Extensive applications, including electronics, automobiles, aircraft, and even medical care
Innumerable electric wires and cables are laid out in electronic devices, such as smartphones and personal computers, and automobiles. In addition to communicating information and supplying electricity, they also underpin the technological developments of these products, such as the improvement of performance and downsizing.
The Electronic Wire Division is responsible for the development and manufacture of these high-performance wiring products and unique functional materials. Our products are used for extensive industrial applications, such as ultra-fine coaxial cables installed in ultrasonic diagnostic equipment used at medical institutions, tab leads used in film-type lithium-ion batteries, and airframe wires for aircraft wiring. This makes us one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wiring products.
Behind the fact that they are used worldwide as the products of a global niche top company, there are unique technologies that we have developed to meet various functional needs, such as durability, heat resistance, and high-speed transmission. We have been developing customer solutions in close cooperation with customers and have expanded our business domain by leveraging technological synergies.
A corporate culture that encourages young employees to work on their own initiative
The electronic wire business of Sumitomo Electric began with the supply of internal wiring materials for televisions and other white goods. In line with changes in society, applications have diversified into extensive categories, such as digital devices, mobile phones, automobiles, medical equipment, aircraft, and game consoles.
A reason for such development of our business is that we were able to develop the same application across different industries while repeating the improvement of products. Another reason is that the senior members of our division had worked to upgrade the materials and performance of products in cooperation with the R&D department to achieve technological evolution and sophistication from the perspective of "customer value creation."
Learning from such superiors and seniors, I have forged a career as a design engineer. In my career, I did not simply serve in a support role for others. I have always taken it upon myself to think about “how can we expand the applications of our current technologies” and to undertake repeated trial and error. This was thanks to the corporate culture of Sumitomo Electric, which encourages young employees to work on their own initiative.
Experienced ups and downs due to rapid changes in the market
I was once in charge of developing ultra-fine electric wires for medical use. They are wiring materials that boast fineness, flexibility, and high durability suitable for medical use, but their application range was limited. My supervisor said to me, "They are excellent products, but their application range is too narrow. Can you develop other applications than medical use?" That was exactly what I wanted to do. I launched a project with the development team and sales team to thoroughly develop applications.
As a result, they were adopted as wiring materials for flip phones and personal computers, and the demand for the products rapidly increased. At the time, so-called "feature phones," such as folding-type and rotating-type mobile phones, were spreading explosively, which boosted the sales of our ultra-fine electric wires. However, due to the emergence of smartphones, the demand for the products fell sharply, which made me realize the transitory nature of the electronics product market.
But this is not the end of the story. The wiring materials and technologies are now made use of as the high-speed interface cables of high-end PCs and wiring around cameras inside drones.
Consider whether we are staying in our shells
As a design engineer, I have always emphasized customers’ perspectives. In order to make good proposals to customers together with sales staff, it is essential to plan good technologies and manufacture good products, but we cannot succeed if we take an approach from an in-house perspective. We have been pursuing development in cooperation with customers because it is important to know how customers view the technology and product.
Since I assumed the position of the General Manager of the Electronic Wire Division in 2018, my aspiration for the business has been to provide customers with reliability and value. I believe this is the unchanging vision of the division.
On the other hand, I also clearly announced what we should change in line with the changing times. Since our products are niche-top products, we tend to “stay in our shells.” I reviewed if we were missing new opportunities and if we were neglecting the importance of manufacturing due to too much focus on development. The policy that I came up with was to strengthen manufacturing. I believe that to provide reliability and value to customers, both strong development and manufacturing capabilities are indispensable.
Growth of young employees being promoted by improvement campaigns
The Sumitomo Electric Group is making group-wide efforts to strengthen its manufacturing capabilities, and has group-wide assets, such as know-how, information, and human resources, between the R&D Unit and the Manufacturing Management & Engineering Unit. By making full use of them, we are taking on the challenge of strengthening our global foundation of manufacturing.Also, we actively promote quality improvement campaigns. Our mother factories in Tochigi, Aomori and China are making constant efforts to improve production efficiency and product quality. Since different workplaces motivate each other, the campaigns greatly promote the growth of young employees.
Above all else, I want young employees to work cheerfully. It is okay to worry, but I want them to make use of teamwork instead of worrying alone. I often say to our young staff, “Break your shell and take half a step outside, and you will surely be able to see a breakthrough.”
Actually, this is advice I received from my senior. When I was in my thirties, I was worried because my work didn't go well. Then my senior said, "Your perspective is too narrow. There is nothing to lose, so break out of your shell and take on the challenge." I was struck by those words. I realized that I was worrying about tiny things and my depression was dispelled. Since then I have been actively accessing new things. Today, I share the words of my senior to the younger generation.
Aiming to contribute to customers by thinking and acting from a broad perspective
In order to ensure sustainable growth of the Electronic Wire Division as the General Manager, I place great importance on continuing to be involved in industrial categories that are expected to grow. For example, in the category of electric vehicles, we need to develop more value-added products, such as tab leads, to contribute to the achievement of carbon neutrality. In the category of medical service, when endoscopic surgery, which is less burdensome to the human body, becomes more widespread and disposable endoscopic instruments become widely used, we believe that our ultra-fine electric wire technology will be useful. We will continue to pursue providing reliability and value to customers while maintaining constant access to fresh information from customers and will establish it as our division’s culture.
The best part of our business is that we can contribute to our customers through the development of excellent technologies and products as well as new applications. We will add speed to our division’s DNA to attract more customers, and pass it on to the next generation.
Joined Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.
Electronic Wire Division
Sumitomo Electric Interconnect Products (Hong Kong), Ltd.
Sumitomo Electric Interconnect Components (Shenzhen), Ltd.
Deputy Manager, Electronic Wire Division
Sumitomo Electric Printed Circuits, Inc.
Manager, Electronic Wire Division
Managing Executive Officer
General Manager, Electronic Wire Division