Shinko Mold Industrial Co., Ltd. is a leading company in the dynamic domestic tire mold industry, working with the major tire manufacturing corporations, whose subsidiaries and joint venture companies hold a large share in their company. The company leverages its strengths in design, development, and leading technology as it strives to meet the needs of the market. In 2012, the company began operations at its plant in Thailand and took a significant step in establishing the Shinko Mold brand. As part of the manufacturing industry, the company was unable to avoid the impact of the Lehman Brothers debacle and business performance suffered, dropping to levels 50% off their peak. After being passed down from the founder, the company has been charting a course through the stagnant waters of the Japanese economy and the dramatic recovery of Shinko Mold is down to the current President/CEO, Yoshinobu Nakamura. We asked Mr. Nakamura for his thoughts on manufacturing and his employees.
―Please tell us about your company
Our main business – insofar as it makes up some 80% of our sales turnover – is the manufacture of metallic molds for tires. Our business extends past manufacture to maintenance and repair of said molds. The remaining 20% of our business is the production of rubber molds for industry as well as machine processing for conventional, industrial equipment. In 2012 we opened our plant in Thailand, so we now manufacture in two locations.
In terms of what makes our company unique – well, we deal with all of the major domestic Japanese tire makers. In terms of the sector we are in – metallic molds for tire manufacture – most companies usually deal with only one other company, if not their subsidiaries, joint venture companies, or through capital ties. In fact, there are only a handful of companies across Japan that deal with more than one tire manufacturer.
In order for us as a company to create and maintain our competitive advantage, we have developed significant strengths in research and development, as well as data security. When we receive an order, we do not just make a metallic mold from a drawing – we visit the customer’s plant where our molds will be used to make their tires, so we have a clearer appreciation of their needs. We are in the position to make further suggestions to the client as to how we can help make their tire manufacturing more efficient. One thing I am convinced about is our strength in research and development, and our in-house R&D department is one thing that really sets us apart from our competitors. Also, as our customer base includes all of the major tire manufacturers, we need to deliver what they require in terms of data confidentiality. Once we have been chosen as a partner by a customer, we are constantly making efforts to ensure that they remain a customer of ours in perpetuity.
―You mentioned the opening of the Thailand plant in 2012 – what role does that plant play?
Our plant in Thailand creates tire molds for the Japanese tire manufacturers that have in recent years opened their own plants in Thailand. So our products are aimed not only at the Japanese domestic tire manufacturing sector, but also squarely at local demand. We expect the market, as a whole in South East Asia, to expand forward, and that the tire manufacturing will be challenging because the conditions of roads, highways, and traffic density are very different from the ones in Japan. We see this as a chance to display the potential of “made in Japan” quality, as well as our abilities in product and business development.
―What was the reason behind this move overseas? What made you choose Thailand?
The main reason for opening a plant overseas was to increase the business opportunities for our company. Even before the fallout from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the manufacturing of metallic tire molds saw a shift towards Asia – locations in China and Korea, etc. – as business opportunities in Japan became harder to come by. In terms of manufacturing, increasing the volume of production will boost the speed of production, resulting into a more cost competitive product. So in order for us, as a company, to create these business opportunities, we decided to open a plant overseas.
Of course we want to retain all of the technical advantages and quality of “made in Japan” whilst growing the market overseas. I became President/CEO of the company just after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, and at the time it seemed as if manufacturing in Japan was on the brink of extinction. Whereas if we look at manufacturing in China and Korea, we can see they have managed to surpass Japan in terms of their mass production technology. I felt that we needed to reexamine our own expertise in manufacturing or else we would lose the advantages that had served Japanese industry so well in the past.
When we decided to take our business overseas, we considered China as our first location. However, due to the fact that we could not purchase land, as well as issues related to political instability, we moved on to look at ASEAN countries that were experiencing rapid economic growth. Thailand has established itself as a hub economy in South East Asia and we decided that in terms of developing and capitalizing on business opportunities in the region, Thailand was the most appropriate location for us.