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The SHT new plant is characterized by thorough visualization. Sumitomo Electric's technologies have firmly taken root in Thailand.





Established in 1994, Sumitomo Electronic Hardmetal Manufacturing (Thailand) Ltd. (SHT) strives to become the top cutting tool manufacturer, one that can satisfy customers throughout ASEAN countries. In 2005, the company commenced operation of its new plant, which features high roofs to ensure that hot air goes up, so as to improve air conditioning efficiency in the work area. The new plant was also designed to let the sun shine in as much as possible during the daytime. Thanks to its design in pursuit of maximum energy saving, although the new plant is three times the area of the old plant, it consumes only two times more electricity than the old plant.

The concept of the new plant is "a workshop is a showroom." The plant features many glass windows to realize an open, clear and see-through design. The plant pursues energy conservation and security, and features a process line layout that visualizes the flow of workpieces. The plant is also based on the idea that the company is the employees' home. SHT tries to be open not only in the architectural aspect, but also in the management aspect; the employees' uniform designs, including colors, were determined thorough exchange of ideas among local staff members, who also decided color coordination of the company cafeteria and locker rooms, after discussing what colors were pleasant to them. The company has about 210 local staff members, whose average age is 26.1. Of these members, females account for 68%. The entire plant has a young, vibrant atmosphere.

SHT holds a monthly meeting for friendly talk with the president about subjects proposed from the workshop. The plant's efforts toward thorough visualization have proven effective also in removing mental barriers, encouraging local staff to actively propose their opinions. The meeting organizers select various themes, ranging from quality and safety management improvement to the benefit program and working conditions, to ensure that there are no gray zones between labor and management. In the course of continuing such communication, Japanese staff members have learned well about the way of Thai people's thinking and their customs, and have been motivated to create a new corporate culture through Japan-Thai collaboration, while respecting Thai compliance and human rights.

Since machining requires seasoned skills, a technical center has been established within SHT's new plant. The technical center provides an opportunity for young engineers from user companies to fully master the skills and expertise developed by Sumitomo Electric Hardmetal.At the same time, the technical center serves as a place for hands-on education programs for students of Thai-Japanese Association School. Moreover, planning is under way to use the SHT technical center as a training center of the Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology.

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    To conduct business in Thailand, first we must confront the language barrier. Initially I had a very hard time, since it was difficult to communicate with Thai people in English or via interpreters.Through such experience I realized it is especially important to establish trusting relationships with the employees. I have therefore worked to eliminate various barriers by devising an appropriate plant design, and by promoting initiatives for thoroughgoing visualization, so as to ensure that all employees can be open-minded.

    SHT President Junichi Shiraishi

* Interviewed in June 2007.

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