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An oven maker that walks alongside pastry chefs [Shichiyo]

Secret to Robustness
  • Manufacturing that always puts quality first.
  • Management philosophy that says "when our customers grow, we grow".
  • Supports pastry shops with consulting and supply of raw dough.

Shichiyo Co. makes ovens for pastry shops. It's often said that a pastry shop "only needs one oven in a lifetime," but many of Shichiyo's customers install a second or even a third oven. The reasons for this are found in Shichiyo's focus on quality, which comes from the founder's background as a pastry chef, and in Shichiyo's integrated efforts to walk alongside their customers.

Design with the soul of an artisan

Shichiyo president Motoyuki Uchiyama is proud that, "many top artisans love our ovens." The reason the ovens are beloved is Shichiyo's focus on product quality, which has been a hallmark since the company was founded. It is said that Shichiyo's ovens, such as the Nanban (for sponge cakes) or the Backen (for Western pastries), bake pastries with "the temperature is unabated" With high degrees of airtightness and heat storage capability, they improve baking quality from the first time they're heated up.
The ovens' airtightness is personified by their heavy doors, which take effort to open and close. There are even those who are fans of the door weight. The design is courtesy of Shichiyo's founder, current president Uchiyama's late father, Yoshitsugu Uchiyama. The elder Uchiyama was originally a maker of senbei rice crackers, and he designed into the oven the passion of a pastry chef who puts quality first. That spirit still continues on today.
In recent years, on the other hand, models have been developed with more attention to aesthetics. One such model is the "Through Oven," which has a back wall made of glass so that the inside can be seen clearly. It could be said that this model changes the whole concept of an oven. The oven is transformed from a "dirty thing" (per Uchiyama) hidden away in the back of the kitchen to a centerpiece capturing the customers' attention at the heart of a trendy shop, a device for drawing in customers rather than just baking.

From the back of the kitchen to the center of the store

The Through Oven is placed with its door side facing the kitchen, and the glass rear wall facing out into the store. This lets the fragrant aromas of baking to waft throughout the space, and allows customers to look inside and see the dough baking. This increases appetite and leads to higher sales. In addition to aesthetics, the design fosters communication between the store and the customers. The concept is "selling with the five senses," says Uchiyama. He got the inspiration for the design from image of poultry being roasted in a French market. However, Shichiyo has not compromised on the quality of the oven. Making the rear wall of glass reduces the heat holding properties of the oven, but Shichiyo performed research to create a design that did not lower quality.
Ovens are sturdy, and can sometimes be used for 50 years or more. It's not uncommon for a pastry chef to buy only one oven for life, but it's hard to survive as an oven maker only selling a unit when a new pastry shop opens. Therefore, Shichiyo set their sights on creating demand for buying a second or third oven. Further, Shichiyo creates demand by helping the growth of pastry shops. For example, installing a Through Oven and baking cream puffs in the store leads to increased sales. If a store doesn't have staff to mix dough, they can purchase frozen dough from Shichiyo; when management issues arise, stores can avail themselves of Shichiyo's consulting services.

200 recipes

This strategy has slowly been built up since the company's founding. In the early days, Shichiyo's ovens had such high quality that their cost, and therefore their price, was high, and not many sold. However, Shichiyo succeeded in increasing their customer base by providing for free a recipe for baking sponge cake in the oven. Instead of relying solely on quality, Shichiyo gained trust by seeing things from the viewpoint of a pastry store. The company now has a library of 200 recipes. Uchiyama also travels the country, visiting pastry stores and providing management courses based on his experience.
Today, Shichiyo is working on expanding sales of its Limousine tunnel-shaped, assembly line style oven that was introduced in 2011. Shichiyo has also begun producing devices for front-end and back-end operations, such as dough dispensing and processing. Shichiyo aims to support its customers by improving their productivity. "There are fewer artisans who learn by apprenticeship than there were long ago. We do these things to help a specialty shop achieve stable production without quality suffering," explains Uchiyama.
The management style woven all through Shichiyo is "walk alongside our customers." Business can't succeed unless relationships of trust are built. This first becomes possible when you combine the viewpoint of the pastry shop, the ideals inherited from the founder, with an objective view of the pastry shop. The combination of those two viewpoints becomes the reason for strength.

Limousine tunnel-shaped,that is a assembly line style oven.

Limousine tunnel-shaped,that is a assembly line style oven.

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Business model as an equipment maker

Sales of frozen dough and consulting are services offered only to oven customers. This is different from the business model of making profit on after-service. Shichiyo's business is built solely on selling ovens. The company has a particular market, selling to pastry shops, but selling on high value and high quality to increase sales could provide hints for other types of businesses. It's important to have a production system that provides stable production without sacrificing quality in order to expand a business.

Company Data

President:Motoyuki Uchiyama

Motoyuki Uchiyama

Company name Shichiyo Co.,Ltd
President Motoyuki Uchiyama
Industry Type Manufacturing industrial ovens
Address Wakakusa 2-3-15, Usami-machi, Kasuya-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Phone 092-957-0325

Printing day:April 30, 2014

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