Pursuing new applications of materials for fuel cells and hydrogen generators
Sumitomo Electric Toyama manufactures high-quality, high-performance electric and electronic materials based on aluminum, nickel, etc. We supply these both inside and outside the Sumitomo Electric Group.
Celmet, one of our main products, is a porous metal material. This unique, sponge-like plated product has a maximum porosity of 98%, and it excels in heat and electric conduction. Since Celmet can be processed into various forms by being cut or pressed, it has been adopted for use in current collectors for hybrid vehicle batteries.
The main material of Celmet is nickel. Since we can also manufacture porous bodies of nickel alloys and other non-ferrous metals, we are currently developing new applications centered on Green Transformation (GX). Celmet can be applied to fuel cells, hydrogen generators, next-generation batteries, etc., and can contribute to the highly anticipated hydrogen society.
Our main products also include various aluminum alloy wires, manufactured with continuous casting and rolling equipment, and their processed materials, as well as electroplated wires. Due to their lightness and ability to conduct electricity easily, these products are used for power cables and automotive aluminum harnesses. In addition, since the strength of aluminum increases when alloyed, the products are also used for various automotive high-strength parts, contributing to the progress of CASE.
Amid the progress of social and industrial reform movements, such as GX and CASE, the Sumitomo Electric Group has formulated the Sumitomo Electric Group 2030 VISION, a long-term vision with 2030 set as its major milestone, to ensure that the Group can respond to various changes appropriately, promptly, and flexibly. At Sumitomo Electric Toyama, while demonstrating our manufacturing ability and accelerating cooperation with Sumitomo Electric’s sales and R&D functions, we are taking on challenges toward accomplishing the 2030 VISION.
Driven by the sense of responsibility to ensure supply at any time
Sumitomo Electric Toyama has the responsibility to provide a stable supply for the Sumitomo Electric Group so that higher value is added to our products within the Group, thereby contributing to society. Another responsibility is to provide Celmet and other proprietary materials to contribute to realizing a sustainable society. We need to fulfill both these responsibilities.
Since joining Sumitomo Electric, I have been involved in the manufacture of copper wire rods, mainly used as cable conductors both in Japan and overseas. The importance of ensuring a stable supply of high-quality materials is etched in my mind as if it were in my DNA. If there is a delay in the supply of a material in the most upstream phase, it will expose customers both inside and outside the Sumitomo Electric Group to the great risk of suspending their operations. We will ensure continuous supply no matter what happens. What has made me so steadfast in my determination are the experiences I had while working overseas.
Leading a project in an environment without sufficient electricity, gas, or water
My first overseas assignment was in Singapore for five years from 1993. A copper wire rod factory was set up within a section of a magnet wire factory. When I was 29, I was transferred to the wire rod factory as the only Japanese wire rod engineer and assigned to manage the factory. Due to the introduction of technically challenging equipment that had never been adopted in Japan, I struggled with electrical problems, while keenly realizing my heavy responsibility of ensuring supply for the magnet wire factory.
A year and a half later, I was transferred to Indonesia. A project to install wire rod continuous casting and rolling equipment with monthly capacity of 15,000 tons was to be executed, and I was appointed as its leader. However, there was no adequate supply of electricity, gas, or water, making me dizzy and doubtful that the project could really be launched in such an environment. The project commenced with digging a well and then a ditch along a road for a few kilometers from a power company’s substation in order to install a power cable. A huge number of people were mobilized for this construction work. In the middle of a test run, which was accompanied by many problems, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. occurred, causing every American engineer to return home. Despite this unexpected situation and many other difficulties, the equipment finally commenced operation successfully. This was a good experience that gave me a great sense of achievement.
When it comes to manufacturing, I often feel that Japan differs from other countries in terms of attitude and underlying culture. However, what we all have in common is that we can transcend differences in thinking if we strive to understand others, devise ways to communicate, and work hard in unison. I have had many experiences where problems were finally solved thanks to being part of a global staff.
Experts in a wide range of fields are assets of the Sumitomo Electric Group
While working overseas, I had heaps of problems that I could not solve by myself. When assigned as an engineer, I received support from members of the Sumitomo Electric Group’s R&D Group and Manufacturing Management & Engineering Group. Afterwards, when assigned as president, I received support from experts, including corporate staff in the areas of human resources, accounting, and legal affairs. I believe that all these experts are assets of the Sumitomo Electric Group.
Originating from the electric wire business, the Sumitomo Electric Group has diversified and transformed its operations. In the history of this transformation, the Group has developed a truly wide variety of materials, which today are used in many fields in society. I feel that this makes Sumitomo Electric an unusual corporate group. I’m convinced that all the operating units in the Group will continue to share social needs and work together toward achieving a “Green Planet” and a safer and more comfortable society.
Broad-minded supervisor who sent me on an overseas assignment when I was still in my 20s
More than 35 years have passed since I joined Sumitomo Electric, but I still have an unshakable feeling that I’m glad to be a member of the Sumitomo Electric Group. I was sent alone to an overseas assignment when I was in my 20s, but now I feel this shows that the Company is broad-minded enough to trust and empower such young employees. My supervisor sent me off with a simple comment: “I’ve already said good things about you to the local company’s president.” I was lucky to have such a broad-minded supervisor.
Currently, as the president of Sumitomo Electric Toyama, I always try to communicate with employees at their workplaces as frequently as possible in order to learn about their views, rather than simply staying at my office. Although this might be a small thing, I value it every day. If a leader has suitable composure, the workplace will have an open atmosphere. This will not be easy, but I will continue to strive to be a broad-minded leader.
Joined Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.
Electric Conductor Division
President, PT. Karya Sumiden Indonesia
General Manager, Electric Conductor Division
President, SEI Thai Electric Conductor Co., Ltd
President, Sumitomo Electric Toyama Co., Ltd.