Leaders Voice; Words to Inspire | Nikkei special edition

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In an industry resistant to change, a company not afraid of change

Kazuo Ono,
General Director,
Shoei Vietnam Co., Ltd.

Instilling Japanese quality in Vietnam

Our company has a printing plant near Hanoi, Vietnam, where we print mainly packages and user manuals for the end products of Japanese corporations with operations in Vietnam. The parent company Shoei Printing Co., Ltd. is headquartered in Niigata, handling publications and printed materials for customers throughout Japan. Always staying up with the latest printing machines, the company has managed to continue over the years offering high-quality products while maintaining its advantages of speed and competitive pricing. The reason for the enduring loyalty of customers is their high satisfaction with colors and finish. There is no “correct” answer when it comes to color. It’s a matter of producing something as close as possible to the colors the customer wants.

When we launched the Vietnam local subsidiary, we were committed to quality, producing results that would satisfy our customers while keeping in close communication with them. The employees are Vietnamese, but the customers are Japanese companies. With differences in country and culture come different senses of color. Customers care very much about the color and finish of their product packages, which are important parts as the “face” of their products when they are lined up on shelves in stores. We have been pursuing our work as a printing company that responds with the sensitivities of Japanese. Even with the same printing machine and the same ink, the colors that finally emerge in the finished product depend greatly on the preparation stage of the printing process. We set about replicating that process, which had been developed over many years of effort in Japan, in our Vietnamese plant together with Vietnamese employees.

Kazuo Ono(Shoei Vietnam Co., Ltd.)

Tackling the sample book business, which requires exacting precision

OSetting up business in Vietnam was not a matter of just transferring our Japan business there; we had to start out from zero with approaching customers. Of course, we also started from zero sales, and we struggled for the first three years to build up a customer base. Today, the printing business is going well, and we have started a new sample book business. A sample book lets customers confirm materials and colors of products they are thinking about purchasing. Because much of the work is manual, it is difficult to do in Japan with its high labor costs, so many companies have been doing it in China and other countries. Tiny samples have to be aligned evenly and straight, which requires employees to perform work with exacting precision. It took a few years of effort to achieve stable quality. It’s not enough to be able to do this one or two times, when asked, but the employees need to be taught repeatedly until they can continuously and consistently produce good results. Once they learned this, they passed on the skills to newer workers, as a result of which we gained the satisfaction of having planted in the culture the awareness that “it has to be straight.” Lately, companies thinking about setting up operations in Vietnam have been visiting our plant. For our part, we are very open about letting them see everything. I believe that’s because of our confidence in the organizational structure we have perfected over the last eight years.

Kazuo Ono(Shoei Vietnam Co., Ltd.)

Through ongoing changes, we want to contribute to the growth of Vietnam

OWe started our printing business eight years ago, and the sample book business we began three years later has now become well established. Today we are looking for new challenges to take up in Vietnam. The printing industry is said to be an industry resistant to change, where the old ways of doing things have not changed much. In this industry, Shoei Printing is, I believe, a highly innovative company that is always seeking change. The company culture is seen in its stance of constantly and quickly daring to change, without hesitation or stagnation. Examples are digitalization of desktop publishing, developing a short turnaround time flow for our printing business, and moving into Vietnam. This culture has been carried over in our Shoei Vietnam venture. Supporting this change are our employees. To me, our employees are like my own children. If they make a mistake, I point it out and provide guidance, working alongside them with the strong desire that they will grow in good ways. The goal is to develop their self-reliance, enabling them to go beyond doing only what they were taught to thinking on their own as they work. For me, Vietnam where I have spent the last eight years is like a second home, to which I have gained a deep attachment. There are still many companies in Vietnam that have not established a good working environment or organizational environment. Through our work in Vietnam, we would like to become one place that shows people the Japanese business style, and to contribute even a little to the advancement of the country as a whole.