Active in more than 35 countries, Omron manufactures automation components such as relays, sensors, and switches; computer systems for factory automation; and large-scale control and information systems. Shared information, Koshio says, benefits both OMRON engineers and customers.
Design News: Many companies today claim to be "global." How does Omron define global, and how does the company implement its global strategy?
Koshio: "Global" means not being limited by geography in any function within the company, because customers no longer are. Advances in information technologies have allowed customers to get information, ask questions, make purchases, and receive service and support from companies on opposite sides of the globe in many cases even faster than they can from companies right down the street.
Omron has R&D, production, sales, and support bases in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, the Chinese Economic Area, and Japan. Fifty percent of sales for the Industrial Automation Business Company is now outside of Japan. By these measures, we are certainly an international company.
But being global is more than that. Customers now demand partners that provide harmonized global solutions for use in all of their operations everywhere around the world. To meet these needs, Omron recently introduced the Internal Company System, reorganizing along functional rather than geographic lines. We are strengthening the relationships between functional groups across borders in order to promote more universally applicable solutions. Through the Internal Company System, where management has been devolved closer to the front line, we are able to more accurately identify and fulfill the needs of our customers.
How does this global strategy affect or benefit Omron engineers around the world?
A: Some companies have experienced initial conflicts in putting global practices into place. For example, what is the motivation for an engineer in one country to provide service for a system manufactured in and sold from a sales office in another country or region? But at Omron, from initial concept and design on, we stay focused on developing total solutions for individual customers on a worldwide basis that includes service and support. This focus has helped us avoid such conflicts, and as a result we have been successfully serving a number of major word-class manufacturers on a global basis.
Meanwhile, the new strategy has greatly benefited our engineers worldwide. The type of information sharing required to provide total solutions means that engineers everywhere are up to date on and upgraded to all the latest developments. For example, our engineers are sharing information now about new developments in the use of open platforms in industrial automation, a field in which Omron is taking a lead. Making use of our in-house worldwide information infrastructure, they can not only access data on specs and requirements, etc., but also contribute to this knowledge base. This atmosphere is wonderful for our teamwork, our innovation, and our efficiency.
In the end, we are entering an era in which if local engineers can't think and react on a global level, they cannot meet customer needs.
Q: When designing a product for a global market, how do you keep the needs of specific national or regional markets in mind?
A: We've developed a contract system between product category-specific Product Managers and region-specific Product Marketing Managers. Before a product can be developed, a Product Manager for a specific industry, automotive electronics for example, and a Product Marketing Manager for a certain region, such as Europe or North America, must reach an agreement that covers everything from product specifications to marketing activities.
These two functional groups are independent, and equal in terms of authority. Neither has the "last word." So by the time an agreement is reached, we can be sure that both sides are satisfied that industry-specific and region-specific needs will be met.
'Engineers must be 'up to date on, and upgraded to' all the latest developments.' Soichi Koshio was named President of the Omron Industrial Automation Business Co. in March of this year, with the launch of Omron's new Internal Company System. This appointment is the culmination of his more than 35 years of experience at Omron. He has served as Director of Omron's Open Systems, Computer, and EFTS (Electronic Fund Transfer Systems) Divisions. Prior to holding those posts, he served as President of Omron Electronics Inc. in the USA, and as Manager of Omron's Corporate Strategy Center. He holds a Bachelors degree in Commercial Science from Waseda University.