September 28, 2009,08:53 +0900(JST) Attending the IWCC General Assembly (Part2)

On the last day of my stay (18th) just after finishing breakfast, I went to do some sightseeing around Florence, a historical city.

At Ponte Vecchio over the Arno RiverAlthough I wanted to visit the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and other numerous historical buildings, I headed straight to the Galleria degli Uffizi via the Ponte Vecchio. This time I intended to learn, from an artistic perspective, about the Renaissance period that flourished from the 15th through to the 16th centuries, drawing on generous support from the House of Medici.

Since I knew that a mere hour would never be enough to see all the works there, I had listed in advance what pieces I didn’t want to miss. They included Sandro Botticelli’s “the Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation,” Raffaello Santi’s “Madonna of the Goldfinch,” Tiziano Vecellio’s “the Venus of Urbino” and so on.

So in the classic way of art appreciation by typical Japanese tourists with jam-packed schedules, I managed to enjoy a short tour of the Gallery.

Without a profound understanding of the Christian dogma and wide-ranging knowledge of Western culture, all the faith, wisdom and ingenuities incorporated in the paintings of those classic masters would not be thoroughly appreciated. Although I know that I should take the time to read up in advance on those works and then view them as a show of my deepest respect for these artistic masters, I’m afraid that, once again, I was unable to do so this time.

In front of the Fountain of Neptune by the Palazzo Vecchio facing Piazza della Signoria, next to the Galleria degli Uffizi

September 25, 2009,15:08 +0900(JST) Attending the IWCC General Assembly (Part1)

Members from Japan   I am the second from the rightThe 2009 General Assembly of the International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC) took place in Florence (Firenze), Italy on the September 16 and 17. I attended the Assembly, mixing with old members to share a frank exchange of opinions on mainly where the global economy is heading and how the copper processing industry should develop. There were interesting presentations made by representatives from various nations, and the following question-and-answer sessions reflected somewhat timely topics. So attending this Assembly was a great learning experience for me.

Regarding trends in the economy and movements in demand for each country and region, most nations - including Western countries - seemed to share the same views; we are finally emerging out of the worst situation induced by the economic crisis since late last year, yet the steps forward remain uncertain.

At a party after the conference   I am the second from the leftIt has become customary to see every member stating in unison with some distress that there is no fundamental solution for drastic changes in the price of copper, which are having a great impact on processors as one of the commodities. As one member suggested, developing alternative products may be an effective countermeasure to such a situation. Regarding the electric wire industry, which consumes 60% of global copper, optical fiber cables are now replacing conventional copper telecommunication cables. Similarly in the electric cable industry, the development of novel materials such as high-temperature superconductors or carbon nanotubes needs to be promoted to ensure a steady supply to end users of high-quality products at stable prices. Listening to these opinions strongly encouraged me once again.

Next year’s Assembly will be held in Shanghai, China; I hope that more encouraging topics will be raised then.

September 24, 2009,15:17 +0900(JST) A Year after Lehman’s Collapse

A year has passed since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Japan’s GDP growth rate, which had once plunged to more than -10%, turned upwards to 2.3% in this April-June fiscal period. Also the Nikkei Index has recovered from its lowest value of 7,054 yen to the 10,000 yen level. Yet the situation remains uncertain, with concerns of a double-dip recession.

According to the announcement by the Cabinet Office, private capital investment in July declined by 9.3% from the previous month to the worst level ever since records had begun in 1987, showing no sign of stopping. Unemployment rates have also been historically high: 9.7% in the U.S., 9.5% in Europe and 5.7% in Japan. These figures are forecast to be even worse if the latent unemployed are included. In its monthly economic report, the government deferred the overall economic assessment for two months and added the comment that “the unemployment rate would be at a record high.” The Japanese economy is becoming increasingly unpredictable with a severe employment situation as a backdrop to sluggish consumer spending and stagnant production.

The current economic lull is resulting from fiscal stimulus by the government to compensate the decline in consumption. Japan’s self-sustaining economic recovery will largely depend on if the Japanese people have a positive outlook of the future. In this current economic state, the Hatoyama Cabinet is highly expected to perform at is best.

Going back in time a little, in his posthumous work the Japanese novelist Shuhei Fujisawa wrote about the restoration in the Yonezawa domain conducted by its ruler Harunori Uesugi (later, Yozan Uesugi, 1751-1822). Yozan was appointed as the ruler of Yonezawa, which was on the brink of financial collapse with its income depleted to 150,000 koku, with 6,000 subjects to feed (equivalent to 1.2 million koku in total). Immediately upon assuming his post, Yozan halved fiscal spending by issuing a law for frugality. At the same time, he promoted the cultivation of new fields, the plantation of three commercial plants (mulberries, Japanese lacquers and paper mulberries), local brocade fabrication and other industries. He also restored local schools to nurture human resources and public willingness so as to revitalize his moribund domain. Remaining faithful to his belief of being a “father of the local people,” Yozan devoted himself to the restoration of his domain to regain hopes for its future and lead it towards an autonomous growth cycle. As described in the novel, some parts of the restoration process were quite challenging and required a degree of struggle by Yozan to achieve success.

Reforming the whole domain involved a great deal of time, but Yozan’s selfless dedication gradually moved the hearts of the people, restored the duties of the domain and repaid all of its debts. These are the reasons for his fame and title as the best governor in the Edo period. Since then, Yozan has been affectionately called the “Father of Restoration” in his home town of Yonezawa, and has also earned esteem even from those abroad such as the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

As the times change, so too do politics and economics. Yet Japan is still facing problems, such as an increasingly aging society with fewer children and the worst budget deficit among developed countries. Not a few people must be feeling dark clouds cast over Japan’s future.

