Egami ： I have written a book about Kuraray before. After knowing more about your company, I have come to really feel that Kuraray is a company rich in thought and philosophy. Mr. Magosaburo Ohara, the founder, and Mr. Soichiro Ohara, a son of the founder and second generation, left many wise sayings and these sayings are still evident at Kuraray.
Ito ： Yes, that's right. As a matter of fact, last year, we restructured our statements as Our Mission, Values (Philosophy and Guiding Principles) and Commitment and disseminated them to the members of Kuraray Group inside and outside Japan to utilize the words and thoughts of previous generations since our foundation to our daily activities.
Egami ： Upon its foundation, Kuraray set “The Two and Three Mark” as its corporate emblem to remind the company never to become arrogant and lose connection with society even if Kuraray becomes a top company. In this sense also, I believe that Kuraray is a corporation that respects corporate social responsibility.
Ito ： The emblem expresses our position well. The emblem signifies that we should maintain the spirit of being in second or third position, and always aspire to be better, because companies and individuals tend to become arrogant once they come out on top. I am grateful to have this company ethos as our backbone now I have become the president of the company.
Egami ： I understand that your starting point was at a production site.
Ito ： Yes, I was first assigned to a plant when I first got a job with Kuraray in 1980. During my first assignment, I realized that a broken machine can be fixed, but that human beings cannot be put right once they are broken. So, human beings should be treated very carefully. I learned the importance of walking together with the staff under the motto “Be strict, but be warm” by giving them maximum consideration with a warm heart while taking a strict stance toward their work.
Egami ： Mr. Soichiro Ohara also said that the plant was the starting point of all. “Laying a new stepping stone of the industry and serving the nation and society” and “Economic growth without innovation is not true growth. Let us make efforts for originality and ingenuity at all times.”
Ito ： The manufacturers are tasked with adding value to their products aside from merely manufacturing them. The price depends on sales and varies from one year to another. Basically, however, the price is a result of the evaluation by the market for technology incorporated in products. How can a plant figure out a good way forward and raise production efficiency within such evaluated price? In other words, every day's earnings are produced by the manufacturing site.
Egami ： Mr. Ito, you say to your employees “Let's live a better life,” which is a unique message from a president.
Ito ： I ask my members “Why are you working for Kuraray?” The primary purpose is to earn money. However, in my opinion, a loftier way to say this is that people work to be happy. One obligation of companies is to provide people a place to work in safety and security. I wish to make Kuraray a company in which people can work with pride and joy.
Egami ： It is indeed a pleasure to hear when family members and communities say “You are working in a good company.”
Ito ： That is true. For example, the manufacturing process of vinylon fiber is lengthy and a very long time is needed to restart a machine once it fails and stops. We experienced many accidents before when we tried to troubleshoot without stopping machines. When I was appointed as the general manager of Vinylon Production Department, I prohibited all such dangerous work and called for the discontinuation of such work even at the sacrifice of productivity. I believed that nobody should be put at risk of injury in a company in which people work to be happy.
Egami ： Certainly, the message “Let's live a better life” to employees would fall on deaf ears unless executives themselves act first by thinking about employee safety.
Egami ： In Kuraray's history, Kuraray has moved forward to innovate it s original technology by sticking to the use of raw materials produced in Japan while Japan was occupied after World War II. A general principle at that time was “Creating profits for people with new technology,” advocating an ambition of the enterprise toward social contribution.
Ito ： Those products could be manufactured using raw materials available in Japan, which has scant resources. This is the dream of an entrepreneur. Products can sometimes be manufactured easily and at low cost if the raw materials are purchased from other sources. However, Kuraray had an insight and thought that raw materials should be sourced by itself, looking 100 years ahead. This was a case of wisdom and foresight.
Egami ： Recently, Kuraray has been active in M&A. Could this potentially dilute such Kuraray's DNA?
Ito ： It may sound as if Kuraray is acquiring various companies. However, our original technology over poval is the starting point for our M&A, and all our M&A deals link to poval. I call on our new member companies that have joined our group and tell them that “Kuraray is a company that values starting points of technology.” I want this culture of valuing the starting points of technology to become deeply rooted within our group.
Egami ： How do you communicate Kuraray's Philosophy to people in companies outside Japan that join the group through M&A? For example, “doushin-kyouryoku” (close cooperation to attain shared goals) is one of your philosophies and it may be difficult to understand for your people outside Japan.
Ito ： In the case of one company that joined our group the year before last, we let them choose between their way of doing things and Kuraray's way, whichever they thought better in running their company, for the first one year. We asked them to fully discuss among them which way to choose for the second year and after. Through discussion, people mutually enhance themselves to move on to a higher stage. By taking this approach, “sublation” (a philosophical term) and “aufheben” (a German word meaning both preserving and changing) can be achieved. The process of such approach would be “doushin-kyouryoku”.
Egami ： I may not be the only one who thinks that Kuraray was closer to consumers before. Recently, I have felt that Kuraray is a manufacturer of materials. What do you think?
Ito ： In many cases, our direct customers are enterprises. We are always a ware of consumers beyond our direct customers. The material industry in the future will be required to create a product that is needed by the world represented by consumers. The other day, I was told in India “All products of Kuraray are good, but we do not need products that are expensive and good.” The point was that they would buy a Kuraray product that offers advantages such as low cost in net total even if the product itself were expensive. This point reflects true needs and future manufacturing must take such way of thinking into consideration.
Egami ： I believe that Kuraray makes a wide-ranging impact as a material manufacturer when it triggers innovation. As one example, I foresee that a huge number of lives could be saved by producing a material that can purify any water using activated carbon produced by Kuraray.
Ito ： I think that a good balance between needs and seeds is important. We met the need for substitute materials for asbestos because we had vinylon fiber, our original material, and we could offer a precisely suitable material when a polarization film for liquid crystal panels was in demand because we had poval film. Conversely, it would be difficult to catch up like chasing road mirage if we only chased needs.
We face a mountain of social challenges and issues worldwide. Kuraray will continue to contribute truly to planetary and social innovation by achieving what no one else can by putting up an antenna that links needs and seeds and by fully utilizing Kuraray's original material technology.
Egami ： That is exactly what we expect from Kuraray. Thank you very much for talking to us today about Kuraray's thought and history.
A novelist and commentator born in Hyogo Prefecture on January 7, 1954.
In 1977, Egami graduated from the Department of Political Science, School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University, and entered former Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (currently Mizuho Bank). Egami left Mizuho Bank in March 2003 after working at Umeda and Shiba branches in Osaka and Tokyo, respectively, and in the corporate planning and personnel sectors (General Affairs Dept., Business Planning Dept., Personnel Dept., Public Relations Dept. and Internal Business Auditing Office) and serving as head of the Takadanobaba and Tsukiji Branches in Tokyo. In 1997, Egami was instrumental in settling the so-called Dai-Ichi Kango Bank corporate racketeer incident when Egami was the assistant manager of the Public Relations Dept. at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank. After the incident, Egami played a major role in establishing a compliance system at the bank. While working at Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, in 2002, Egami made his debut as a novelist and authored a book titled “Hijo Ginko (Coldhearted Bank).” In 2003, Egami left Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank and started his career as a full-fledged novelist. Egami has written financial entertainment books that are new in style and free from the conventional framework of economic novels.