February 27, 2009,09:29 +0900(JST) Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Yorozu! (1)

I went to Hokkaido in early February to exchange New Year's greetings with local folks, as I do every year, and also to present Mr. Toshio Yorozu, former mayor of Naie Town, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year, with a letter of appreciation on behalf of Sumitomo Electric. Ever since the establishment of Hokkaido Sumiden Precision Co., Ltd. (NSS), our group's first business base in Hokkaido, Mr. Yorozu has provided generous support to our group and its business development in Hokkaido. In this entry and the subsequent one, I'd like to tell you about the ties between Mr. Yorozu and Sumitomo Electric.

According to Mr. Yorozu's autobiography “Yorozu Toshio Hyakusai no Seishun” (Toshio Yorozu 100 Years of Youth), he was born in 1909 in Naie, had a brush with death in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (the Soviet-Japan border war, also known as the "Nomonhan Incident") in 1939, fought in the Pacific War, returned to Naie after the War and took part in establishing Agricultural Cooperatives there.

In May 1967, he was elected mayor of Naie, serving his hometown in that post for four terms, or 16 years, with noble ideals, deep insight and foresightedness, contributing greatly to the town's development. He was made Naie's Honorary Citizen in 1984 and was decorated with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in 1985.

Today, the great man is still active as Chairman of Yoshizumi Coal Mining Co., Ltd. and President of Naie Development Co., Ltd. Broad-minded, openhearted, caring, humorous and honest, Mr. Yorozu charms everyone he meets. I also admire and look up to him whole-heartedly.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the commencement of NSS operationSumitomo Electric encountered Mr. Yorozu when, as the mayor of Naie Town, he was busily working on the town's revitalization following the closure of Sumitomo Naie Coal Mine. The President of Sumitomo Coal Mining Co., Ltd., and the Senior Managing Director of Sumitomo Electric at the time, had been classmates in junior and senior high schools and college, and it was proposed between them that the gap left by Sumitomo Coal Mining’s departure from Naie be filled by another Sumitomo Group company. Mayor Yorozu then began soliciting, emphasizing his town's advantageous features including land and water availability, transportation convenience and climatic conditions that were particularly well suited to powder alloy manufacture. Finally, Mr. Masao Kamei - then President of Sumitomo Electric - was persuaded, partly because of Mr. Yorozu's personality, and in 1972 decided to establish NSS in Naie. So our presence in Hokkaido today is largely attributable to Mr. Yorozu.

Aerial photo of NSS and HKENSS started operation in 1980, eight years later than originally scheduled, due to the impact of the oil crises. This delayed start was in fact a blessing in disguise, for it enabled the company to start one of the world's most advanced factories in the area, using technological developments that had been realized in the meantime. NSS quickly developed into a powder alloy manufacturing company of medium standing.

This later resulted in the birth of Hokkaido Electric Ind., Ltd. (HKE) in 1988. Today, NSS and HKE together employ about 500 people, as one of the largest companies in the region. We are truly grateful to Mr. Yorozu, Mr. Kita - the present mayor - and residents of Naie Town, for their warm support and understanding.

February 25, 2009,16:32 +0900(JST) New Year's meeting in Okinawa

Taiwan cherry treesToday, I'd like to tell you about an event that I attended a little while ago, at the end of January, when Taiwan cherry trees were in full blossom in Okinawa Prefecture.

Each year for over 30 years, Sumitomo Electric Group has organized (organized by 10 group member companies*) a New Year's meeting in Okinawa, inviting some 100 major customers in the Okinawa area. Since first attending this New Year's meeting in 2000, the year of the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, I have come to look forward to visiting Okinawa on that occasion. The last meeting was my tenth.

Mr. Minei's speechOkinawa reverted to Japan in 1972; Sumitomo Electric opened its first sales office in Okinawa immediately afterward. In those days, Okinawa did not have well-developed infrastructure, and was still in socioeconomic turmoil. As our company gradually became established in Okinawa and participated in local infrastructural development, including power supply and communications systems, Mr. Masao Kamei, Sumitomo Electric’s president in those days, had the idea of starting the New Year's meeting, partly in response to customers' requests.

At this year's meeting, 86-year-old Mr. Masaharu Minei (former Deputy Governor of Okinawa and former Chairman of Okinawa Electric Power Company Inc.) proposed a toast and gave us extremely kind words, saying that he wouldn’t for any reason miss this event, which he looks forward to attending every year, for the sake of Sumitomo Electric, which has contributed so much for Okinawa's development.

