|UDRoad to Export
In 1978, two years after the transfer from R&D Headquarters to Casting
Sales Dept. in Tokyo, Miwasaki was promoted to Section Manager with Kushima,
joined Hayatama in the same year.
Kushima had been here in this Dept. for seven years and now one of the
cores of casting sales. Kushima became Manager of Casting Sales Section
1 and Miwasaki Manager of Casting Sales Section 2.
Miwasaki had 6 staffs, 4 males and 2 females.
His sales territory was widened more enough for staff numbers. In addition,
he volunteered to be in charge of export development.
"Is the export of steel castings possible?"
Miwasaki had put his eyes on it before he became a manager. Among the casting
products, he thought the steel rail frogs, what were called in the company
"Manganese Rail" (Mn-rail), might be promising in particular.
The steel frogs, a strong special steel casting, containing 13% manganese,
are installed at a railroad junction. As each cross section is similar
to a frog looking down, the product is called so in Europe and the United
States. "Mn-rail" (13% Mn steel frogs) is one of the material
Frogs themselves are in a wide variety of goods by shape, size, material,
etc. Among them, the assembled frog of plain carbon steel is common. But,
for the junctions especially with severe safety requested the frogs of
special steel casting are installed. They are designated as the important
security parts the world over.
Tsukiji Plant of Hayatama Steel produces 80% of the whole demand of Japan
National Railway and the rest by Awazu Plant of Koshiyama Manufacturing,
Komatsu City, Ishikawa Pref. The two companies also have the same share
of the demand of the private railways
Until about 10 years before some other companies were also producing them,
but they withdrew probably because of low profit and a small market size.
Besides, as the customers in Japan, both Japan National Railway and private
railways have not imported them from overseas yet.
Koshiyama Mfg. is not so positive for this business. Because of other businesses
with Nationl Railway or not, it is just continuing the production under
a negotiated contract and maybe gaining a moderate profit.
|About the steel-casting frog, what we call Mn-rail, the inquiries seemed
to have come from overseas several times, because Miwasaki found a couple
of orders before from Taiwan, Egypt, Thailand and Vienna Streetcar in the
All orders must have basically been done in English. How did the staffs
of the division manage each contract matter like mill sheet, various kinds
of specification, in English?
Most of the inquiries might have been rare and unexpected for Hayatama
Steel, so such kind of jobs were surely done by a trading company each
time, and Hayatama must have done everything in Japanese.
Hayatama, as the whole company, put emphasis on the overseas well enough
to have Export Department of a large family for special steel rollings
and also to open the office in New York.
In comparison, Casting Division limited its sales to a domestic market.
As far as common castings are concerned, the possibility of overseas sales
was out of the question, because it was the current situation that those
products remained in fierce competition with small and medium-sized companies
The exports of Mn-rail, though a few cases, were mostly involved in the international bids like a construction or an addition of railroads with train cars. In such cases, each trading company seemed to have no choice to inquire Mn-rail production as a part of a junction to Hayatama Steel in order to enter an overall bid. Koshiyama Manufacturing was not interested in the export of this item.
The troublesome translation work would have been done in a businesslike
manner by a trading company. Nevertheless, no trouble strangely seemed
to happen anywhere with Hayatama Steel.
Other than the above orders overseas, Miwasaki noticed Chessie System,
a major railway company in the United States, had given Hayatama Steel
a considerable order of Mn-rail frogs by way of Tanabe Trading Co. several
months before. It was the 3rd order in ten years, so the same wooden patterns
for the production this time were said to be available, too.
The Purchase Dept. of Chessie System was in Baltimore, Maryland State near
Washington D.C., the hometown of Miwasaki's friend Marco Singus, where
he used to stay at Marco's home for 3 days.
Miwasaki focused attention on this dealing. Though once a couple of years,
Hayatama had gotten repeat orders of frogs as a single item, and not as
Miwasaki spoke to himself this and that.
|"Whether is the sales to the railway companies in the United States
possible or not? Worthwhile to investigate. We have at least one continuous
customer there now."
"If it's possible, my specialty may be made use of, because I am familiar
there with the experience of staying even one year and traveling considerably."
"However, is there anybody to help me in investigation now? How should
I do it by myself?"
Market scale, demand distribution, present suppliers and other various
text searches would be his starting point of investigation, but no such
useful documents could be found around him.
Technical field was completely out of his hand. Nevertheless, as long as
he had some intention to promote his goods to the United States or North
America, first of all, he had to get a data of the specification differences
between Japan and the United States, and also he had to know what kind
of technical troubles the U.S. customers had and how they were dealing
with such difficult matters.
Happily, Hayatama had not received any complaints from overseas until then,
but steel-casting frogs were obviously the important security parts.
"If anything wrong happened, could Hayatama manage it well?"
Such questions came out one after another to Miwasaki's mind.
