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Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

A "Department Store" for Processed Pipe Products [Seien]

Secret to Robustness
  • Diverse range of pipe products for press-fitting.
  • Aggressive development of applications other than automotive.
  • Also proactively invests to improve quality.

Seien's predecessor, Seien Ironworks, started out by turning nuts and bolts. In 1986, the company started plastic processing of pipes for press-fitting, and now, it's a specialist manufacturer of processed pipes. Seien offers a diverse range of products, including fuel-system components for automotive engines. Seien products are used by the majority of Japanese automakers. President Toshio Seien, who designs products himself, is aggressively seeking new customers outside the automotive industry: "The scope of our technology is narrow, but we have confidence in it."

Fully Utilizing Projection Welding

Seien's core technology comprises ultra-tight bending, pipe expansion, pipe contraction, and welding. The company combines components in line with the applications and materials involved, striving to minimize cost. That's because "technology that doesn't involve cutting can make things lighter and improve quality" (President Seien). In welding, the company quickly switched from conventional brazing to projection welding. In pipe joining, the reliability of joints is limited with brazing. Also, that type of welding entails harsh working conditions and requires considerable experience, as well as having low productivity. Consequently, it made joining pipes to R-shaped components difficult. Projection welding instantaneously concentrates an electric current in the welded parts to apply heat and pressure. Says President Seien: "Productivity is nearly ten times higher than with brazing." The company has three projection welders in full swing.

In the area of bending, Seien owns patented technology called "ultra-tight pipe bending." When a pipe is bent, the inside and outside surfaces of the metal have very different degrees of extension, which can cause problems such as cracks and shrinkage. As a solution, Seien developed its own mandrel, which was adopted by automakers in 1988. This technology is still one that differentiates Seien, to such an extent that "some customers have switched from plastic to metal because of the technology" (President Seien).

Seien makes a variety of products, including L-, I-, and T-shaped components. The materials include aluminum, titanium, nickel, and brass as well as the usual steel. Previously, about 90% of the products were for automotive use, primarily in manifolds and water pumps. But during the last few years, as automakers have been offshoring, Seien has increasingly made non-automotive products. Most are very difficult to manufacture, such as sensor and motor components, but the company's efforts are getting results.

Seien promotes its technology as a specialist in joined-pipe products; accordingly, it does not stint on equipment investment to improve quality. In 2012, the company introduced an ultrasonic cleaner, and the next year, it added a shot-blaster. This equipment is for improving surface smoothness when pipes are press-fitted. Compared with the barrel-grinders Seien previously used, shot-blasting is much faster. It can also process the inside of pipes and remove burrs quickly. President Seien expresses confidence in his innovations: "I think only a few pipe-processing companies have a shot-blaster."

Self-developed backbone system

The backbone system that supports Seien's technology was introduced in 2008. The company's main plant has several big displays, which employees check each morning before starting work. The system covers all matters essential to daily work, including management of monthly schedules, progress, sales, and delivery dates. When an order comes in, manufacturing instructions are immediately shown to workers on the factory floor. People can see at a glance where such products are in the process, from material requisitioning to cutting, cleaning, and processing. This system has made it possible to make things exactly when they are needed, which has brought big changes to the plant. Previously, materials and works-in-progress were piled up everywhere, but now, there's no excess. Inventory has been cut 50% for materials, 30% for finished products, and 70% for works-in-progress, while productivity has improved 30%. President Seien, who is proud to consider that "few small businesses have made such big improvements," checks in with the system every day.

President Seien likes to be creative: "I don't want to do the same thing as everybody else." The first thing he does is set high targets; by striving to meet them, "Seien has become able to do processing other companies can't do easily, as standard." Even now, he "really enjoys" figuring out how to solve the problems work presents. In name and reality, Seien is building up a firm position as a pipe supplier.

Pipe product line

Pipe product line


Gaining a unique position

Although a small business with only about 40 employees, Seien has gained a unique position in the processing of pipes for press-fitting. As proof of that, most manufacturers of finished automobiles use Seien products. Even simply "bending" pipes involves different methods depending on the material and application; Seien has plenty of experience and knowledge in that regard. The company is also getting results through efforts to develop business in other sectors, using the technology it developed for automobile products. This initiative has only just begun, so Seien still has room for growth.

Company Data

President: Toshio Seien

President: Toshio Seien

Company name Seien Co., Ltd.
President Toshio Seien
Industry Type Manufacture of metal pipe components
Address 1-5-5 Tonoko, Ondo-cho, Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan
Phone 0823-51-2644

Printing day:August 7, 2014

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