In April 2019, the Tamura Group started its medium-term management plan as a long-term vision for sustainable growth towards its centennial anniversary (2024) and thereafter. Faced with the task of confronting the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, the chairperson and the president shared their views on the current business environment and future prospects in an interview.
Could you explain the business environment and major business performances in FY2019?
President and Representative Director
Asada: Fiscal year 2019 was filled with turbulence for our company. The year started amid the U.S.-China trade friction and the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy towards the end of the year, to name but a few. First and foremost, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathy to those who are suffering from COVID-19 and are facing difficulties under the present circumstances. Furthermore, I would like to express my respect and appreciation to all those who are endeavoring day after day to prevent the spread of infection from their own positions and are contributing to society.
Please tell us the main purpose of “change of management level personnel in charge of each business unit” that was implemented in January 2020.
In terms of profits, unfortunately, we witnessed a decrease from the previous year because of two major factors, namely, the U.S.-China trade friction and COVID-19, and failed to reach the goal for the initial fiscal year of the medium-term management plan.
In particular, the entire business of automotive products stagnated as production plans of automobile manufacturers were postponed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we predict that the demand for eco-friendly cars such as hybrid vehicles will continue to grow, and expect an increase in demand post-COVID-19. Meanwhile, thanks to the expansion of the 5G market in China, future growth of investments is expected for electronic chemicals business even with the ongoing U.S.-China trade friction.
Asada: In the medium-term management plan “Biltrite Tamura GROWING ANEW” that was started in FY2019, we have designated three fields as the pillars of growth, namely, “automotive,” “power electronics,” and “IoT/next-generation communication,” whose markets are expected to expand in the future. Our One Tamura Strategy is that all employees be “One Team” as they combine every effort and approach clients.
What is the gist of Tamura’s approach toward clients to expand business?
This time, reassignment of the heads of business units who are well versed in their respective fields was carried out with the expectation that the best practices in each business unit would also be developed in other business units and that chemical reactions would be created from combinations of different features of various business units. For example, automotive products can offer business opportunities not only for electronics parts but also for electronic chemicals and FA systems. In other words, it is necessary for further business expansion to adopt an approach that is based on not each individual business unit but the whole group. By accelerating cross-sectoral utilization of human resources, my goal is to improve business efficiency on a company-wide basis.
Asada: It is expected that we as a group try our best to serve individual clients and have them understand the fact that “the Tamura Group deals with a wide range of businesses, including parts, materials, and equipment.” Our wide range of businesses have resulted in stable performance and a global network. I envision a future business scene where we, working with a mission to further spread our “Tamura” brand, make efforts to deepen clients’ understanding by introducing firstly the total image of the Tamura Group and secondly the contents of each business unit, and finally engage in business negotiations.
Please tell us your ideas regarding human resource utilization/development in the One Tamura strategy.
Asada: In the immediate future, the focus will be on strengthening and developing management-level personnel under the One Tamura strategy. Whereas the Group’s bottom-up educational program has been relatively successful, there is an urgent need to develop personnel who act as the main driving force for management.
Furthermore, personnel-system reform in concert with the vision is also being promoted. In the case of a “monozukuri (manufacturing) company” like us, if technical specialists in charge of innovation have to assume management responsibilities as well, such valuable human resources with keen sensitivity will not be able to spend enough time in R&D, which is not good for the company. Furthermore, it is often said that “the best player is not necessarily the best coach,” and a person who excels as a technical specialist may not be necessarily good at management. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a personnel system in which technical specialists can aim for higher-ranking positions while devoting themselves to mastering their own fields of expertise. Under the work style reform, although focus is given to “a comfortable work environment” alone, I would like to also put emphasis on “job satisfaction” and establish a system that provides an environment for developers and researchers to devote their time solely to R&D.
According to survey results, the recognition rate for SDGs rose to 97% among employees. What do you think is the main contributor to this?
Chairperson and Representative Director
Tamura: The recognition rate of nearly 100% was achieved as a result of efforts to strengthen the push-based information delivery system. In FY2019, using the e-mail magazine to employees, content related to “What are the 17 Goals of SDGs?” was delivered on a periodic and intensive basis. I believe that the employees became familiar with SDGs because the content included not only explanations for the 17 goals but also example cases of specific programs carried out worldwide and of activities performed in the Tamura Group.
