HOME > 経営をよくする > Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

Becoming Global Company behind Balls and Bearings [Mikasa]

Secret to Robustness
  • Globally recognized Mikasa brand.
  • Confidence in quality and technical prowess.
  • Global expansion.

A brilliant yellow and royal blue volleyball flashes before your eyes on a volleyball match on TV. This is the Mikasa MVA200 developed by Mikasa, the only official volleyball of the London Olympics. This is the flagship ball of the globally recognized Mikasa brand. The company was the supplier of the official balls in three different sports: Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, and Water Polo in the London Olympics. With this recognition of the Mikasa brand and backed by quality and technical prowess, the company seeks to expand its industrial products such as water-lubricated bearings into the global market. Using water as a lubricant, water-lubricated bearings are gentle on the environment and suited for current trends as environmental regulations become more stringent moving forward. Mikasa is storming onto the limitlessly large global market with technology it has developed at the forefront. Based on the two-pronged approach comprised of its athletic balls, having their production centers moved overseas from Japan, and industrial products aimed for the global market, Mikasa seeks to grow into a global company with an eye toward further steady growth.

Maintaining the World's Highest Quality

Mikasa's ball development dates back to 1932. Starting with the development of a stitch-less, integrally-molded athletic ball, the company filed for a patent four years later. Although Mikasa was not able to manufacture rubber sporting goods during World War II, it resumed production of large athletic balls in 1946. Dodge ball was incorporated in school education, leading to the Mikasa name being widespread across the nation. The company produces various types of balls including volleyballs, soccer balls, basketballs, and handballs. The company has a manufacturing site located in Thailand and one currently under construction in Cambodia, and R&D is conducted in Japan.
Starting with the adoption of its volleyball as the official match ball of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Mikasa volleyball began being used in Federation Internationale de Volleyball international matches. Since the Tokyo Olympics, Mikasa has been the official ball in 11 of 13 Olympiads, and it has also been selected for the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Games. This means Mikasa has maintained the world's highest standard for almost half a century. Company president Saeki says, " Greater content of rubber for a good ball surface," emphasizing Mikasa's basic stance of using quality materials.
Top athletes are able to "identify subtle quality differences" according to Saeki. He says that even small differences are identified as being "off" Although completely identical balls cannot be made, Saeki believes "strong intent of the maker to create the same products" leads to satisfaction from top athletes. While mechanization of production continues, some hand manufacturing steps will always remain. It is a challenge to master handwork, and succession of well-developed skills is difficult. He points out that teaching handwork skills is a big challenge with regard to production in Thailand. Mikasa is working to incorporate various management techniques in Thailand to regulate the manufacturing process. The remark made by someone who viewed Mikasa ball as "work of art" still resonates in Saeki's ears.

Entering the Global Market

In around 1970, number of ball orders became highly volatile depending on the season. To address this, Mikasa began developing water-lubricated rubber bearings. At the time, oil-lubricated technology had become well established, so unfortunately large ships worldwide were using oil lubrication, and water-lubricated rubber bearings were limited to small ships of less than 10,000 to 20,000 tons. Mikasa began developing large bearings that could also be used by large ships, and eventually developed original technology of applying self-lubricating Teflon (polyetrafluoroethylene) to rubber. Mikasa developed high-performance "friction free (FF) bearings" with superior friction characteristics, which are used in the propulsion systems of ships and cooling pumps of thermal and nuclear power plants.
Mikasa is putting effort into selling FF bearings that contribute to lower power consumption. The company has even toured Japan's major power plants and "has been investing effort into overseas sales the past two to three years." As a result of making conference presentations and other efforts, suddenly emails are being received andMr. Saeki says, "We are gradually seeing results." While acknowledging good responses, Mr. Saeki is also deepening his understanding of the world's enormity.
To prevent oil leakage into the ocean, the US has prohibited the use of mineral oils in ship equipment located below the ocean surface such as in anchor chains and lubrication in propulsion systems. Due to this shift in regulation, water lubrication is gaining attention for its environmental friendliness. If this movement spreads worldwide, there is a limitless market overseas, and the potential to expand the customer base will grow. Saeki is hopeful for the future as he has "large dreams" for Mikasa's industrial products including bearings. In addition to the company's improvement in quality and technical prowess, Saeki takes pride in the products produced by the company's employees, with the finish on the bearings so fine he comments, "They are so nice I almost want to ask if it's necessary to make them so nice."

Official Balls of the London Olympics (From left: water polo, volleyball, beach volleyball)

Official Balls of the London Olympics
(From left: water polo, volleyball, beach volleyball)

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Key Point is Foreign Market

Mikasa has formulated a two-pronged approach with products of different fields--balls made of rubber and industrial products such as bearings. The production center of globally renowned Mikasa balls has been transferred overseas. Just as Saeki believes "Handwork is a challenge," maintaining quality equivalent to domestically manufactured products will be an issue. As for industrial products that are receiving a lift for their environmental qualities, while growth can be anticipated, the ability to secure and train overseas sales employees will be a big key. These are skills that are not attained quickly. It will depend on steadily making progress one step at a time.

Company Data

President:Taketoshi Saeki

President:Taketoshi Saeki

Company name Mikasa Corporation
President Taketoshi Saeki
Industry Type Rubber products
Address 3-11-2 Kusunokicho, Nishi-ku, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture
Phone 082-237-5145

Printing day:December 26, 2013

Recent Posts