BreakThrough Study Idea

Use and Throw Plastic Umbrellas - Are Japanese People Headed in the Correct Direction? ~ Recommending Retrofit ~Hirokazu Taniguchii

<Series 1 / complete>


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Nowadays, “Retrofit” has been gaining attention in many industrial fields. “Retrofit” makes it possible to extend the service life and improve performance by replacing parts that have deteriorated in machines, etc. or by adding new parts. In this part, we spoke with Mr. Hirokazu Taniguchi, Managing Director of the Energy Conservation Center, an organization engaged in the popularization of “Retrofit” from the perspective of energy conservation.

Warning to Japanese People Who Use and Throw Plastic Umbrellas

It is said that during the Edo period, Japan was the best country in energy conservation and carefully used things in a way that was environmentally friendly. Now, no other country uses and throws away things as much as Japan. For example, the number of umbrellas used in Japan is by far the highest in the world, most of which are plastic umbrellas. When a slightly strong wind blows, broken umbrellas are scattered all over the town. This is unlike Europe where custom-made umbrellas are used carefully for a lifetime. There used to be repair shops around the town to repair home appliances, but now it is common to buy new ones when they malfunction. Even in the case of cars, many people in Japan change their cars when a new model is released, but in Europe, usually vehicles are used for over 200,000 kilometers by replacing parts, and the sense of sustainability is rooted among the public. Even manufacturers are actively engaged in such initiatives for which they have been highly acclaimed.

From this perspective can Japan be called an advanced country? I wonder since when Japan became a society where use and throw is considered natural to this extent. I think it is high time that we change our thinking. “Retrofit” is a practical idea to bring this changeover.

What is “Retrofit”

Periodic maintenance, inspection, and overhaul are indispensable for equipment and machinery in buildings, factories, etc., to maintain their performance and use them safely for an extended period. Also, in the long run, equipment must be replaced with a new one, requiring substantial costs and time for the replacement. On the other hand, improving performance and reliability by updating only a part of the machinery and equipment or adding components, etc. is called “Retrofit”, which is drawing attention in various fields. Until now, “Retrofit” was mainly popular in fields such as machine tools and construction. The factors due to which many industrial sectors are paying attention to “Retrofit” is because of the significant reduction in costs and construction period compared to full replacement of the equipment etc. in addition to being environmentally friendly with a notable decrease in industrial wastes. Also, the demand for products due to the recent economic recovery is considered to have boosted the market.

Realization of “Sustainable Society” Through Popularization of “Retrofit”

The Energy Conservation Center conducts energy conservation diagnostics for many businesses every year. Broadly, two energy conservation measures are proposed, namely, “Operation improvement” and “Equipment upgrade”. Operations improvement is to aim at conserving energy, for example, by changing the air conditioning temperature, etc., while equipment upgrade is to replace existing machinery with a high-efficiency one to save energy. Equipment upgrade can conserve energy without much effort, but it cannot be adopted readily due to higher costs and extended construction period. “Retrofit” provides a high-level solution to this problem. Partial replacement of parts and using the equipment for as long as possible also reduces waste. Improving the energy saving performance by using high-performance parts at locations with problems and for important components of machines, in other words, popularizing “Retrofit”, will contribute to reducing environmental burden, conserving of the global environment, and lead to the “Making of a sustainable society”.

Next time I will talk about the “Benefits of retrofit”, and “Initiatives by enterprises who have adopted retrofit”


○ “Retrofit” in this series
The concept of “Retrofit” includes “Overhaul”, “Repair/Service”, and “Minor changes” in a broad sense. However, in this series, “Retrofit” is defined and treated as given below.

To exceed the previous performance by replacement of components in machinery that have deteriorated due to aging or to add new functions by addition of parts.


Use and Throw Plastic Umbrellas - Are Japanese People Headed in the Correct Direction? ~ Recommending Retrofit ~

“Retrofit” – A Business Opportunity for Small and Medium Enterprises! ~ Recommending Retrofit ~

Hirokazu Taniguchi
Energy Conservation Center
Managing Director, Doctor of Engineering

Mr. Taniguchi majored in physical metallurgy at the University. By simulating the diffusion behavior of solute atoms in metals using a computer, he clarified the relationship with physical properties. (Graduated in 1981)
He worked with a steel manufacturer after graduation where his responsibility was the development of converters and continuous casting equipment used in the steelmaking process, new product development of high strength steel sheets for automobiles, and design of manufacturing equipment from materials. His next responsibility was research planning at the headquarters division and was a member of the international project for steel-based body weight reduction of vehicles where he studied body structures for the next generation vehicles.
After joining the Energy Conservation Center in 2010, he has been involved in policy planning support, guidance to businesses on energy conservation, and development of energy conservation tools, etc. to date.

<The Energy Conservation Center>
A group of experts who contribute to society through a wide range of activities such as diagnostics and advice to factories and buildings on energy conservation, issuing information on energy saving, and support for nurturing energy conservation human resources, etc
For details, please visit our Website

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