At the recent JIMTOF show in Tokyo (see Evolving To Face Reality), I had the opportunity to visit two examples of machine tool builders that seem poised for continued success. Mazak and Mori Seiki are examples of how machine tools used to be done. What I mean is that they are family owned and operated with an unswerving devotion to manufacturing machine tools. Neither company has been lured away from its charter of making machines.
Both companies have passed the leadership torch to the next generation of the family. At Mazak, Tomohisa Yamazaki is in place as the president and COO for its global operations. Mori Seiki is now being run by its president, Masahiko Mori.
These young men came to their positions from different backgrounds. Mr. Yamazaki spent much of his early career at the company’s Florence, Kentucky, operation. While there he received his master’s in business.
Mr. Mori came to the family business after working with a trading company. He returned to the family business with an outsider’s perspective.
Running a machine tool company is not like most business models. The cyclical nature of the markets—feast followed by famine followed by feast—is tough to handle for most without industry experience. The metalworking landscape is littered with the corpses of machine tool builders that tried to buck the fundamental nature of this business cycle.
In spite of the dismal business conditions for most of the world’s machine tool markets, there was a sense of confidence in Mazak’s and Mori’s exhibits at the JIMTOF show. It’s like there is a shared purpose to making and marketing machine tools for these companies, and it seems that this attitude flows from the top.
Each company has embraced the electronic revolution. Mazak’s cyber factory concept is an example of how future manufacturing can be done now. For Mori’s part, its digital technology laboratory is developing software and engineering for the company’s worldwide operations—crossing cultural and geographic boundaries.
Neither Mr. Yamazaki nor Mr. Mori exhibits a sense of entitlement. Each seems to realize that the metalworking market shows little mercy on suppliers that choose to coast—regardless of their name or tradition.
Both of these young men represent continuity for their families and their families’ businesses. It saddens me that today this is more the exception than the rule.