April 28, 2011,14:22 +0900(JST) Glorious Special Award for Group Personnel Working on Post-Disaster Restoration

In the wake of the devastating Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, there are many Sumitomo Electric Group personnel working selflessly to restore damaged facilities, despite extremely difficult daily conditions in the affected areas. I am truly grateful to and proud of them.

I was particularly touched by the bravery of nine individuals who voluntarily engaged in nuclear power plant restoration-related operations, demonstrating their strong sense of duty toward society in the face of this national crisis and serious challenge to the electricity supply, a major pillar of Japan's economic life. To honor them, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. and Sumitomo Densetsu Co., Ltd. have jointly presented them with the Glorious Special Award.

The Sumitomo Electric Group Global Award Ceremony was inaugurated in FY 2006 to honor the personnel who served society in accord with the Sumitomo Spirit and the Sumitomo Electric Group Corporate Principles. This time, deeply moved by the devotion of these people, we created a "Special" category of the Glorious Award to be presented to them.

The nine awardees were each presented with a letter of appreciation, a trophy and a supplementary prize, and a small banquet was held in their honor. The awardees are: Mr. Ishiyama (Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.), Mr. Terada (Sumiden Dengyo Co., Ltd.) and Messrs. Toyoshima, Ojima, Akita, Takeda, Suganumata, Kuraya and Katsumata (Line Engineering Co., Ltd.).

With the nine awardees, each holding a letter of appreciation

The restoration they performed was necessitated following failure of the communication circuit linking Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station with national government organizations and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Head Office. Upon receiving the request for emergency restoration, on March 18 the personnel commenced restoring the OPGW (optical ground wire) installed at the highest part of an electric pylon located 10 km from Fukushima Daiichi-- that is, within the evacuation zone. The OPGW is an extremely important optical fiber communication circuit housed in a lightning-arrester earthing line (overhead ground wire) to protect high-voltage electric power transmission lines from lightning strikes.

The operation lasted about 15 hours, punctuated by aftershocks and challenged by the cold weather at a height of 70 meters above ground. They did a remarkable job, demonstrating true professionalism.

While I talked with the awardees during the banquet, behind their casual words I could sense the pride and confidence they had in their work: when asked how long an emergency evacuation would take, one answered "just a few minutes" while in reality it would normally take one hour. Another said nonchalantly that he could have stood on his hands at that height.

They said that they volunteered to participate in the emergency restoration operation because they had trust in each other that had been built through their usual duties. On the other hand, some of them left for the site without saying anything to their families, so as not to worry them too much. Once the operation was completed, the personnel underwent physical checks, which detected no problem. We who had sent them to the site were quite relieved.

On that day, as I prayed that such disasters - which sent shock waves throughout the world - would not be repeated, I was once again strongly reminded that our Group, and even all of Japanese society, is supported by people like these awardees, who pursue and complete their work with such a strong sense of responsibility.

April 26, 2011,08:46 +0900(JST) Researchers, don’t get too comfortable!

At Sumitomo Electric, we hold several meetings each year in which our R&D personnel report on the progress of their research projects, which are large in number. The meetings are attended by all concerned personnel, including those from the production and sales groups. The other day I attended one such meeting, in which research projects concerning information & communication and automotive-related technologies were reported.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you the details of the meeting since they are classified as trade secrets. On the whole, however, while there were some projects in which I wished to see more progress, I felt that our researchers were doing quite as well as expected.

In recent years, in an increasing number of cases, our customers ask us to carry out R&D projects that combine various technologies. In the report meeting, I was happy to learn that some positive results have come out of inter-departmental projects in which various technologies accumulated within the Company are integrated.

During the meeting I was able to give comments, so I gave the following message to our researchers: “Don’t get too comfortable!”

The reason for my message is this: since the occurrence of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, and having witnessed how Japan was devitalized by this disaster, I often wonder about Japan and its technological prowess. While the magnitude of the disaster far surpassed what had been anticipated, the fact that Japan was forced to borrow robots and unmanned aircraft from other countries to handle the nuclear power plant accidents makes me wonder what has happened to Japan’s technology, which is supposed to be tops in the world. I also recall when, at a Kansai Economic and Management Summit (Kansai Zaikai Seminar), a German participant asked me if Japan was really as safe and secure as it was often said to be.

Currently, the Sumitomo Electric Group is working on the mid-term business plan VISION 2012 with three guiding principles: expanding our global presence, strengthening our leading technologies, and pursuing our global top 3 target. The technical personnel of our respective divisions proudly declare that all of our products are among the best six in the world, if not yet the best three, in their respective categories.

