February 25, 2014,11:35 +0900(JST) A Strong Team is Cheerful!

On February 3, on the invitation of Sumitomo Electric, Akemi Masuda gave a lecture to our staff members. Ms. Masuda used to be such a competitive marathon runner that she once competed in the Olympic Games. Currently, as a sports journalist, she demonstrates her wide range of knowledge and skills before the world, such as explaining marathons and other races on TV and writing newspaper columns. I first met her two years ago. Partly because Sumitomo Electric contributes to the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon as a special sponsor, I asked her to share her experience with our staff, and she readily accepted the offer, making the lecture possible.

The lecture was broadcast live from Itami Works, the main venue, to our other business facilities, enabling more than 500 members to hear it. I myself headed to Itami to listen to the lecture, soon after a meeting at the Osaka head office. My seat was right in front of the speaker’s platform, and Ms. Masuda subsequently told me that it had made her very nervous. However, she did not look so at all, and she impressed the audience with her speech filled with good humor.

In the lecture, she spoke mainly about her race in the Los Angeles Olympic Games, in which she had participated carrying on her shoulders the burden of Japan’s hopes, as well as about what happened after the event. She said that mistakes are an opportunity to learn, that it was important to value everyday life to reach a distant goal, and that it was necessary to remember to appreciate one’s predecessors and the people around you. We were very impressed by her persuasive lecture, which could only have been delivered by a person with a top-level career such as hers.

The title of this blog is “A Strong Team is Cheerful!” Actually, Ms. Masuda used this phrase in the Q&A session after the lecture. All the audience agreed with this simple but succinct comment.

After the lecture, I had a dialogue with her, which is to be covered in the Mainichi Shimbun in March.

February 17, 2014,17:30 +0900(JST) Toward Finishing Spurt after Passing Third Corner

On February 3, Sumitomo Electric released its financial results for the third quarter of fiscal 2013.

Both sales and incomes for the first nine months of fiscal 2013 (April-December) increased from the corresponding period of the previous year.

Our company has been making business restructuring efforts. Intended results of the restructuring have gradually been appearing, even in business departments that had been slumping. However, there are no grounds for excessive optimism because the latest financial results may have partly resulted from the yen's depreciation against the dollar. Earnings results for the third quarter may have been inflated due to exchange gains stemming from a weaker yen. Therefore, I cannot take the latest results at face value. We will continue striving to make the company more financially solid and transform it into a genuinely strong manufacturing company that can generate profits even if the dollar weakens to 80 yen.

We have only two months left before the end of fiscal 2013. I am encouraging all employees to do their best and make a finishing burst of energy while holding the reins tightly until the very end of the year. I appreciate your continued support.

Fact Book FY2013 3rd Edition [PDF:605KB]

February 17, 2014,17:20 +0900(JST) Tips about Business Trips

Recently, I went to Rome on business. The day before my departure, after a meeting in Tokyo, I directly went to Haneda Airport and stayed at the lounge until I left Japan on a 1:00 A.M. flight. I arrived in Rome a little after 9:00 A.M. (local time) on the same day. In the afternoon of the day after my arrival, however, I flew home from Rome via London and Narita. I reached Itami Airport at 8:00 P.M. on the third day.

Although I hoped that the trip could have been a little less tight, since I had an appointment in Japan on the day after I returned to Japan, that tough schedule was unavoidable. Actually, such a business trip schedule is not unusual for me at all. My business trip schedules are always packed. Fortunately, possessing a Mediterranean climate, Rome was much warmer than Japan, making the trip slightly more comfortable.

At the Spanish Steps, close to the hotel where my conference was held. Because of the conference, I couldn’t enjoy a “Roman Holiday” though.

Some readers of my blog tell me that it must be tough to travel from place to place. Actually, I visit many customers and our group’s business facilities throughout Japan, from Hokkaido in the north and Kyushu and Okinawa in the south. It is not rare for me to move between Osaka and Tokyo multiple times per week. Especially in January, my schedule was filled with appointments with customers for New Year’s greetings. My secretary had difficulty in arranging my schedule to the minute.

Last year, I made seven overseas business trips. What makes you physically annoyed on such trips is jet lag and temperature differences. A basic countermeasure for jet lag is, though it depends on the destination, to secure sufficient sleep time during your flight. I sometimes read materials for the business trip during the outward flight, and write the drafts for my blog articles during my homeward travel. But I always try to complete them as quickly as possible in order to secure enough time for sleeping.

With regard to countermeasures for temperature differences, it is necessary, as a matter of course, to prepare clothing appropriate for the climate of your destination. Added to this is to enjoy eating local food. Although strong alcoholic drinks are sometimes served, thanks to my strong liver inherited from my parents, I enjoy such drinks, chatting with my companions. I feel that this helps relieve my stress.

When I make a business trip for a tough negotiation, just the mere thought of the negotiation makes me tired. However, I always try to enjoy the trip itself. If you know some other useful tips for business travel, please let me know.

February 17, 2014,17:15 +0900(JST) Future of the Japanese Manufacturing

On January 20, the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives announced its proposals on the revival and development of Japan as a manufacturing-oriented country, with the key phrase of “FEEL & Re-Design” to improve sensibility in manufacturing and to ensure that new value is created through manufacturing. This topic has been considered for two years by a committee set up for this purpose by the Association with the aim of strengthening the manufacturing sector with a focus on technology and design capabilities. As the chairperson of the committee, I have been engaged in discussions on the theme for a long time.

Asked what the strengths of Japanese manufacturing are, many people will answer high quality and technology. Meanwhile, have you ever felt that the number of buttons on the remote control for a TV or video player is too many? Japanese household electric appliances feature a wide variety of functions which might stimulate and meet customers’ latent needs. However, do customers really have so many latent needs that they want to be satisfied on a daily basis? Japanese companies might have been placing emphasis not on what customers actually need, but on what the companies can do with their high level technologies. Awareness of this issue has led the above-mentioned committee to engage in discussions on the concepts of products’ “functional value” and “sensibility value.”

Functional value presents the relevant product’s value in terms of function, technology, and quality. On the other hand, sensibility value means attractive features of the product that will make users say “This is great!” or “This is exciting!” To ensure that Japanese manufacturing is globally competitive in the future, it is necessary to improve both functional value and sensibility value, while striking the best balance between them. Additionally, calling the ability to enhance them “design capability,” the committee presented three proposals. For details, please check the website of the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives at http://www.kansaidoyukai.or.jp/tabid/325/Default.aspx (Japanese).

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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