BREAKTHROUGHSUCCESS CASE

Entering New Fields of Industry & Connecting With New Customers Through the New Value Creation ExhibitionTANAC Co.,Ltd

2018.12.25

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The new Technology Center, built in 2016 in Kakamigahara, Gifu

Tanac Co., Ltd. (Gifu City) specializes in soft materials like silicone urethane elastomers. Their well-cultivated knowledge and advanced blending and processing technology has expanded from a core of medical industry products to reach a wider range of fields including robots and the beauty industry. The current product line is diverse, from medical simulators to medical equipment parts and beauty health care items.
Medical simulators can be customized to fulfill specific requirements for shape and hardness according to evidence from joint development with universities and research institutions. Artificial organs, skin and blood vessels must have structure and texture as similar to the real human body as possible. Tanac’s high reputation is thanks to its painstaking prototype process, producing sample after sample to achieve perfect appearance and feeling until the customer is satisfied.
Tanac’s robot arm covers evolved from medical equipment designed to support people with disabilities of their arms and/or legs. The unique blended material used to make these covers is very soft, yet very strong. This material has a stretchability of more than 1000%, allowing robots to grasp products that were previously impossible to handle, and nearly eliminating the physical stress of the robots. Production of beauty care items was primarily OEM goods for major companies, but Tanac has been developing its own product catalog since 2016.

Tanac’s diverse range of products primarily serves the medical industry, so trade shows are an important chance to provide customers the opportunity to touch and try its products. They have enjoyed an unexpected cascade of opportunities since their first appearance at the 2017 New Value Creation Exhibition. We talked with Kazumasa Tanahashi, the Chief of Business Development at the Tanac Technology Center.

Medical simulator of a human liver featuring realistic size, shape and texture
Robot arm covers using crystal gel for smooth operation

Why did you join the New Value Creation Exhibition?
We received an invitation to the New Value Creation Exhibition from a government organization. Tanac has specialized in the medical equipment for the past 8 years, and we’ve achieved a lot in the medical simulator market. That success has inspired us to think about connecting with customers in new fields, “Where else is there demand for our soft materials?” We felt ready to try exploring new possibilities. It was decided that the New Value Creation Exhibition was good timing for us to run a booth because there would be people from all sorts of industries in one place. We first joined in 2017.

Have you seen positive results or changes in your business due to joining NVCE?
Robots, beauty supplies... we’ve managed to make connections in industries that we never touched before. There have definitely been positive results in sales. We have also been getting requests from major manufacturers, and we’re thrilled to have made real progress in an unknown field like robotics. Tanac felt a strong demand for our materials in robotics, and our sales efforts have followed through on that. Joining NVCE allowed us to get orders from new customers in previously untouched fields, and I would say that the exhibition was a huge success. Joining an exhibition like this will definitely become a big future fuel source for our company.

What have you noticed about talking directly to customers from new fields?
Customers in different fields have different ways of doing business. Talking directly to these customers has allowed us to discover more areas that need our company’s materials. Customers in different fields have also given us great advice about more ways that our materials might be used. I felt that these ideas would grow and contribute to Tanac’s know-how.

What kind of techniques did you use for your exhibits?
Basically, most of our products are made from hard-to-work soft materials, so we thought that it would be best to start by allowing visitors to feel our unique materials. First, we wanted to grab their attention by letting them experience the softness and texture of our human organ models. Visitors would say, “Wow, this material is so cool!” and we would start talking once we made that connection.
We also tried to make our booth stand out by using glowing materials, and we made sure that our clear and simple catch phrase would catch the attention of exhibition visitors. I think that those ideas helped draw people to our booth.

Can you share a real example of getting business from an exhibition visitor?
At last year’s NVCE (2017), a major manufacturer looked at our organ models and robot arm covers. They asked us questions about our materials and we explained what kind of items we could make, like softnesses, strengths and sizes. We made that new connection and we’re currently in discussions about prototypes.
Another NVCE success story is that we were able to increase sales for our robot arm covers. We have been propelled by our expansion into an unknown field, and we decided to join a robotics exhibition for the first time in September 2018.

Can you tell us about your future projects?
There is a movement in the medical world to ban animal experiments, and I think that medical simulators will be needed more than ever. Tanac believes that we have the right foundation of experienced wisdom and data to support many medical equipment manufacturers.
Also, we’ve only just entered the world of robotics, but I feel a strong demand for soft and strong materials that can be used for industrial robot chuck vises and the outer skin of domestic robots. I am eager for more robot developers to become interested Tanac’s materials in the near future.
Right now, most of our orders are from customers in the medical field, but I think there must still be many industries that need soft materials, so I want to try working with new industries. That’s one reason why we’re joining NVCE 2018. Last year provided excellent opportunities that led to business with customers in different fields. I am happy for another chance to make connections with customers in new industries this year.

Interview Date: October 19, 2018

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