Is this really, really true? I ask myself. It is quite possible that somewhere there are incredible technologies that are unknown to us and that will appear on the markets one day and rapidly dominate the globe, leaving us far behind in the race. This is why I wanted to remind the many researchers and engineers at the meeting to not become too content with our current situation. I also said to them that it is vitally important to determine whether our technologies are truly at the world’s top level and in line with the ongoing paradigm shift; to learn a lesson from what is happening in Japan today, and to review their technological specializations on a global scale and reassess their capabilities. Knowing your adversary and knowing yourself – this is the best way to prepare for battle.

April 20, 2011,09:27 +0900(JST) It's Still There! (My Yew Table)

Someone at our London office contacted me in a hurry about the office furniture that was made of yew. He says that it is probably still there.

Posted in London since February, he had recently gone through the ledger of company assets and discovered that the office furniture from those days, too large to be used in the current office, were stored in a warehouse. He had thought about selling the furniture to an antique shop, and planned to take a look at the actual items.

I asked him to arrange to have my old table shipped to Japan. I'm happy to learn that something from my London years has survived, even after closure of the original office.

They're not using it in London, so I can have it here-- but where should I put it? This is a fun question to work on for a while.

April 15, 2011,09:06 +0900(JST) Yew Tree and Associated Episodes

On April 3 we planted a yew tree on the premises of Itami Works, in a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the facility's founding. Speaking of yew trees, I have another episode I'd like to share with you.

As I already mentioned in this blog, I was once stationed in London, where I worked in a building situated on the street backing onto Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes had once "lived." The building we’d bought as our London base had been the private residence of the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Perhaps it was only to be expected, but the building was totally empty of furniture when we bought it, so I had a local manager arrange to buy tables, chairs and everything else we needed. He took charge of furnishing our office space with quite impressive-looking tables, decorative cabinets and more. I asked what wood my table was made of: "yew tree" was the reply.

At that time, I didn't know this English term, so I looked it up. It turned out to be ichii, also known as araragi, which is a quite familiar timber in Japan as well. I heard that in Japan, the shaku, the ornamental scepters held by aristocrats in olden times as a symbol of their status, was made of yew. In Europe, I was told, this well-known high-grade material is often used for furniture because of its strength and hardness.

That office, which we had purchased with determination to turn our local British corporation into a great enterprise, was sold shortly after my departure from England. The whereabouts of the office furniture, procured with so much care, are unknown today. I still remember how my heart beat faster when I looked at the sum on the furniture invoice…

Some changes are inevitable as times and environments change. On the other hand, what is truly important and valuable should be cherished, retained and passed on to future generations.

(Related post) February 19, 2008 "My Enjoyment of Art (2)"

April 8, 2011,10:00 +0900(JST) Itami Works Celebrates its 70th Anniversary

An annual Shinto event Inari Festival, which also marks the company’s founding, was held last Sunday, April 3 at our three works; Osaka, Itami and Yokohama. Sumitomo Electric was founded in 1897, and is celebrating its 115th anniversary this year. I participated in the festivities at Itami Works this year, where we celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding. About 80 executives gathered to pray for safety and prosperity.

After the Inari Festival, I planted a “yew tree” to commemorate the 70th anniversary. Its leaves are dark green and lanceolate, small flowers bloom around April, and it bears red berries at the beginning of autumn. It grows slowly but steadily and is resistant to cold. The yew tree is called “ichii” in Japanese, which also has a meaning of “No.1.” That is the reason why I chose this tree; wishing for our company to be successful and to become No.1 in the respective business fields.

Offering a sprig of sacred sakaki tree in front of a shrine altarMaking a speech
Itami Works was founded in March, 1941 and is the second oldest works established by Sumitomo Electric. It initially produced the cemented carbide tool “IGETALLOY” and fine piano wires for valve springs used on aircrafts.
Since its establishment, it has served as the core center for the diversification of the Company’s non-electric wire business and has now become the hub of special steel wires, powder metal products, synthetic diamonds, sintered components, and compound semiconductor businesses, with the R&D divisions associated with these businesses.
Furthermore, Sumiden Friend, Ltd., a special subsidiary of the Sumitomo Electric Group, and Technical Training Center, the main facility for manufacturing training, are also located on the premises of Itami Works.

After planting the tree, we promised to strive for the best to connect the past to the future; We must ensure growth and development over the next 70 years by cherishing the 70 years that have passed, which started before our birth, and by making good-faith efforts to live the present.

Although it was a cold day in spring, the establishment festival turned out to be fruitful. We enjoyed the blooming cherry blossoms and shared the same vision towards a brighter future.

Blooming cherry tree over the pond of Itami WorksMaking a speech

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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