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Don't Let Okinawa's Sheet Metal Processing Disappear to Other Prefectures! [Kaiho Bender Industry]

Secret to Robustness
  • Unified production, from design to finishing and assembly.
  • Proactive investment in equipment leads to new orders.
  • Work lost to other prefectures brought back to Okinawa through technological capabilities.

The plant is a salesperson. Kaiho Bender Industry is involved in metal processing in Okinawa, primarily construction fittings. Its strengths are a unified production system and proactive investment, making it one of Okinawa's top metal processors, despite being a small business with about 60 employees. Kaiho has grown by energetically winning orders for work that, until now, had often gone to companies outside Okinawa. The company's President, Hirotaka Kamiya, says emphatically: "We won't be beaten by mainlanders."

Kaiho is based in an industrial park 10 km south of Naha Airport. Kamiya, who worked at a local shutter company, started doing shutter installation independently in 1985. He grew his business while extending it to metal processing, and in 2012, he moved it to the present site. Currently, Kaiho has two plants, which implement a unified processing system comprising design, cutting, press-forming, assembly, and finishing. Managing Director Masamitsu Noborikawa says proudly: "In Okinawa, there are only 2-3 companies that do all stages up to bake-finishing."

900 clients annually

Over half of Kaiho's revenue comes from the manufacture of construction fittings such as sashes and steel doors. Twenty companies, including large construction companies and major shutter makers, account for 70-80% of revenue. On the other hand, Kaiho has 800-900 clients annually. That's because it covers a wide range, from government offices to restaurants, and even small metal items for individual homes. Recently in particular, Kaiho has received growing orders from large construction companies that had previously placed their orders outside Okinawa. Consequently, Kaiho's revenue has increased 10% year-on-year.

Kaiho's integrated production system is an advantage because such systems haven't been well-established in Okinawa's manufacturing industry. Of course, Okinawa has processing companies, but due to its island situation, which imposes constraints on transportation and delivery time, few Okinawan companies have advanced into markets beyond the prefecture. Conversely, work in Okinawa has customarily gone to companies outside the prefecture.

That fact was noticed by Kaiho Bender Industry. As a business that ordered work itself, Kaiho wanted orders to go to Okinawan companies if possible, rather than companies outside Okinawa, which had high shipping costs and long delivery times. Kaiho's selling point was "doing jobs that take a mainland company a month in two weeks." Doing all stages of processing in-house also minimizes outsourcing costs. Customers benefit from lower prices, while Kaiho can be sure of earnings, too. As a result of this approach, Kaiho has succeeded in halting the loss of work to outside Okinawa.

Says Kamiya: "To achieve that, machinery is essential." Proactive investment in equipment is another of Kaiho's strengths. Kamiya is emphatic about this point: "Even small businesses should update their equipment aggressively. Some people are proud of keeping old equipment going, but looking after things is a different issue from upgrading production facilities."

Equipment that brings in work

Kamiya's words reflect his feeling for how "equipment brings in work" as well as his pursuit of production efficiency. In 2004, Kaiho installed a laser cutter from Trumpf, a German manufacturer. This made it possible to process stainless steel up to 12 mm thick and iron 19 mm thick. The cutter cost 80 million yen, but now, its presence symbolizes Kaiho. It has succeeded in distinguishing Kaiho as the only company in Okinawa with such equipment.

Kaiho energetically shows customers round its plants. When customers see the equipment, they ask, "Can it do this kind of thing?", starting a new deal on the spot. In this way, "the plant is a salesperson." Especially since moving to the new plant, Kaiho has improved not just its equipment performance, but its employees' working environment as well. Noborikawa, who's in charge of sales, says with a laugh: "The President says that all salespeople need to do is bring customers to the plant."

Also, Noborikawa emphasizes: "From now on, we will be proactive as a manufacturer. We would like to sell high technology for high prices." While manufacturing to order for projects such as public works bids, Kaiho also envisages manufacturing its current products utilizing its integrated production system, in order to build a stable revenue base. The company is determined to stop demand within Okinawa from heading outside the prefecture. Kamiya is keen to make inroads into the market: "There's still a lot of work to be gotten in Okinawa."

Laser cutters in the factory

Laser cutters in the factory

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Working together to improve manufacturing by small businesses

When Kaiho asks other companies to process products, it doesn't use the word "subcontractor" at all; it refers to such companies as "collaborators." That's based on the idea that Kaiho simply accepts payment from the client on behalf of the other company. In Okinawa, infrastructure for the manufacturing industry is advanced, but small manufacturers still need to improve their quality level. To achieve that, it's essential for businesses to upgrade their technology by working together. We hope that Kaiho continues to play a role in advancing Okinawa's manufacturing industry.

Company Data

Noborikawa Masamitsu

Noborikawa Masamitsu

Company name Kaiho Bender Industry Inc.
President Hirotaka Kamiya
Industry Type Processing and manufacture of metal products
Address 5-14-9 Nishizaki-cho, Itoman-shi, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Phone 098-994-7465

Printing day:April 7, 2014

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