BreakThrough Interview

Rebuilding a business as a problem-solving business that combines unique silver-plated conductive textiles with IoTMitsufuji Corporation

Series 1 (Total 2 series)

2020.02.13

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Mitsufuji Corporation originally produced Nishijin-ori textiles, and has since transformed into a wearable IoT company. Before the bankruptcy crisis, the company developed a wearable device that made use of its unique silver-plated fiber, and it currently develops medical and healthcare solutions driven by IoT technology. The company gained prominence around the world and greatly improved its business performance. President Ayumu Mitera led the company's turnaround. In this two-part series we will ask him about its history, the secret to good ideas, and future developments.


Medicine and healthcare with proprietary textile wearables

Analyzing biometric data acquired through wearable devices helps prevent accidents at work sites, care for infants, and improve workplace productivity. The solution service "hamon" from Mitsufuji makes this possible.

"We have patients wear a wearable device that weaves in our highly conductive silver-plated textile "AGposs" as an electrode (sensor), and sends the obtained heart rate and other biological information from the transmitter to the cloud. With our unique algorithm, we can visualize the wearer's health status, stress, and drowsiness, and help create a safe workplace and improve productivity."

"Hamon" was first introduced in the construction and manufacturing industries, and was used for worker safety measures. Later it became used for healthcare in the service industry and watching over infants. The current president Ayumu Mitera advanced its development. It was founded in 1956 as a Nishijin-ori obi sash factory, so why did it start developing this service?

Electrified "AGposs" (left), and transmitter-equipped clothes (right).

 

A customer inspired its development

The company grew sales with products utilizing the antibacterial effect of AGposs. However, the business has shrunk with the emergence of antibacterial agents that use chemicals. One day his father, the former president, called to tell him that the family business was on the verge of bankruptcy. After careful consideration, Mr. Mitera decided to leave the foreign IT company where he worked at the time. He started his current position in 2014 and embarked on rebuilding the family business.

"The only way to survive is to change without spending money. I visited client companies to listen to their needs, researched whether we could receive government subsidies, and learned about relevant technologies at the library. I tried everything that I could do without cost."

It was during this time that Mr. Mitera realized the potential of the wearable business through conversations with customers, and turned his attention to silver conductivity, another characteristic of AGposs. In 2016 the company announced a clothing-type wearable device that combined his own IT experience with IoT technology to acquire biometric information using the product as a sensor, and a solution service "hamon" that analyzes the acquired data to find out the wearer's health status. After successfully restructuring the business, it was selected as one of Nikkei Business's "100 Companies Changing the World" in 2019.

Creating new value through collaboration and joint development

The company has made a major transformation from a textile manufacturer into a wearable IoT company that offers a complete range of textile materials, devices, apps, and the cloud. What was the driving force?

"I think it's all about having a real crisis right in front of you. Humans do not change unless they are driven to. In these times where you can't expect tomorrow to be the same as yesterday, there is no future for unchanging companies. However, I feel that there are still few SMEs aware of this."

Looking hard at changes in the market without resting on the success of "hamon," Mr. Mitera is now preparing to change Mitsufuji's self-developed, self-produced, integrated production model, strengthening the company's orientation towards solving social issues. Mitsufuji is trying to expand the scope of its activities.


Series Survive by knowing your strengths and customer needs as well as forming an ecosystem

Series 1 Rebuilding a business as a problem-solving business that combines unique silver-plated conductive textiles with IoT
Series 2 Survive by knowing your strengths and customer needs as well as forming an ecosystem


Company overview

Mitsufuji Corporation

Ayumu Mitera, President and CEO

With its roots in a Nishijin-ori obi sash factory established 1956 in Kyoto by Mr. Mitera's grandfather, MitsuFuji Textile Industry Co., Ltd. was founded in 1979. In 1995, the company concluded an exclusive sales contract with a silver plating manufacturing company in the United States, and in 2002 registered the trademark "AGposs," a comprehensive brand for silver-plated textiles. The company changed to its current name in 2015, and in 2016 the company's first solution service "hamon" was announced.

Coverage date November 28, 2019

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