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OMRON: Growth and Generosity in America

By Brian Banta
-    Dec 29, 2014
Credit : GMI Post

OMRON Automation & Safety Americas Region Chief Executive Officer Nigel Blakeway

With 26 companies stretching from Sao Paulo to Toronto and approximately 1.2 billion dollars in revenue, OMRON’s business has grown by leaps and bounds in the Ameri­cas from when it started in the U.S. Midwest 41 years ago.

Four out of OMRON’s five global busi­nesses are now located in the United States, including industrial automation, electronic components, healthcare and automotive.

According to OMRON Automation & Safety Americas Region Chief Executive Officer Nigel Blakeway, the first non-Japanese to oversee the entire business in the Americas, one of the keys to OMRON’s success has been its commitment to, and investment in, the Midwest business community.

“The network that supports us in the Midwest has been tremendously collaborative, which is often different from other regions in the United States. We are extremely blessed to have a consul general like Masaharu Yoshi­da, who is very outgoing and progressive, and have organizations like JETRO Chicago — led by Ichiro Sone — which have truly supported us,” said Blakeway, who is also a board mem­ber of the Japan America Society of Chicago.

“We have also made sure to give back to the society we are working in, which is why, I think, OMRON has been accepted so well in the Midwest,” he added.

Another reason for OMRON’s success in the United States stems from the “re-shor­ing” of its many customers, which moved manufacturing back to the United States from lower-wage countries after decades abroad. With OMRON’s help, manufacturers were able to replicate their production lines in a short time to take advantage of market changes.

“There is much more confidence in the U.S. economy to invest in capital, particularly in manufacturing. That is a really positive sign and is our sweet spot, as we are able to offer automation solutions coming from our strong Kyoto DNA,” Blakeway said.

In a few years, OMRON wants to transform its identity from being a maker of quality automation equipment to becoming a producer of fully integrated automation solutions.

OMRON's headquarters in Illinois

“We have been strong in components, especially in automation and in safety. Now, the market is asking us to holistically put that all together. Our customers are now asking for solutions that involve connectivity to third-party manufactured products. So, it is about how we get our controllers to interface with someone else’s robotic arm. Although histori­cally we haven’t done that, our future will be as an automation solutions provider,” Blakeway said.

Innovation will be key to the growth of OMRON, a world leader in automation that was named by Thomson Reuters as one of the Top 100 Global Innovators in 2013.

With an 80-plus year track record of inno­vation, seven percent of Omron’s corporate revenues are directed toward research and development.

Additionally, following the concept of “gemba” — gathering on-the-manufacturing-­floor data from where value is created for the customer — OMRON’s engineers are con­tinuously leading new technology develop­ment, regardless of the field.

In recent years, OMRON has built an auto­mation lab at a university and invested in the Midwest’s education and engineering sectors by establishing internship programs to contribute to a dynamic environment of innova­tion. These programs are why the company has consistently been voted as one the top 101 employers in Illinois.

“OMRON invests in its future by ensuring sustainability because our human capital is our biggest asset. What is of utmost impor­tance to us is to send that signal to the mar­ket, our customer base, our employee base and to the colleges and universities that are part of our future that we are here to stay,” Blakeway said.

“OMRON invests in its future by ensuring sustainability because our human capital is our biggest asset."

In line with its core value of giving back to society, Blakeway is very proud of the con­tributions of the OMRON Foundation, Inc., which receives 0.1 percent of the company’s sales and distributes these funds to support education, disaster relief and local charities.

“I’m blessed because I am one of the few guys that goes out to work every morning looking forward to the day ahead of him. I work for OMRON because of who they are. Even though our first responsibility is to our stakeholders, the fact that we have managed to strike a balance between being profitable and still having time to contribute makes it easy for us,” he said. 

- Originally prepared by Global Media for The Japan Times Special Report on the U.S. Midwest 2014 (Credit: Philippe Le SauxAngelo RomualdezElizabeth Arcega and Brian Banta)

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