I believe that we are honored with such kind words because the company's elders have always worked in accordance with the Sumitomo Business Spirit of "placing importance on integrity and sound management" and "profiting for self and others, private and public interests, are one and the same." Okinawa's local economy still seems to have problems, but there is also bright news, about the number of annual tourists exceeding 6 million persons, and emerging IT and other new industries. We hope to continue contributing to Okinawa's development, mainly in the domain of infrastructure improvement.

Me, representing the co-organizersEvery time I go to Okinawa prefecture I am deeply touched by the warm hospitality. I think there's much we can learn from Okinawan hospitality, particularly in present society, in which the family structure is changing, the sense of local community solidarity is weakening, and interpersonal relationships seem to be becoming less intimate due to advances in computer networks.

In this connection, I'd like to restate one of the three requests I made to Sumitomo Electric people at the beginning of this year-- that is, making a cheerful workplace alive with the spirit of compassion for one another. I strongly feel that especially during these difficult times we truly need to engage in our work with a spirit of respect, understanding and compassion toward others. I feel inspired by the Okinawan people, who have undergone serious hardships in their past history and yet manage to maintain their cheerfulness and their compassion for others. I hope that our Group’s people can do likewise, and overcome this difficult period together, in a spirit of mutual compassion.

I was told that in the second month of the lunar calendar, when seasons change from winter to spring, Okinawa has days of rough weather called “ningachi kajimai” (whirlwind in the second month) before the arrival of the refreshing spring season the Okinawan people call “urizun.” The current economic climate can be indeed compared to rough weather. I hope to survive this winter weather in the warm spirit of compassion and solidarity, and to eventually emerge from this dark tunnel and celebrate the arrival of a season of growth and prosperity.

* Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.; Nissin Electric Co., Ltd.; Sumitomo Densetsu Co., Ltd.; Commuture Corp.; Broad Net Mux Corp.; Sumitomo Electric System Solutions Co., Ltd.; Sumitomo (SEI) Steel Wire Corp.; Sumiden Tomita Shoji Co., Ltd.; J-Power Systems Corp.; Dyden Corp.

February 23, 2009,08:40 +0900(JST) Global Manager Development Program in Japan

Two weeks ago, we invited some managers of our overseas affiliated companies to Japan for three days of training officially known as the Global Manager Development Program. This program began in 2007; the most recent one was the second.

The participantsIn the second program we received eight managers from six countries: Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and USA.

On Day 1, the party visited Yokohama Works to observe manufacturing plants for optical fiber cables and other products, then moved to Minami Hakone Seminar House to hear lectures on Sumitomo Electric Group's outline, history, business spirit and VISION 2012.

In the morning on Day 2, the party attended lectures on the global personnel system, research and development trends and legal compliance. In the afternoon, they held discussions in two groups of four persons each on two topics: "what to do to use, develop and activate human resources from a global perspective as Sumitomo Electric Group" and "what to do so that Sumitomo Electric philosophy can be shared by all Group employees," concluding with proposals.

On Day 3 (final day), the participants went to Kyoto to visit Sumitomo Yuhoen Villa, a place closely associated with Sumitomo's history, and then went to the Head Office in Osaka to present their proposals, stemming from the previous day's discussions, to the company executives in a report meeting.

As you can imagine, the participants breezed through their tight schedule, and I suppose that they had to work hard to absorb so many things during such a short period. I myself met them when I gave them a talk and during a welcome reception on Day 1, and at the report meeting and a party on the last day.

A scene from the group discussionsIn the group discussions on Day 2, a Japanese manager joined each group as facilitator. I was told later that everyone worked very hard, and that the heated discussions continued well beyond the scheduled ending time at 18:00, until 22:00. I could feel the participants' enthusiasm in the proposals they presented at the report meeting, as to the need for global criteria for human resource management, better education based on such criteria, concrete ideas for spreading The Sumitomo Business Spirit in local affiliates, and so forth. Despite the limited time for their presentations, I found their dedication strongly encouraging. An active question-and-answer session also took place, and I sincerely hope that those discussions and proposals will lead to various future measures for improvement.

