May 27, 2010,08:47 +0900(JST) Visiting Group Companies in Europe and South America – SEBN
On the way to the IWCC Joint Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, I stopped by our group companies in Europe and South America. It was the first time for me to visit them in years. As the head of the company I took the initiative in acting upon the principle of the three "actuals." These are examining actual sites, actual products and actual situations.
Flying from Osaka, I stopped over in Paris before arriving in Hannover, Germany. It took me a whole day. The first company I paid a visit was Sumitomo Electric Bordnetze GmbH. (SEBN) in Wolfsburg, Germany.
In March 2006 our company acquired SEBN, which manufactures and sells wire harnesses for automobiles. The company produces all the wire harnesses used in Golf and Polo, serving Volkswagen as a main supplier. With sales of 5 million euros and 13000 employees, SEBN operates in 15 countries including Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Morocco, Mexico, and China, and is now establishing a new factory in Tunisia.
I have a special place in my heart for SEBN. This is partly because the acquisition of SEBN was the first and most important mission for me after assuming the presidency of Sumitomo Electric. Although the Lehman shock in 2008 dealt a heavy blow to the European automobile market and drove us to restructure some production bases, the year 2009 showed some signs of recovery. This year, there have been already some concerning factors such as the financial issues of South European countries. Yet, I am highly expecting SEBN’s great leap into the market.
At the company, I received reports from the sales, manufacturing, and development representatives about current situations. This helped deepen my understanding about current circumstances and challenges we had to address. That evening, I had a pleasant and enjoyable time over traditional German cuisine of beers and sausages. I was accompanied by Mr. Bogner, director in charge of R&D; Mr. Kloepffer, director in charge of finance, Mr. Winnen, director in charge of manufacturing, and other local executives as well as our overseas representatives.
Having an informal face-to-face communication at the table is an important way of building good rapport and trust toward a goal. This is especially true if our language, culture, value and background are different.
Although the European automotive market is suffering from severe backdrop triggered by the current economic crisis, we are determined to utilize the technical and intellectual capital from Japan and Europe, so as to progress further.