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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)

Yaskawa finds success in crisis

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

Yaskawa American Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Masahiro Ogawa

When he was assigned by Yaskawa Corp. to the U.S. sub­sidiary in the Midwest follow­ing the global financial fall­out in 2010, Masahiro Ogawa recognized an opportunity.

While manufacturers across the country were downsizing and cutting investment in capital equipment, Yaskawa America, through its automation tech­nologies, was in a unique posi­tion to help reverse its clients’ troubles.

Four years later, Yaskawa America, which has operated in the United States for 47 years, saw its revenue surge 50 per­cent, from $400 million to $600 million.

Yaskawa, which will be cel­ebrating its 100th anniversary in 2015, is the world’s largest manufacturer of AC inverter drives, servo and motion controls and robotics automation systems.

In the United States, Yaskawa America’s Motoman robotics business supports the recovery of the automotive sector, while its motion business works close­ly with its machine tool and semiconductor customers.

“I have spent a lot of time encouraging more collabora­tion between our motion and robot divisions. There is strong potential for new business in robotics and ease of use is key in promoting robotics. We have to change the process to make it more efficient and seamless, with one interface, one plat­form and one human machine interface,” said Ogawa, Yaskawa America’s chairman and chief executive officer and a veteran in robotics.

Since his arrival, Yaskawa America has acquired three companies. In July, it bought photovoltaic inverter company Solectria Renewables.

“Acquisition is very significant for our business because it’s how we expand our channels. The acquisition of Solectria, allowed us to acquire a business that al­ready had a brand position. They will help us grow because of synergies that we will acquire on the technological side,” he said.

Supported by such acquisi­tions, Yaskawa America hopes to achieve sales of $1 billion dollars in the coming years across its territory, which stretches across the Americas.

“Yaskawa America leads our global business effort. What happens here has effects everywhere else. If Yaskawa America is more successful, then our global business will become more successful,” 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)

Article Tags:

Illinois soybeans have become first choice

Dec 29, 2014
Credit : GMI Post

When buying Illinois-grown soybeans, customers need direct access to organizations and spe­cific individuals in the industry with which they can do business.

The Illinois Soybean Associa­tion (ISA) provides easy connec­tions to the state’s supply chain that has fed their continued de­mand for consistent, high-quality soybeans.

A Soybean Leader

Illinois is the largest producer of soybeans in the United States

Illinois led the United States in soybean production in 2014 for the second year in a row. The state’s central location and access to multiple transportation modes helped the ISA move soybeans quickly and efficiently across the area and around the globe.

All seven Class-I freight rail­roads operate in Illinois, which also has more than 1,100 miles of navigable inland waterways, while only two states have more miles of interstate highway. The state also leads containerized soybean shipments, with eight percent of its soybeans leaving in containers. That number is pre­dicted to increase.

Consistent Quality

Rob Shaffer is among the state's more than 45,000 soybean growers

Since 2012, the ISA has been measuring protein and oil levels throughout the state. In 2014, the ISA was measuring quality down to the local county level.

The ISA is also developing a first-of-its-kind pilot program to work with seed companies to in­crease protein and oil levels in its beans as another way to provide the value customers have been demanding.

A Smart Business Decision

The ISA has helped connect customers to the growers, pro­cessors and shippers that pro­vided them with the consistent, reliable and high-quality soybean deliveries they have come to ex­pect from Illinois. 

- 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)

U.S. Midwest 2014 was prepared for and originally printed in The Japan Times Newspaper.

PDF of the printed report

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