Over 30 years of experience, mainly in the sale of automotive wiring harnesses
In 1959, the Sumitomo Electric Group made a full-scale entry into the automotive wiring harness business. With the motorization of Japan, the Group’s business grew, and from 1990 onwards the Group increased its market share and received more orders. That was when I joined the Company. Since then, I have worked mainly in sales of automotive wiring harnesses, and have gained experience in receiving orders for large projects.
Having worked in the automotive field for a long time, over the past few years I have sensed unprecedented changes occurring in the business environment as the automotive industry faces a once-in-a-century period of great change. Furthermore, we find ourselves in a harsh business environment, where production has drastically decreased due to the spread of COVID-19 and the shortage of semiconductors.
This raises the question: how should we conduct our sales operations? We have started to move forward with the will to change. The Sumitomo Electric Group’s advanced technical capabilities—centered on wiring harnesses—are highly regarded by its customers. Continuing to meet their expectations will not change. What will change are the proposals that we offer as a comprehensive automotive parts supplier, and our awareness.
Proposals in line with the strategy of each customer
As car makers turn to electric vehicles, we are working on new proposals that can only be made by manufacturers like us who are skilled at creating high-value-added products. For example, automotive wiring harnesses are cables, so we can customize the components to make them smaller and lighter. The Sumitomo Electric Group is also capable of researching and developing materials. By leveraging our integrated capabilities, the Group can make proposals that contribute to carbon neutrality.
Our development capabilities will also help customers in their response to autonomous driving and high-speed communication because the communication cables that connect to external services will mark a turning point. While each customer company wishes to develop its own services and products, basic specifications are expected to be standardized, and therefore it is desirable that our high-speed communication cables become a standard product before the development of next-generation vehicles.
A fundamental prerequisite is to make proposals that are suitable for the corporate culture and strategy of each customer. In that process, cooperation with the development team is important. The Sumitomo Electric Group established the CAS-EV Development Promotion Division to create a system that integrates planning and advanced technology development. We, the sales staff, and members of the CAS-EV Development Promotion Division focus on making new proposals and establish close communication with customers.
We are also working on changing our mindset to improve the quality of the wiring harness business. In the period of shifting the business from quantity to improved quality, we need to change our mindset while recognizing what should be done and sharing it with everyone. Currently, I visit all sales branches that I supervise to hold management meetings regularly. The meetings have raised the morale of the members.
We are a corporate group with the capability to contribute to infrastructure development
To build a better society, it is essential to develop core infrastructure. In that respect, we are a corporate group that can contribute to infrastructure development by making various proposals to customers while responding to changes in society, leveraging our capability to research and develop materials.
In the automotive field, we will focus on in-vehicle equipment and aim to be renowned for our “in-vehicle infrastructure,” by which we mean the collective of conventional wiring harnesses, high-voltage products, and high-speed communications products. We aim to make comprehensive proposals encompassing planning, technology, and services. We will strive to build a reputation so that car makers will say, "When it comes to connection technology, Sumitomo Electric is second to none."
My pivotal experience as president in Thailand
Since joining the Company, I had been in charge of sales. It was all of sudden that I was assigned to Thailand as the president of SEWS-Asia Technical Center Ltd. Although I was inexperienced, in such a position I had to make decisions in every phase of personnel, accounting, and development. "Am I capable of fulfilling such responsibilities?" That was my honest feeling.
Immediately after my appointment, I faced a problem with the benefits program. We started a program that allowed employees with 10 years of continuous service to take a week off, and employees who had exceeded that number of years came to my office. They complained, “That’s unfair.” They were right, but it was difficult to apply the program retroactively and it would be necessary to draw a line somewhere.
The staff told me that there were not many holidays and vacation time was very valuable in Thailand. I became aware of differences in customs and values and the need for fairness in the personnel system from the employees’ point of view. In the end, I made the decision to apply the program retroactively to everyone. I made that decision thanks to the advice of the local human resources manager and my administrative assistant. I knew in my head that I should find a better direction from the bottom up rather than from the top down, but I had not been able to put it into practice. Since the staff helped me to realize this, I have changed.
The Sumitomo Electric Group, in doing business all over the world, has a track record of employing diverse human resources, which is its major strength as a corporate group. And as I experienced in Thailand, we are a corporate group that can create a better environment where employees can work with smiles on their faces and can raise their level of performance even if there are differences in customs and values.
How to acquire the dots
I have focused on getting experience, or acquiring the dots. In the beginning I did what I was told without pondering how this job would develop or what benefits it would bring to me. But before long, countless dots were connected, becoming a line and then a plane, which became my strength.
I believe that work is all about how many dots you have acquired. The more dots you have acquired, the easier it is to connect them to a line. The same goes for personal connections. I can relate to the concept of "connecting the dots" that Steve Jobs once mentioned in a speech.
I am particular about acquiring the dots due to my soccer experience from elementary school to university. What is necessary for you to acquire the dots and for your team to win? I believe that communication is the most important factor. The key is at what timing and to whom to pass, and whether you can pass the ball to the position required. Of course, to ensure communication, it is essential to improve individual skills.
The same goes for a company. If each individual raises their skills while ensuring communication, teamwork, and a sense of purpose, the company will surely become a strong organization. The results should be good for both the individual and the company. I will continue to acquire the dots.
Joined Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.
Automotive Planning Department
Seconded to Sumitomo Wiring Systems, Ltd.
Manager, Sales Division (Central Japan), 2nd SaIes Department
President, SEWS Asia Technical Center, Ltd.
Manager, Sales Division (Eastern Japan)