Uchida-san gave his usual rousing oration. Long time Yoko employees describe a pivotal managers’ meeting after the breakup of the partnership with Johnson Controls where Uchida got them so wound up that they were on their feet, banging their chairs on the floor, shouting and pushing their hands in the air, screaming “We can DO it! Yes, we CAN!” like they were a football team after a halftime speech by Vince Lombardi or Bear Bryant.
He talked about the past 91 years, after the company’s founding by Yokogawa Tamisuke in 1915. He noted that Yokogawa is now a $3.3 billion company, with 18,000 employees in 31 countries working in 83 group companies.
He noted that the corporate goal is to contribute to society. What a refreshing change from “let’s make all the money we can and bail on this thing” isn’t it?
He talked about the US operation starting in 1957 in a rented office at 40 Worth Street in NYC. “We believed that the American market would quickly realize the superiority of Yokogawa equipment and that we would very soon be selling very well in the US market. But sales were not so strong. Very slow, in fact, not very good.”
The audience, of course, died at his deadpan delivery. If Uchida-san ever wants to leave Yokogawa (he’s several years beyond the company’s mandatory retirement age, but nobody has the stones to remind him) he has a promising second career as a stand-up comedian.
“41 years ago, I was sent to the United States to be the salesman. The only salesman. I found that to save money, I needed to be gone a month at a time. My wife told me that she thought she might find a nice boyfriend in New York City, if I was going to be gone that long. Clearly this didn’t work.”
He went on, “I learned that our customers needed quality products, but more…they needed help to learn how to use our products– engineering consultation. They also wanted 24 hour delivery. Now, I wondered, about that 24 hour delivery requirement why they didn’t just decide earlier to buy from me, but a customer is a customer.”
“So,” he announced, “with my limited resources (1 guy) I couldn’t deliver– so I decided to limit sales to a 300 mile radius around New York. It was necessary to make everybody in the US see that I was serious! For Yokogawa, a commitment made is a commitment kept.” This was an early presagement of the way he penetrated the US market with the vortex flowmeter…they started in just the 11 western states, and moved their way cross country until they were everywhere…and they put the originators of the vortex meter out of business.
He went on to describe driving faster than the speed limit to make deliveries, getting about three hours sleep a night, which he survived thanks to the good health genes he received from his mother, who, he reported is still hale and hearty at 99 years old. No wonder he doesn’t want to talk about retiring.
“Finally,” he said, “I was able to sell our wattmeter to NBS (now NIST) and Yokogawa was finally recognized.”
He lauded Walter Stewart (who is in attendance and looks great) for his efforts in the early days, and talked about the commitment Yokogawa is making to the North American market in terms of real dollars and real physical plant for both engineering and manufacturing. In a time when several other companies have given up making things like magnetic flowmeters and vortex meters anywhere in the First World, Yokogawa is increasing the size of their flowmeter manufacturing facility in Newnan, GA.
He talked about the new International headquarters building in Singapore…he is VERY serious about getting Yokogawa out of the Japanese market, business culture and mindset. I spoke to Minaki-san who leads Yokogawa Electric International about the fact that Uchida ordered him to move to Singapore and run a global company when I was in Bahrain ten days ago, and Minaki-san told me that it was working beyond his wildest dreams. “Uchida-san was absolutely right,” Minaki-san told me. “It is working faster and better than we thought it would. We are now a truly international company.”
Drolly, Uchida-san noted that they received approval from the Singapore government to build the new International Headquarters (a 12 story building) in 24 hours, while they are still, after a year and a half, waiting for the Dutch government to approve the addition to the European HQ. “The Dutch authorities keep telling me about how the regulations in Europe are different, and they can’t help it. I don’t care.” Uchida deadpanned.
He talked about the creation of the world’s first (by about three months in 1975) DCS system, and the fact that since the beginning, they’ve done almost 19,000 (!!!) projects around the world.
“Our system reliability is seven 9s,” he said, “99.9999954%. That means one minute of system failure every forty years. We cannot accept this. One minute to the customer is a very long time.”
He went through a litany of major projects and milestones that any automation company CEO would be proud to list, and that compares well with the same litanies given by all his counterparts.
He talked about why the corporate identity campaign was called Vigilance. “It is part of Yokogawa company culture,” he said, as he repeated the mantra, “a commitment made is a commitment kept.”
The lifecycle perspective is firmly embedded in Yokogawa culture, he noted, and that this has formed the basis of the Excellence campaign. Production Excellence, Asset Excellence and Safety Excellence all lead to Lifecycle Excellence, which leads in turn to long term business success.
Then he turned to the Technology Innovation Fair. “It takes ten years,” he said, “to bring a new technology to market. That is why we will never lower our commitment to R&D.” He showed data from a Japanese technology paper that indicated that Yokogawa is ranked 8th by percent of sales and 56th in spending by absolute ranking of all the companies in Japan for R&D spending.
He mentioned that they have great expectations for wireless sensing, especially the “temporary” sensor type that I’ve been calling a “slap-on” for the past year or so.
He went through some of the things that the TIF displays, especially the future technology, which I will cover in detail in another blog post later on.
He closed by saying, “Yokogawa takes full responsibility for the systems and products we sell.” He restated his goal of becoming the number one automation company by 2010 and said that he was increasing resources 50% by 2010 in order to meet that goal.
“Yokogawa is customer centric. We want to make a contribution to automation technology, to the automation industry, and to American society.”