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Increasing Its Presence via Specialty Sewing Machines [Bisen]

Secret to Robustness
  • Differentiation through broad use of specialized sewing machines.
  • Responding to client’s needs through nimbleness.
  • Development proprietary products that take advantage of special skills.

Putting two flat seamers to work

Bisen is building its presence in the sewing industry based on its strength in work using specialty machines called flat seamers. Seams that avoid unevenness are more comfortable to wear, and are stronger. These are used in sewing high-value garments such as swimsuits and women's lingerie.
Flat seamers require labor-intensive maintenance and a high level of sewing technique. Bisen started using flat seamers in 2000, and currently has 12 in operation. In 2010, Bisen leveraged its strengths in sewing technology and launched its own line of underwear for newborns.
At Bisen's main factory in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, overlooking the Ariake Sea, dozens of sewing machines are lined up, producing swim caps and women's lingerie at the pace of 100,000 to one million pieces per year. An electric hanging from the ceiling displays work goals and the progress towards meeting them. "In the sewing industry, victory is determined by numbers and time," says Takasuke Inoue, Bisen company director.
Bisen's main clients are major sportswear and underwear makers. Processing fees are calculated from processing pointes, based on the type of sewing involved and the unit price for the particular processing. Therefore, the key is to do as many high-value processing operations, precisely, as fast as possible. It is also critical to have a nimble operation that can quickly adapt to clients' changing production demands.
In the sewing industry with these demands for processing efficiency, Bisen differentiates itself with the flat seamer, a specialty sewing machine. Very few large apparel makers and sewing factories have this sort of equipment. Ordinary sewing machines use one needle and two threads; in contrast, the flat seamer uses five needles and six threads to create a sort of weave. This creates a flatter seam than ordinary machines. The seam also has a larger surface area, making it stronger. This technique is often used in sewing competition swimsuits, where lower water resistance is desired, and in women's lingerie, which demands durability and a comfortable feel.
Bisen first introduce a flat seamer in 2000. Following an inquiry from a major sports equipment maker, Bisen installed two. Since then, Bisen has continued to expand, and now has 12 in operation. The machines must be adjusted to a precision of 0.1 mm, and using the machine well takes a fair amount of technique. In addition to having skilled workers operate the machines, Bisen also works to improve their ease of use with special attachments designed by company president Yoshimatsu Inoue.
Flat seamers are not a simple pieces of equipment to operate, but Bisen is proactive about using them to differentiate themselves from other companies.

Creating a revenue base with a house brand

In 2010, Bisen took its utilization of flat seamers to the next level. Bisen entered the baby clothing market with its own line of clothing for infants, sewn only with the flat seamer. These clothes have less friction with the infant's skin, and the cloth does not get wavy due to shrinkage when washed. Utilizing the know-how garnered in making products for obstetricians, which demand a high degree of durability, Bisen launched its Marmaille brand.
The background behind Bisen's launch of their own product line begins with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008; the financial crisis resulted in across the board reductions in orders from major clients. "When our clients adjusted their production, our work went away. We needed to create our own work," recalls company director Inoue.
Bisen decided to eliminate the margin needed for a middleman by only selling its products directly, for a strategy of high quality and low price. Domestic products are predominant in the Japanese infant clothing market, with its preference for safety and security. In addition, Bisen achieved competitiveness with its combination of high quality and low price. Among the lineup, which expanded to 30 products, Bisen's 100% organic cotton infant underwear won the grand prize at the 2012 Nagasaki Design Awards. The design was recognized for features such as the hem design and length of the closure ties, as well as the design with its material and sewing concepts and tender attention to detail.
With "three times the margin of contract work" (according to company director Inoue), the house brand products provide Bisen with the promise of securing a stable revenue stream. House brand products have grown to encompass just under 10% of Bisen's overall revenue. Today, the company's revenue has rebounded from the economic crisis. In 2013, Bisen aims to automate some of its equipment to make even more rapid progress.

Bisen's 100% organic cotton infant underwear won the grand prize at the 2012 Nagasaki Design Awards.

Bisen's 100% organic cotton infant underwear won the grand prize at the 2012 Nagasaki Design Awards.

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

Toward foreign operations with an appeal to safety

Bisen's house-brand infant clothing was developed with a recognition of the trend toward smaller families, and the resulting increase in money spent per individual child. The reaction has been great as mass media have covered the products. The key to continued success will be maintaining the benefits of direct sales while developing a stable market, including things like increasing word of mouth, the frequency of the clothing being given as a gift, and repeat buyers.

Company Data

President:Yoshimatsu Inoue

Yoshimatsu Inoue

Company name Bisen Co., Ltd.
President Yoshimatsu Inoue
Industry Type Sewing business
Address 222-47, Konagai-cho-Maki, Isahaya-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Phone 0957-34-3213

Printing day:April 30, 2014

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