With regard to SDGs, the goals for greenhouse gases and renewable energy have been reconfigured towards 2030.
For example, Goal 14 of SDGs, “Life Below Water,” seems to be completely irrelevant to the Group’s businesses. Nevertheless, I believe that business activities should include not only development/manufacturing/trading but also education and welfare programs for employees. On one occasion, an acquaintance who works for Panasonic and I joined an industry-based CSR activity, and there he spoke about how Panasonic’s company canteen has implemented the “sustainable seafood” activity by serving only fish and shellfish whose sustainability has been secured. Thinking that such an activity would contribute to “Life Below Water” in business operations, I started consultations with the subcontractor for the Group’s canteen operation. As a result, after acquisition of CoC Certification*, sustainable seafood dishes are now being served on a regular basis. I would like to continue developing initiatives that would help employees become familiar with SDGs.
*A certification system that guarantees traceability to ensure that fishery products of MSC (Marine Stewardship Council)/ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council), which are certified as sustainable seafood, reach consumers without being mingled with non-certified fishery products
Tamura: It was because I thought it necessary to establish specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as a company that is committed to contributing to the achievement of SDGs. By FY2030, we aim to reduce greenhouse gases by 21% or more relative to FY2013 levels and to at least double the use of renewable energy relative to FY2019 level.
What prospects do you have for business environments including contributions to SDGs in FY2020 and thereafter?
With regard to renewable energy in particular, the goal has been set as part of our sustainability strategy that looks into “decarbonization” in the future. Measures toward decarbonization have already started, including the acquisition of the “Nearly ZEB (Net Zero Energy Building)” certification by the Sakado Factory that was rebuilt in 2018.
Along with continued environmental investment efforts, we will endeavor to expand sales volume and improve productivity of environmentally friendly products. Under the current circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have gone online as a COVID-19 infection control measure. With this as a trigger, I am also planning the active use of ICT.
Tamura: Although SDGs have been advocating the development of a sustainable society, the outbreak of COVID-19 seems to have somewhat put a question mark on the sustainability of society and economy. Knowledge of SDGs including their ideals and goals should have been spread by now to all employees. Our previous plan was that each business base and each division would start taking action in FY2020. However, in consideration of the changes in circumstances, we would like to start once again by reviewing our overall business from the perspective of BCP (Business Continuity Plan) and by re-examining the BCP manual.
Finally, please give a message to the stakeholders.
Asada: From the management perspective including SDGs and social contribution as well, it will become important for us to focus on three fields: “automotive,” “power electronics,” and “IoT/next-generation communication.”
In the post-COVID-19 era, although there will be no change in basic business stance, approaches thereof may have to be changed. In the case of online business, business starts only when there is access from customers. How to overcome issues that cannot be resolved unless people actually go out and take action is another challenge. From the BCP perspective, I would like to review “which functions in what style” we should have “in which places.”
Tamura: In FY2019, we witnessed the emergence of the new social problem, COVID-19. Over time, I have come to realize again that in order to continue being a sustainable company, it is imperative that we carry out management with even more awareness about our contribution to SDGs and with a strong resolve to coexist not only with society and nature but also with the virus. We should continue positive developments triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as work style reform, operational reform, and CO2 emissions reduction as a result of acceleration of telework. I consider it a challenge for us top management to find ways to maintain those positive results.
Asada: In the business environment that is rapidly evolving from face-to-face business to online business, it will become necessary for us to develop an exceedingly “attractive product” that can shine even on the computer monitor and can motivate customers to contact us. In order to realize such an attractive product, we will have to overcome various challenges, including conducting a review of marketing at first, increasing product appeal, and creating “cross-divisional collaboration products” by utilizing cross-divisional cooperation under the One Tamura strategy.
The Tamura Group will continue to endeavor toward the further development of the Company as it approaches its centennial anniversary in four years’ time. We ask all our stakeholders for their continued understanding and support.