Presently, our group operates in about 30 countries, where, in addition to those dispatched from Japan, some 300 managers from diverse nationalities work. One major objective of the Global Manager Development Program is to have these Global Managers deepen their understanding of Sumitomo Electric Group as a whole and its philosophy and Business Spirit, and play the key role in spreading them locally in their respective companies. In addition, I think that this was a great opportunity for them to meet - even for the very short period of three days - colleagues from other parts of the world whom they rarely meet due to geographical distances, and differences in duties and areas of business. I hope that their participation in the program, their learning together, discussing and eating and drinking together, will further solidify Sumitomo Electric Group people's sense of unity as one global corporate group.

February 18, 2009,09:30 +0900(JST) Athletics practice in Itami City -- thank you Mr. Koji Ito!

On Saturday, February 14, I joined some junior high school students in practicing athletics in the framework of Sumitomo Electric's community service program, and had an enjoyable and invigorating workout for the first time in a long while.

As I mentioned in this blog last autumn, since November 2008 Sumitomo Electric has been holding monthly athletics practice for junior high school students in Itami City in collaboration with the city's Athletics Association. Invited as instructor was Mr. Koji Ito, the Japanese record holder in the 100-meter sprint and Associate Professor at Konan University. Last week was my second participation in the practice.

Mr.Ito, instructing the participantsThe practice was scheduled to start at ten o'clock, but I was very motivated and arrived at Sumitomo Multi-purpose Sports Field in Itami 30 minutes early. The practice ground was not practicable, due to the previous day's rain, so we met in the gym for indoor training. I believe it was a great opportunity for junior high school students hoping to become high-level competitive athletes in the future, to learn directly from Mr. Ito how to work out on rainy days.

As in my previous participation, I was with some 100 junior high school students doing the training, which I found to be quite useful and significant. We started by limbering up and learned how to move efficiently, without wasting energy, while training the core of the body and maintaining balance, in addition to other training methods that Mr. Ito has studied for many years. Since I had pushed myself a little too hard the last time, I started out carefully controlling myself. In the final interval runs, however, I put in all my strength and was able to run - I'm happy to say - in beautiful form.

Me, speaking enthusiastically in front of junior high school studentsMr. Ito said to the young participants that physical power and techniques are naturally required of those who wish to become high-level athletes, but that such factors would comprise only about 15% of what was really necessary; the other 85% or so would have to come from mental strength and determination. He said that it was therefore important to improve and maintain one's concentration through training by constant daily efforts, even to acquiring the attitude of listening to others attentively. He also said that one must be strongly determined to win in order to improve, and that it is really important to stay determined in that way.

I find certain commonalities between what is required of top-level competitive athletes and what is required of us in business management. To put a business on track and win trust from customers and partners despite severe economic conditions, strategies and expertise are naturally essential; but in the end, perseverance and determination are the keys to success. Listening to Mr. Ito, I felt newly motivated to tackle the challenges of business management, which I had temporarily put aside while working out.

Getting back to the subject of the junior high school students, I found their progress truly remarkable. People from Itami City's Athletics Association told me that one of the participants ranked fourth in the 60-meter hurdle race in the 2009 Japan Junior Indoor Track and Field Osaka Meet held in February. This was a result of his daily training, needless to say, but it was also enforced by our program. It was a very encouraging piece of news for all of us involved in the program, showing that the program’s effects were already manifesting in such excellent performance.

Our Itami Works is located in an extremely favorable environment, surrounded by residential areas and with Koyaike Park nearby. Itami Works has steadily developed, thanks to many years of local residents' support and understanding. We started the athletics practice as part of our community service program, to express our gratitude to the local community. It would be most gratifying if, through such activities, ties between local residents and Sumitomo Electric were to become stronger and closer. I also hope that these activities encourage young people, who will lead the future, to find their future dreams and advance strongly toward their goals.

After two hours of intense training, we sat down for lunch with Mr. Ito, who had kindly accepted to serve as instructor despite his busy work at the university and his speaking engagements.

Some former members of Sumitomo Electric athletic club also participated, and we renewed old friendships. Some of them had changed a bit, getting rounder around the waist or showing greater difficulty lifting their legs, but their enthusiasm for track and field was the same as when they were active athletes. Meanwhile, others were record holders in the 100 and 200-meter sprints in Osaka Prefecture's Masters Track and Field Championships, and meeting with them was a good occasion to increase my motivation. I particularly enjoyed my drink after the workout, which tasted quite different from drinks I have on business-related occasions.

