That’s the overarching message of the 5th Annual Yokogawa Middle East User Group Meeting, being held today and tomorrow in Bahrain.
The morning session opened with Ms. Namrata Merchant (who appears to actually run Yokogawa Middle East, and who is extremely efficient and quite self-effacing) introducing Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, who, she noted, had once appeared on the cover of Intech magazine. Mr. Ahmed, who is General Manager of the Start Up Department at YME, made all of the correct welcoming noises, and then remarked, “As to my appearing on the cover of Intech, my picture actually didn’t appear. It was my name. And it didn’t appear on the cover, it was on the mailing label. This is just a slight example of the importance of communication and how easily communication can fail if we are not careful.”
Even though it was about 3 AM by my own body’s biorhythms, that woke me up– told me that things might actually get very interesting at this meeting, and they have.
Next up was Akira Ogawa, president of YME. Ogawa-san pointed out the fact that Yokogawa has drastically increased (his words) its presence to $250 million in sales and 200 employees since YME was founded in 1989. Based on Uchida-san’s goal of being the number one automation supplier by 2010, YME plans to double in size by then. In keeping with the “global leadership, local partnership” theme, Ogawa-san reported on some strong localization issues: he’s set up integration and service companies in Saudi, has increased autonomy in UAE, Dubai, Qatar, etc., for the local offices in those countries, and is continuing to devolve autonomy wherever he can.
Teruyoshi Minaki, who is the big boss of all bosses of international operations for YEC, is in attendance here, and in a very short conversation, he confirmed that moving YEC International (YEI) to Singapore last year was a very shrewd move on the part of Uchida-san. It is even money that Minaki will be Uchida’s successor, and for him to uproot himself and move to Singapore is a gutsy and dramatic move to bring Yokogawa out of the “Japan first” company mentality that handicaps many Japanese companies. But not Yokogawa. Minaki-san confirmed that “we are on course to meet our number one goal,” of being the largest automation company in the world by 2010. “The Middle East is central to that strategy, and we are achieving rapidly increasing market share in the Middle East,” he said. Now, “more than 50% of Industrial Automation Revenues originates outside Japan,” he continued. Yokogawa is continuing to spend an average of 7% of revenues on R&D, year over year, and is heavily investing in a series of Regional Headquarters, which each include an engineering Center of Excellence. Minaki-san noted that this year, Yokogawa’s product focus is on Asset Management, or as Yokogawa calls it, Asset Excellence.