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Illinois: a global leader in soybean trade

Mar 05, 2018
Credit : GMI Post

Japan has been buying soybeans from the United States for more than 60 years. And, about 60 percent of the soybeans imported each year come from the United States.

Illinois soybean grower Stan Born

Illinois is the top soybean-producing U.S. state, home to the Chicago Board of Trade, about 4.2 million hectares of soybean fields and a comprehensive transportation infrastructure. Illinois farmers raise a consistent supply of high-quality soybeans that are grown sustainably and delivered efficiently.

Japanese soybean buyers visit Illinois to see the soybean industry in person. The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program connects potential customers with farmers and other members of the Illinois soybean industry.

Illinois soybean farmers are learning about new ways to understand the value and quality of their soybeans. At the same time, they constantly improve soybean production to use less energy and land to grow high-quality crops. For example, in 2017, they raised a record 16.7 million metric tons of soybeans.

Because every major form of transportation connects in Illinois, they can efficiently deliver soybeans around the world. More than 1,770 kilometers of navigable waterways and 11,200

kilometers of train tracks allow for bulk shipping from Illinois.

The state also has 22 loading facilities that fill shipping containers, accounting for around 8 percent of Illinois soybeans.

Intersect Illinois connects the dots

Mar 05, 2018
Credit : GMI Post

More than a year old, economic development organization Intersect Illinois aims to create jobs, support business and attract investment to the state, which hosts nearly 2,000 foreign companies and is the ­fifth-largest economy in the United States.

Intersect Illinois President and CEO Mark Peterson is thrilled to seize investment opportunities between the Midwest and Japan. The two sides have had a long-running, fruitful relationship because of their

Intersect Illinois President and CEO Mark Peterson

shared values, like loyalty and trust, as well as their good work ethic.

During a recent trade mission to Tokyo, Peterson focused on convincing Japanese companies to invest in Illinois, aside from expressing his gratitude to the Japanese companies that already have operations in the state. He also promised to find ways to make business easier and provide more support to investors.

“Innovation is a function of problem solving,” said Peterson, who highlighted that the state’s economy benefits from a diverse profile of companies from the automotive, manufacturing, agriculture and food processing industries.

He also mentioned the increasing collaboration between IT companies and universities to strengthen the state’s technological sector.

Intersect Illinois is planning to organize and take part in more trade missions as part of its effort to connect more businesses from the two sides.

Growth through innovation and localization

Mar 05, 2018
Credit : GMI Post

With nearly a century of history in Japan, alloy-casting maker Kimura Foundry came to the United States only in 2013. Keen on introducing Japanese quality casting to the U.S. market, Kimura Foundry America (KFA) began by importing its products all the way from Japan.

Kimura Foundry President Yoya Fukuda

Realizing the importance of localization, Kimura Foundry decided to bring its proprietary casting process to the United States.

“I’ve visited many states and spoke with of our customers. Every one of them said that if I we could start a foundry business in the United States, they would be so happy,” recalled KFA President Yoya Fukuda.

Its Direct Molding Process (DMP) utilizes 3-D printing in a new method designed by Fukuda himself. Focusing on prototyping rather than mass production, the DMP process eliminates defects in its products. The entire process from 3-D modeling to finished casting takes only ­ five days.

“Our casting is low cost, delivery times short, and quality very high. This allows us to satisfy all of our customers. My DMP process isn’t selling casting. We are selling time,” Fukuda stressed.

The company broke ground for its new production facility in Shelbyville in neighboring Indiana. It is expected to be operational in late 2018.

Innovation is a solution for the future

Mar 05, 2018
Credit : GMI Post

While OMRON’s mission and vision remain the same, its value proposition changed together with the business landscape. From providing specific lines of business, the Japanese company has evolved into a value generator in automation, a goal it set in 2017 as part of the corporation’s Value Generation 2020 or VG2.0.

OMRON Management Center of America Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Nigel Blakeway

For OMRON Management Center of America Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Nigel Blakeway, while the company may have a lot of competitors in selected areas of automation, none of them offer the “complete package.”

“Our automation business globally has the largest share in our portfolio of businesses. It certainly is our most pro­ table area,” Blakeway stressed.

“OMRON offers complete automation solutions broken down systematically known as ILORS (Input, Logic, Output, Robotics, Safety). From automotive to health care, harmony between humans and machines is always our particular focus, as well as the industry ‘internet of things’ in this time of growth. That gives us a completely different value proposition for our customers. Everything we do is sensing and control,” he explained.

Amid this shift, OMRON remains socially and environmentally conscious. This ethos coincides with the company’s commitment to looking after its customers, increasing equipment productivity, minimizing downtimes and conducting regular preventative maintenance checks.

“The respect for the customer is observed within the entire organization,” stressed Blakeway, who welcomes the resurgence of the manufacturing industry in the region. “Manufacturing in the Midwest is coming back in a good way and we are bene­fitting from that. We are positioning ourselves correctly to support our customers’ needs.”

In the ­field of health care, for instance, OMRON’s corporate social responsibility aims to take part in as many “zero events” in personal wellness as possible. This has led to various partnerships with other companies that specialize, for example, in cardiovascular analysis.

These collaborations have prompted OMRON to develop medical devices slated for launch this year.

For further growth, OMRON as has focused on mergers and acquisitions, and also has established OMRON Venture Capital for this purpose.

The new company supports innovations that the ­firm does not yet have, while keeping investments flowing to their core businesses.

“When you look at the IoT world, there are many areas that are out of our areas of expertise. We are open to open-source innovation,” Blakeway explained.

And in 2018, OMRON will open its first American research center in California.

“We believe that the sustainability of the company will be very closely linked to our goals,” said Blakeway, who also echoed the words of OMRON founder Kazuma Tateisi: “To the machine give the work; to the man give the thrill of creation.”

The preferred law firm of Japanese business in the Midwest

Mar 05, 2018
Credit : GMI Post

Representing Japanese corporations for almost 90 years, Chicago-based Masuda Funai has seen the evolution of Japanese investment in the country. President Thomas McMenamin has noted that Japanese activity in the Great Lakes region has clearly been growing recently.

Several Japanese companies that ventured to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, according to McMenamin, have begun outgrowing their existing facilities. Now, these companies are expanding their plants or constructing new ones. Masuda Funai, which also has offices in Los Angeles, oversees an average of six expansions every year.

This increased activity was also evident in the area of mergers and acquisitions. In the last six years, Masuda Funai has seen the annual number of M&A deals double as the complexity of these deals grow. It has handled more mid-market acquisitions for Japanese companies than any other U.S. law ­firm.

But Masuda Funai’s focus is not merely transactional. With information and technology playing a bigger role in a company’s success, the firm has become more assertive in protecting the intellectual property of its clients.

“If someone is infringing upon, or alleging infringement by, one of our clients, our client will assert their position vigorously,” stressed the firm’s patent litigator, Mike Golenson.

U.S. Great Lakes 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in GMI Post Newspaper.

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