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

Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN


Developing and Manufacturing 50 Rifle Scope Models Per Year [Light Optical Works]

Secret to Robustness
  • Manufacturing rifle scopes with high durability and precision.
  • Building a consistent production system to handle everything from developments to manufacturing and overseas shipment.
  • Reinforced its design department to enable the development of 50 new models per year.

Technology that Cannot Be Imitated in Developing Countries

The main business of Light Optical Works (Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture) is OEM (original equipment manufacturer) production of binoculars and rifle scopes used in competitions and hunting. Founded in 1956, the company started by manufacturing binoculars and microscopes. Later however, the company learned from a U.S. military officer who was an acquaintance of founder Masatomi Iwanami's grandfather that "the U.S. rifle market is going to grow moving forward." With that, Light Optical Works ventured into the manufacture of rifle scopes. When the company was finally able to perfect a product by repeatedly incorporating improvements into a prototype, a U.S. rifle manufacturer who was impressed by the "high quality and low cost" decided to do business with the company, and since then, Light Optical Works has been engaged in the production of rifle scopes.
Currently, the company exports 98% of its products overseas. Eighty percent of those exports are destined for the United States, and the main customers are primarily European and U.S. companies. The market for products used in rifle competitions in particular continues to grow in the United States, and President Masatomi Iwanami has high expectations for the future demand trend. "About 10 years ago, the popularity of a rifle competition called '3-Gun Shooting' began to grow. As a result, young people are interested in this sport, and demand is really growing."
Rifle scopes are made up of a large number of parts, with approximately 150 parts per scope. According to President Iwanami, "Rifle scopes have to be able to withstand 10,000 shots while maintaining precision, so right now rifle scopes can't be easily manufactured in developing countries." When a rifle is shot, it is exposed to 1,000 G-forces (gravitational acceleration), and thus for a scope to maintain impact resistance, it must be made of a combination of high precision parts.
In order to meet diverse customer needs, three or four years ago, Light Optical Works expanded its design department and created an organization that can develop 50 new models per year. "By launching high value added products through the development of new products, we are able to maintain our prices, and we increased our ability to deal with a strong yen." (President Iwanami) From an equipment perspective, the company is endeavoring to further improve its machine processing precision and has set its sights on expanding it processing machinery and on new plant construction.

Participating in New Fields Such as Cooling Pillows

Capitalizing on this type of production equipment, technology, and development capabilities, in 2009 the company embarked on the development of a circulating type cooling pillow sheet that is the company' own brand of product. This sheet is a product that circulates coolant to maintain the pillow at a constant temperature. When President Iwanami's father was hospitalized, he witnessed how ice packs had to be replaced time and time again, and wondered if "an ice pack that can stably maintain an appropriate temperature for cooling could be developed." It was this thought that triggered the development of the new product.
In some cases, for patients who have a fever and are unable to control their body temperature, ice packs have to be replaced every few hours. However, if a cooling pillow that maintains a constant temperature can be developed, that pillow can not only be useful for patients but can also lighten the burden of nurses. The company conducted its own survey and couldn't find any similar products on the market, so from there, it embarked on full-scale developments. However, it's not easy to begin participating in a new field, and the prototype cooling units that it first completed weighed 8 to 9 kilograms.
President Iwanami reflected, "At one point, we were ready to give up, but that's when we were able to exhibit our real strengths as a manufacturing company, and after about 4 years, we were able to successfully develop the product on our own." The completed cooling unit enables the temperature of the pillow to be adjusted on 1oC units, and the weight of the main unit was reduced to 1.4 kilograms.
Light Optical Works established a sales company in May 2013 and began selling the cooling pillows in June. Envisioning use primarily by hospitals and nursing homes, the company is targeting participation in the medical equipment field using this product as its foothold.

Developin50 Rifle Scope Models Per Year

Developin50 Rifle Scope Models Per Year


One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Corporate culture of taking on challenges is strongly rooted.

Light Optical Works has been engaged in the production of optical equipment for many years, and the accumulation over that period of technical expertise and a consistent production system that covers everything from development to manufacturing and shipping is the company's strength. With an eye on the future, the company is also making equipment investments and increasing its personnel. In 2013, the company began successfully participating in a new business area, and that success is proof of a strongly rooted corporate culture of taking on challenges for advanced manufacturing such as when the company began manufacturing rifle scopes immediately after it was founded.

Company Data

President:Masatomi Iwanami

President:Masatomi Iwanami

Company name Light Optical Works, Ltd.
President Masatomi Iwanami
Industry Type Manufacture of optical equipment
Address 3637 Nakasu, Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Phone 0266-52-3600

Printing day:April 22, 2014

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