Mr. Tatsuo Nishigori President of Furukawa Metal Thailand
Mr. Ken Hanaya Deputy General Manager of Sales Division of Furukawa Metal Thailand
Reconfiguring the ICT Infrastructure and Responding to Increasingly Stringent Competition
Furukawa Metal Thailand (FMT) was established in Thailand in 1988 by the Copper Tube Division of Furukawa Electric's Metals Company. Involved mainly in the manufacture and sale of copper tubes used in air conditioners and refrigerators, the company has grown steadily in line with expansion in the global market, particularly in Thailand. However, competitors kept emerging, and the competitive environment was growing increasingly stringent. FMT's then-president Mr. Tatsuo Nishigori explains, "In 2006, we introduced the new strategy of strengthening the control aspect of our operations by reconfiguring our ICT infrastructure, aiming to bolster work efficiency from production through to sales."
The ICT infrastructure that local system integrators had built was able to handle necessary systems, such as the control of orders, production and quality, but it was unable to keep pace with the company's growth. Links between the systems were insufficient, and collecting and analyzing the necessary information required a great deal of time and effort. When they consulted their operating division in Japan about this issue and asked for their advice in improving the situation, they were introduced to FITEC. Mr. Ken Hanaya, FMT's Deputy General Manager of Sales Division at the time, recalls thinking that "FITEC has handled system configuration for the Metals Company at sites in Japan and other countries, and they are familiar with overseas system development as it relates to the production of metal products. If we take advantage of their experience, knowledge and expertise, we should be able to quickly introduce the type of ICT infrastructure that we are looking for."
Understanding the Issues and Advantages of the Existing Systems Integrated into the Site
Upon receiving FMT's request, FITEC first took part in the project as a consultant. FITEC's Masaki Hashimoto, who had gained experience by overseeing system configuration for the Metals Company's operations in China, as well as for the Nikko Works, began working with system managers and local staff in charge of operations at the site to research the existing system. Because many staff were concerned that "work reforms might mean they would lose their jobs," the research did not proceed very smoothly.
At that point, Mr. Hashimoto and two members of the company's management team, Mr. Nishigori and Mr. Hanaya, helped the staff to understand that work improvement was a necessary element of future growth, and that they would be a core part of that new growth. Mr. Kanno, who was working with Mr. Hashimoto on the project, recalls that "The study of current conditions suddenly began moving forward, and in addition to parts of the system that had become obsolete and areas that were weak, we were able to understand a number of unusual processes that were specific to the laws in Thailand."
After building good relations with local staff and gaining a deeper understanding of the work, FITEC got involved in system configuration, as well as consulting. Mr. Hashimoto explains, "We moved forward on building systems that improved FMT's work efficiency and that were necessary for the growth of a company with roots in Thailand."
Promoting Work Efficiency through Visualization
Also Embarking on BCP Measures
For two years beginning in June 2007, we renovated the backbone system of the company's Bangkok headquarters. Next, we reconfigured the control system at the Saraburi plant, and the new ICT infrastructure linking the individual systems went into operation in January 2011. By linking individual systems, the new ICT infrastructure enabled the "visualization" of business conditions in real time. Shifting the database from a PC-based system to one using Oracle allowed various analyses to be performed more simply. Mr. Nishigori notes that "Work efficiency improved, and we became able to draft improvement measures and strategies speedily without taking our eyes off new growth." As a BCP measure, we also configured a backup system for the Bangkok headquarters server with a server at the Saraburi plant. We also created a Web-based system, creating a system that linked work environments from anywhere and at any time. "Even in an emergency situation during which access to Bangkok was limited, we could smoothly continue operations based on the Saraburi plant," explains Mr. Hanaya.
In Thailand, there are few companies like FITEC that can handle the full range of activities, ranging from consulting to design and development, configuration and maintenance. Through this project, FITEC also gained a better understanding of Thailand's national character and legal system. We met a trustworthy development partner and forged an alliance. By leveraging strengths such as these, FITEC looks forward to proactively providing ICT support for the business activities of companies moving into Southeast Asia.
With Thailand as our new base, we are focusing on ICT support for companies moving into Southeast Asia
The biggest different between overseas and domestic projects is that pursuing projects efficiently requires us to first cultivate the understanding of top management. One of the key reasons that this project was successful is that management team members Mr. Nishigori and Mr. Hanaya were able to provide top-down leadership, working together to move the project forward. Through this project, we also became acquainted with a trustworthy development partner in Thailand. Going forward, we aim to expand our development function by continuing to support FMT. At the same time, we are making Thailand our new base from which to proactively provide ICT support for businesses moving into Southeast Asia.
Masaki Hashimoto (Left) GLOBAL Project Unit Chief, Solution Development Center, Division 2
Takashi Kanno (Right) GLOBAL Project Unit, Solution Development Center, Division 2
* The interviews in this article are information at the time of the interview. The belong and content may change.