On the other hand, was there any technical staff in Steel Casting Division
who could play a roll for such matters? Even if there had been such a person,
he could not have done the job in spare time.
It would have been out of question without the Division's decision to regard
it as an important job.
He understood at last his idea was totally too wide to handle alone.
He wanted someone of the same idea, who could share wisdom based on each
knowledge and experience, and who could do satisfactory investigation and
lead to the good results with him.
"It is necessary to have a project team by the trustworthy cream of the crop."
It was the Miwasaki's conclusion.
"Is my idea an impossible dream after all? How would Mr. Tawara have
overcome this matter?"
As only a manager, his idea was just like an illusion, and the expectation
seemed never to come true.
Steel Casting Division itself had its worry, too. Its sales volume was
less than 10% of the whole of Hayatama Steel, making the top managers of
the division feel small inhabited. Besides, the division remained low results
for years. Dust, noise, thud, danger, etc. There were such environmental
problems difficult to improve in both Tsukiji Plant and Kiso-fukushima
In the directors' meeting, such discussion was done so often as "We
should withdraw from the steel casting industry." And it was reasonable
for a commercial company.
There could not be any innovative solution in Miwasaki's mind. But he could
not just sit and do nothing, when something moved.
During chatting in a drinking party, a couple of management began to whisper what Miwasaki had alone repeatedly talked about and most of them had disliked to hear. That was the promotion of railway frogs to overseas, especially the pursuit of export possibility to North America.
They might have considered it as "Better than not to be done."
Besides, at least Miwasaki's idea must have been one of their breakthroughs
to overturn the status quo.
This new situation changed the stage to accept Miwasaki's presence. Usually
kept out of the loop, he must have been an unpleasant guy to them, but
the time came that they had to pay attention to his obstinate opinion.
Division Manager Tonda, just promoted to Director, began to agree with
him. This let Miwasaki's idea go well in an unusual speed, so well that
his impossible dream was beginning to come true.
Kirime, Assistant Manager of Tsukiji Plant, became the project leader,
and 7 people were designated as the members. They were 2 from technical
field, 3 from production, 1 from process, and 3 from sales including Miwasaki
and Kushima. The members had roll sharing to meet to each job. It was the
cross-departmental cooperation, just what Miwasaki had deamed of.
Tonda, Division Manager, named it as "Frog Project" , modeled
after the similarity of Mn-rail with a frog, and half teasingly called
the members "Eight Samurais."
Miwasaki became busy. He began to visit JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
at Tameike near his office, finding idle time as the officially-approved
job by the Division, which had been out of the question just before.
He selected every encyclopedia and directory from the shelf and put them
at random on the table. Among them, Jane's and Thomas Register were especially
This work did not go as well as he had expected.
Though easily called as "railroad frogs" in the related industries,
they are a wide variety with sizes, materials, qualities and what not.
In addition, no document pays much attention on the frogs, compared to
Therefore, as a matter of fact, the frogs by steel casting method are awkward
creatures of no appearance in any statistical data.
In spite of such inconvenient situation, Miwasaki searches for them in every document he wants, picks up possible data from different angles, puts them on each other and makes them meet some related informations. Then he gradually get to feel some slight mosaic patterns..... : names of railway companies, places of purchase departments, total railroad distances of each company, and what they carry, people, irons, industrial goods, ore, wood, cotten, ....
The intricately tangled threads came loose step by step from easy phases
like those basic matters.
"8 samurais" got together after the monthly liaison meeting of
the production and sales at Tsukiji Plant, Nagoya, and discussed earnestly
in the meeting room of tatami mat.
Various data were built in accordance with the roll sharing, and each of
the members analyzed the data comparing with his post and experience. In
the result some of the questions were solved little by little. Then they
looked for a promising clue for each solved question. Every meeting was
finished with home tasks of the matters necessary to investigate for each
They managed to make a couple of English documents on the production details
like sizes, kinds, quality control, cost performance, delivery date, etc.
The English catalogue of Tsukiji Plant was also made in their way. Who
knew whether their English namings and explanations were understandable
to the customers in the United States or not? Anyway, they made it for
the first time in Steel Casting Division.
What had to be done next was to have a field survey in North America starting
from the United States.
Miwasaki, Manager of Sales, and Wabuka, Manager of Technology at Tsukiji
Plant, were assigned to perform the duty together, and went to the United
States once per three months with their new documents and a catalogue.
They also investigated the possibility of the export of stainless steel
valve materials there.
The two of them stayed there energetically each time for about 2 weeks,
visiting customers and related organizations.
What was happy to them was that Mr. Kynan, Purchase Manager of Chessie
System, had deep trust in the steel-casting frogs from Hayatama Steel.
He said to them at his office in Baltimore, Maryland, "We received
a large number of frogs from your company, and I have heard no complaint
at all from our plant or any fields."