While I enjoyed drinking and talking with athletes who were constantly testing their limits, another two hours quickly passed, and I ended up absorbing more drinks than the water I had perspired during the athletic practice.

The practice came to its end on this fourth meeting. I would like to again thank all the people involved for their hard efforts regarding this program.

February 13, 2009,09:43 +0900(JST) MKP, GKP and KKP

In my previous entry I mentioned MKP, GKP and KKP, recently established to accelerate two of the three management principles: "expanded and deeper internal solidification" and "educational rearmament." Today, I'd like to tell you more about those three acronyms, since I'm sure they sound unusual to you.

MKP, GKP and KKP are the name of practical training programs aimed at the group's constitutional reinforcement in SEQCDD, that is, Safety, Environment, Quality, Cost, Delivery and Development, and are mainly organized by the Technical Training Center (TTC), established on the premises of Itami Works in October 2009, as already indicated in this blog. The TTC, Sumitomo Electric Group's training center for manufacturing personnel, offers over 100 training programs for different ranks, functions, requirements and so on.

The official names of MKP and GKP are, respectively, Monozukuri Kakushin Pro Jissen Dojo (Manufacturing Innovation Professionals' Workshop) and Genba Kaizen Pro Jissen Dojo (On-site Improvement Professionals' Workshop). These programs are designed to train professionals in charge of manufacturing innovation and improvement, through the problem-solving process of actual SEQCDD challenges.

Manufacturing diagnosis at a factory in MKPIn MKP, about 30 participants are selected each year from among engineers who have been working in the company for about 15 years (in positions ranging from department assistant manager to section assistant manager) and are promising candidates for future factory director or manufacturing division chief positions. First they undergo three weeks of collective training, followed by individual projects (pursued in pairs) on a company-wide theme for a period ranging from six months to two years. In this workshop, a workshop not only in name, participants specifically develop their ability to act through theoretical studies and actual problem solving. In this manner the program seeks to train future leaders who will lead different divisions' overall innovations, while at the same time tackling essential SEQCDD challenges that have not been handled thus far.

Already in mid-January, MKP participants had begun working on eight themes, including long-term challenges of great importance for our group, such as efforts toward zero in-process defects in the manufacturing of wires for electronic equipment, and total cost reduction via automobile component production process review.

GKP is a made-for-production-floor-staff version of MKP. About 60 participants are selected from among line leaders, or those in equivalent posts with 15 years' service in the company (candidates for team leaders) and are divided into pairs to work on several themes for three months. In this manner, the program aims at training leaders who will promote improvement activities at manufacturing bases around the world, while having these leaders work on SEQCDD problems. GKP is expected to start in mid-February, to work on important themes presented from different factories, such as incorporating cellular production system into inspection procedures, reducing tool product manufacturing lead time, and achieving zero defects in industrial material products.

A KKP classAs for KKP, it stands for Monozukuri Kiban Kyoka Program or Manufacturing Foundation Reinforcement Program. This is a training program in which all the members of a manufacturing site participate, to improve the fundamental manufacturing ability of the entire factory. The aim of this program is to reinforce the very foundation and starting point of a manufacturing company - the factory - by making all on-site manufacturing personnel acutely aware of how their operation should be, in terms of "SEQCDD," establish or revise standards if necessary, and observe what has been agreed on.

In promoting KKP, we have in mind the idea of establishing manufacturing standards to define how a manufacturing factory should be and expand the standards horizontally group-wide on a global scale. KKP is intended for participation by all the production staff members of each manufacturing site. Participants spend the first week attending knowledge-intensive lectures, followed by one month of practice and actual improvement of their own workplace by themselves. KKP began in mid-January, first in Itami, followed in succession by factories throughout Japan, including those of group companies in Kumatori, Saga, Utsunomiya, Muroran, Okayama etc. Each month some 500 manufacturing site employees - 6000 per year - are expected to take part in the program and to actually work on improvement.

I have always encouraged you Sumitomo Electric employees to continue improving yourselves and your working performance. Meanwhile, the "SEI University" has been improved in both its tangible and intangible aspects. As I wrote in my previous entry, it is up to individual employees' ability, and how they improve it, that determines whether or not we can come out of this difficult period and make a fresh new start for greater progress. Those training programs have been initiated for this purpose, and I expect much from them.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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