal fittings.
We also held with discussions with a machinery manufacturer and supplier about work besides direct sales. Meeting robot makers who joined NVCE led to the purchase of a robot that we were needing. Later, they came and visited us, and helped select a robot that was appropriate for our factory, and went through assessment with us. Right now, we’re making progress on specifications for full-scale implementation.
There were other fields that I never even expected, like office supply parts. They said they were interested in our company’s cast parts for things like desk parts and metal fittings. We also held with discussions with a machinery manufacturer and supplier about work besides direct sales. Meeting robot makers who joined NVCE led to the purchase of a robot that we were needing. Later, they came and visited us, and helped select a robot that was appropriate for our factory, and went through assessment with us. Right now, we’re making progress on specifications for full-scale implementation.
I really think that we benefited from connecting with people working in different industries. Host companies from a diverse range of industries come together at NVCE, and it’s a very rare kind of trade show, because it brings you business from other host companies, not just visitors.
Have you noticed anything interesting from hosting, or do you have any tips?
NVCE isn’t limited to one specific industry, there are people from so many different fields, so we were careful about explaining our technology in a way that was easy to understand for people who aren’t familiar with metal casting. Likewise, we learned a lot about how to prepare materials and displays to facilitate immediate answers to questions that visitors asked.
First, we explain the process of conventional metal casting. Then we mention that our company’s cast pieces can be both thinner and lighter. The display provided easily understood quantitative examples of our processing-free method, we used real numbers to show that pieces could be this percent lighter, and the total cost could be that much cheaper.
Can you tell us about your future projects?
Aizu Kojyo has always sold its new technology through active marketing work. Thanks to NVCE, our technology has finally managed to reach manufacturers all over Japan in just 1 or 2 years. Now, we don’t need to run around doing sales and PR. We’re getting inquires, asking “How would Aizu Kojyo handle this?” Interactions like that are real proof that our branding is getting results.
So now, we have so many orders confirmed for new products, and in 2019 we’re building a new factory just a 10 minute drive away from our current office. The new factory is expected to be at full operation in a few years.
Around 60% of the pieces we make are for international orders. Those pieces will be used in overseas factories of Japanese companies. Overseas production usually means sourcing local supplies locally, so right now our customers are expressing a strong demand for production bases outside of Japan.
Taking a long view, I could see us making an overseas production center and working together with international manufacturers to expand the scope of the H-Process method. Up to now, this process has been our company’s unique method, but I think it would be good to implement this process around the world, together with our manufacturing partners.
Around 90% of our products are automobile parts, but lately we’re getting inquires from fields outside the automotive industry, like copper pots for camping and machine parts.
Next, Aizu Kojyo is excited to expand beyond automobiles to new fields that show demand for our production technology.
Interview Date: December 10, 2018
The Aizu factory is an enterprise rooted in local Minami Aizu with the motto "MADE IN AIZU and only here around the world". It possesses the world's only H process method that has evolved basic technology from the UK, enables ductile precision casting approaching lost wax, realizes mass production from lightweight and precise casting parts with short delivery time and low cost .
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