In such tumultuous times, strong leadership is called for; but at the same time, I believe that individuals should also remain courageous and determined to promote innovations on their own without shirking from change. By sharing our knowledge and wisdom together, we will find a way to a brighter future.

To this end, I have reconfirmed the necessity of remaining faithful to our original precepts of “do not act rashly or carelessly in pursuit of easy gains” with the far-reaching perspective of “long-term planning” and concerting our efforts.

September 10, 2009,11:07 +0900(JST) Delightful Gift from China

On the other day, I had a visit from a manager who had just returned from his business trip to China. He came to my office to report on his business trip, holding something like a large scroll under his arm. To my question, he explained that it was a gift from Mr. Wang JianYi, Chairman of Futong Group Co., Ltd. in China. He had carefully carried it with him on the plane.

pictOpening it, I found a gorgeous hanging scroll that was 2 meters long and 80 cm wide. Written on it in powerful brushstrokes was a Chinese poem that looked familiar to me. That was the poem I had presented at the signing ceremony to commemorate the establishment of our joint ventures last October. Mr. Wang had ordered a Chinese calligrapher to write it for me. It was a big surprise.

I couldn’t help bringing it back home to show my wife. Putting aside the quality of my Chinese poem, she was also very much delighted about the wonderful scroll. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough room to hang it at home, and so I will keep it at my company with care.

Even after Lehman’s collapse, the demand for optical-fiber related products has been increasing mainly in the Chinese market, and accordingly, our three venture companies that manufacture and sell optical fibers/cables have been favorably performing since their establishment last year. It seems that Mr. Wang made the hanging scroll in order to express his appreciation for the success. I never felt proud of my poem, yet I composed it in the hope that the business would flourish. I was deeply moved by thinking that Mr. Wang shared the same feeling with me. I am extremely grateful for my partner’s such thoughtfulness and attitude of valuing people-to-people links and friendships.

I immediately sent a thank-you letter to Mr. Wang. We will remain vigilant, so as to win a commanding share in the Chinese market. I am looking forward to toasting our success together next time we meet in the near feature.

[See also]
- China’s ancient capital Hangzhou and West Lake
- Joint ventures with Futong Group Co., Ltd. for optical fiber and optical cable businesses

September 3, 2009,09:10 +0900(JST) Received the Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award

Sumitomo Electric received the third Monodzukuri (Manufacturing) Nippon Grand Award for its high-strength Invar wire co-developed with Sanyo Special Steel Co., Ltd for ultra-high-voltage overhead transmission line. This is the first prize we have ever won in this competition.

Five Award receivers from our companyThe Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Awards are commendations from the Prime Minister to talented human resources and those who play core roles in actual manufacturing and production sites in order to support the growth of Japanese industry and culture. The awards were commenced in 2005 and have been held once every two years. This time, out of 679 applications in total, Prime Minister's Awards were given to five cases, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Awards to 21, Special Awards to 11 and Awards to 72, including five engineers form Sumitomo Electric and another five from Sanyo Special Steel.

Invar, an alloy mainly made of iron and nickel, has been widely used in clocks and other precision instruments because of its low thermal expansion coefficient. Sumitomo Electric has enhanced its durability enough to be used as the core wire of ultra-high-voltage overhead transmission line, instead of conventional steel wire. This Invar alloy wire, used in combination with a conductor incorporating specialized heat-resistant aluminum wire, inhibits heat induced slacking and aluminum deformation in high-voltage cable. Accordingly, transmission volume doubles, while line size remains the same.

Sumitomo Electric, the inventor of this Invar electric wire, developed it to a practical phase in 1980 (in the cooperation with Hitachi Cable, Ltd.) for the first time in the world. This wire is cost effective and environmental friendly in infrastructure building. Specifically, existing electric pylons are reused for the Invar wire, thereby increasing transmission volume economically. Plus, in new infrastructure, the wire, which slackens little and can utilize shorter pylons reduces construction cost and negative impact on the environment.

Since the beginning of the 2000’s, demand for this wire has been increasing in China, Taiwan and other East Asian regions. Recently, we have also been receiving more orders from Middle East and European countries.

High-strength Invar wire for ultra-high-voltage overhead transmission lineThe point of this Award lays in the development and commercialization of a novel alloy which can be processed easily into electric wire, while its toughness is enhanced. Although Sumitomo Electric’s expertise on electric-wire manufacturing served here, this Award would not be won without Sanyo Special Steel’s techniques in special alloy fabrication. I sincerely thank all involved for what they have done to stabilize product quality and mass production. This Award honors the exemplary cooperation of those who have drawn upon and complemented each others’ specialties.

By the way, for many of you, the electric wire will draw up cupper wire. However, aluminum, superior in terms of lightness, is often used for overhead transmission line and we have long been accumulated expertise on aluminum alloy technology. Award receivers this time include a raw material researcher, electric wire specialists from our Osaka Works and an engineer from Sumitomo Electric Toyama Co., Ltd., our group company operating aluminum alloy business for bicycles and automobiles. As demand for lighter vehicles increases with a concern for environmental and energy preservation, aluminum technology will have the key. Now I have high expectations for the further growth of those business sectors.

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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