To say that Akashi Gohdoh’s President, Kanji Akashi, was inspired in business by his parents is an understatement. The company was first founded and guided by his father, but then led by his remarkable mother.
Akashi Gohdoh, Inc., located in Hakusan, Ishikawa, Japan, produces copper-based components for products such as construction equipment, hydraulics, pumps, electrical contacts and motors. In 2006, the company was named among the 300 foremost enterprises for vibrant manufacturing by the Japanese Small and Medium Enterprise Agency.
Recently, Kanji Akashi spoke with us about his company and about how the business practices and philosophies of both parents serve as a foundation for the company’s current success.
An Ever-growing List of Innovative Products
Akashi Gohdoh is primarily known for supplying functional components that incorporate copper and copper alloys. Originality and ingenuity are central to the company’s success. “We are a producer of highly functional components based on various technologies that we have developed over the years,” says Akashi-san. Among the company’s innovations are:
- bimetal parts that combine the strength of steel and the sliding properties of bronze,
- pearlite bronze, a lead-free sliding material; and
- bronze castings that feature unique combinations of shapes with complicated core arrays.
Since 2009, the company has expanded into die cast pure copper rotors for induction motors. With typical 3-phase induction motors – which use laminated magnetic steel plates bound by cast aluminum – efficiency averages 80-90%. Using copper rotors improves that efficiency by 2-3%. “In the world of motors, an increase of efficiency by 2 to 3% is tremendous,” says Akashi-san. “By just changing the material used from aluminum to copper, a manufacturer can join the high-performance makers that meet world-wide standards – up to IE4 – and that’s quite an achievement.
Akashi points out that the manufacture of copper rotors is a natural fit for Akashi Gohdoh. “While we are a foundry that makes bronze castings, we are also a company that produces composite parts made of bronze and various ferrous materials. Therefore, we specialize in the casting of molten copper and bronze, as well as maintaining the special technology required to cast these onto heated ferrous materials. Copper rotors are made by setting the laminated magnetic steel plates into a die and using a die casting machine to cast pure copper. So it’s a field in which we can simply apply the technology we already have.”
A History That Grew a Culture
Akashi’s father, Yonekichi Akashi, established the company after World War II as a way of helping to re-build Japan. Kanji Akashi was raised on the company premises. “So I grew up watching the people who worked there, and how my father managed them. I think I learned how to run an enterprise, how to deal with people, almost without knowing it,” he says. “My father was a typical Japanese guy from the good old days. He believed that women and business did not mix.” But when he died at age 47, it fell to his wife, Hatsuko Akashi, to run the company — something women typically did not do in the 1950s and ‘60s. “As a consequence, she had to fight a lonely battle and was often unjustly slandered for acting ‘unwomanly,’” says her son. “But she always said, ‘Just wait. They’ll see when I make Akashi a success.’” Yonekichi’s dedication and abilities, along with a period of rapid economic growth in Japan, enabled her to build the company into a highly successful enterprise.
The Way of Monozukuri
Akashi points out that his mother’s thoughts and attitudes are woven into the company’s current business policy. The company website explains that Akashi Gohdoh is a monozukuri company: “Monozukuri means having the spirit to create excellent products and the ability to constantly improve a production system and process.”
Akashi-san adds, “We also like to think that people are made through making things. Our employees are not simply workers that do the work that’s been given to them. They are seekers of the way of monozukuri. They challenge themselves to do even more difficult work with the aim of advancing their skills and themselves.”
A Formula for Success
The Akashi Gohdoh formula for success is something unlikely to be duplicated by any other company. It’s a unique combination of traditional Japanese management style, innovative expertise in copper technology, and the strong influences of both Yonekichi and Hatsuko Akashi.
Kanji Akashi is proud of his company’s unique approach: “Original technology does not only contribute to the development of society. It develops employees into full-fledged professionals. Our harmonious way of management centers on people, on seeking out happiness for them. When happiness is your aim, seeking profit becomes a means. In order to realize one’s dreams or hopes through work, making a profit is necessary. This clearly distinguishes us from companies in the West.” It is a methodology that has taken Akashi Gohdoh far, and will likely guide the company into an increasingly successful future.
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