After delivered from Hayatama Steel to the United States by sea, the steel-casting
frogs were treated with flame-hardening (heat-treatment) at Martinsburg
Plant, West Virginia, and then installed at railroad junctions of all fields
of Chessie System.
Kynan regarded it as merit for the industry in the U.S. if the frogs from
Hayatama would get through to other railway companies too.
Therefore he positively agreed to their eagerness to enter the North-American
market, and promised cooperation to them.
Besides, he did not hide the inside problems of the railway industry.
"All producers of steel-casting frogs in the U.S. have already withdrawn
from the industry, so every railway company is importing them from several
foreign countries like the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Central America.
Our company is importing them from Hayatama Steel in Japan and Edgar Allen
in the United Kingdom. Your products are evaluated higher than the others
by our people.
They are the products of quality first, so we don't request you too much
Kynan graduated from Penn State University. That means he was Miwasaki's
senior, though younger than him.
It will be mentioned later how Miwasaki happened to find it out.
As soon as Miwasaki and Wabuka returned from the United States, 8 samurais
gathered together in the meeting room of Tsukiji Plant.
Based on the information of the two, the blanks in the data were filled
with suitable words one by one. From a guess to an expectation.
With a rough sketch before them, their discussion was in full swing and
they became hopeful step by step.
When the two finished their 4th trip, 8 samurais made the following proposal as "The market in North America must be promising."
A: The steel-casting frog of Hayatama is upper than the quality standard
in North America, so it is quite acceptable internationally. More efforts
of Tsukiji Plant are expected in order to increase its competitiveness.
B: Price is OK. (250 yen per dollar then.) Delivery deadline is also OK
by sea. No necessity by air.
C: As the total railroad distance in North America is more than 10 times
of that in Japan, the demand of frogs there might be 10 times or so.
D: All railway companies in North America do not have any domestic supply
source and depend on import. We have enough room for entry.
E: The problem is the customer service after delivery. The measure is necessary
for something wrong happened with maintenance and troubles. We have to
find some partner there to deal with such matters.
Having been watching the pursuit for export possibility, leaving its control
to Kirime, Assistant Plant Manager, Tonda, Director and Division Manager,
decided to go on a business trip to the United States with Miwasaki and
Wabuka so as to confirm the situation through his own eyes.
It was obviously the demonstration to appeal his positive action in the
Division to the board members, but in the result the 8 samurais' marketing
was unveiled before the whole company. Then the frog project became innevitable
to the future plan of Steel Casting Division.
The following was the next necessary condition that the 8 samurais together
longed for and Division Manager considered indispensable.
|Quick and minute response
by pure information at the site
What should they do in order to realize their request? Not leaving it to
anyone else, they have to have their own resident representative there.
That means someone in their division has to be stationed in the United
States. And the man who can do the duty is considered to be only Miwasaki,
and he wishes to be the man.
However, this idea cannot be done only by one small division. The bad thing
was that it would not be a task as the whole company.
And the new year 1980 began.
Hayatama Steel was going to develop its New York Office into a corporate
body on-the-spot in coming May aiming at widening the overseas business
of steel rollings.
The company name would be Hayatama Steel America, Inc. (HSA). The 3 staffs
going to work there were given a transfer notice and were preparing for
the new jobs.
|President --- Shirahama, Director
Technology --- Kinomoto, Assistant
Sales --- Iwashiro, Manager
Lady Secretary --- Ms. Tanamy (working
at New York Office)
The new office will be on the 54th floor of Chrysler Building, moving from
the small office on the 3rd floor of PanAm Building.
Inami, the present Office Manager, after handing over his job, is going
to be transferred to Tokyo Investigation Dept. as an Assistant General
Manager. He will be a secretariat of the overseas strategy under Minabe.
"If I had noticed the opening of HSA earlier....."
Tonda, Division Manager, openly showed his regret to the 8 samurais.
If he had, he could have made some smart tactics to increase one more sales
staff for their resident representative, a keyman for the advance of "Mn-rail"
into North America, saying something like "He will surely contribute
to HSA's profit."
Now it was all over. No way to have such a chance.
It was completely inappropriate to bring up a new issue from a small division
of less than 10% sales to the corporate body on-the-spot just starting
at last as an overseas base of Steel Rolling Division, occupying 80% sales
volume of the whole company.
But in the future, the corporate body in New York had the plan to increase
another staff of Sales, seeking more improvement.
There might be some chance to run for a salesman in the next step, making
use of it. But a very small chance after all, because the corporate body,
as a local agency of Steel Rolling Division, would be disturbed by a man
from the other division, not to mention "no contribution to profit."
Then there might be another idea to let him work for their original steel
rolling business too. But it was impossible because of their too much difference
of the jobs in the different fields. It would not be even a joke to appoint
to the job a person not knowing anything other than steel castings.
The solid gate of never wavering was tightly blocking Tonda and the 8 samurais.
Part 6-1 Reading: 18' 48"
Part 6-2 Reading: 13' 49"