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Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

Global development of drilling tools with on-site needs in mind [ Unika Holdings]

Secret to Robustness
  • Development that anticipates the processing customers require.
  • Sights set on retail in expectation of market changes.
  • Smooth business development through local leadership at offshore centers.

Unika Holdings develops electric drilling tools, namely concrete drills and hole saws, and markets them globally. It opened a China center in 1995, and a Vietnam center in 1997, building a brand in the Asian market ahead of rivals. President Yoshinori Yasumi describes the company's vision: "Drilling tools are essential for building national infrastructure, so there is a wide range of needs in line with local characteristics. From advanced nations to emerging economies, we implement and deliver the products needed on construction sites."

Proposals to customers anticipate upcoming needs

Unika was founded in 1965. President Yasumi noticed "rising demand from Japan's construction rush" for electric concrete drills from Europe and America. Since the company developed its own concrete drills in 1971, it has expanded its line-up of construction tools incorporating new materials and multiple functions. Yasumi describes his basic approach: "What kind of building is planned on a site? What kind of processing will be necessary? By anticipating market needs, we can suggest the latest tools, which will make customers happy."

What makes perceptive product offerings possible is Unika's integrated system for development, manufacturing, and sales. Sales staff who visit construction sites communicate the information they obtain to the development division, so Unika keeps working on tools that are one step ahead. The manufacturing division uses automation as much as possible, and implements rigorous quality control for each process, to minimize the occurrence of defective products. Also, if a customer is dissatisfied with a product, in principle, Unika will replace it free of charge. Yasumi explains: "Even if there's a problem with the way a tool was used, our role includes letting the customer know that. Naturally, product returns entail costs, but it's more important for us to gain customers' trust. Also, defective products that get returned constitute important information that leads to improvements."

Unika also has a unique strategy regarding sales channels. While its main customers are construction companies, about 20% of its revenue comes from retailers such as home centers. Yasumi explains: "Since the 'bubble,' we've thought that good conditions for general construction companies won't last long. When national infrastructure projects end, demand will fall. We considered that, in the future, small customers would increase more than large ones. We've skillfully shifted to superstores, while attaching importance to our product share at hardware stores and the like."

Results gained overseas by entrusting work to local staff

That kind of foresight is also effective in overseas development. Yasumi planned to globalize Unika's business at an early stage, anticipating that the company would reach a ceiling in the domestic market. When Unika entered the Chinese market, it took the approach of building business infrastructure while minimizing investment. It invited several companies to operate factory sites and vehicles jointly. Yasumi looks back: "It's important for small businesses not to overreach at first. We took the same approach when we entered the Vietnamese market, and ultimately, that led to us operating a rental plant, Unika Vie-Pan."

Unika's India center also became a local subsidiary in 2013, with a view to extending business development to the Middle and Near East and Africa. Yasumi emphasizes: "Because building materials and structures differ depending on factors such as climate, we develop tools to match each region." Unika plans to expand its line-up to cover not just emerging economies, but also Europe, by designing products to meet environmental regulations for renovated structures.

The key to a smooth offshore strategy is thorough utilization of local human resources. At Unika's centers in China, Vietnam, and India, managers and all other employees are hired locally. Says Yasumi: "Results emerge in any country when staff take pride in their own work, rather than feeling they've been hired by a Japanese company." Offshore business still only accounts for about 15% of Unika Holdings' revenue overall, but the goal is 50% in five years' time. Manufacturing for emerging markets is done offshore, and manufacturing for the Japanese, European, and American markets is done in Japan. In this way, Unika intends to ensure a profit from each market.

Dust-suction drill system, which suctions dust away while drilling holes in concrete, keeping the work environment clean

Dust-suction drill system, which suctions dust away while drilling holes in concrete, keeping the work environment clean

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Consistent foresight and on-site practicality

Unika's business development is kept relevant to changing times by Yasumi's foresight and on-site practicality. Management that emphasizes front-line practicality is evident in Unika's customer-centric development, opening of sales channels to smaller customers, and entrustment of offshore development to local staff. The company's social contribution projects are also energetic, including the opening of Vie-Pan Technopark, an industrial park for Japanese-affiliated small businesses, in collaboration with Ho Chi Minh City.

Company Data

President: Yoshinori Yasumi

Yoshinori Yasumi

Company name Unika Holdings Co., Ltd.
President Yoshinori Yasumi
Industry Type Manufacture and sale of concrete drills and other power tools
Address 2-10-6 Iwamotocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Phone 03-3864-8722

Printing day:April 8, 2014

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