Leader Interview: Katsumi Uranaka

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Director, Senior Executive Officer
Katsumi Uranaka

[Q] Last year Gigaphoton established regional subsidiaries in Korea and Taiwan, and a new branch office in Singapore.  What are some of the challenges you see in driving Gigaphoton's global business strategy?

We first created the "boxes."  What's important is how we are able connect these boxes organically to create a global entity that can locally drive meaningful proposals to customers.  Gigaphoton headquarters basically acts as the center, spreading its culture and way of thinking to its global subsidiaries.  The local subsidiaries then adapt it to fit their own customs and traditions to ensure smooth and efficient business.  The challenge is sustaining a bi-directional top and bottom culture in the company for this to work effectively.

Furthermore, we need to allow the regions to be able decide the direction they want to go that is the best for their businesses.  I believe this breeds a good culture where both top-down and bottom-up ideas are discussed and understood before arriving at a good overall decision that is best for the entire company.  There are programs in place today to facilitate such culture through regional empowerment.

[Q] Gigaphoton has received recognition from many customers regarding its high standard of quality, what are some of the reasons why Gigaphoton is able to achieve this?

"Quality and Reliability" is a basic policy of Komatsu and its standards are expected to be upheld by all of its group companies.  In order to realize this, our development, manufacturing, support, sales and customer service teams all work towards this common goal.  I believe what our customers are simply recognizing the accumulated result of our relentless drive to constantly improve ourselves day after day.

The way we look at it, quality and reliability levels grow by multiplying, unlike profit or productivity which grow by adding.  For example, a hundred people can be working hard to improve things, but if one person is fails, then all of it can fail.  That is how critical the task of improving quality and reliability is for Gigaphoton.

[Q] All of Gigaphoton's lasers are developed and produced in Japan, and in doing so what advantages or strengths does it offer?

The most important thing to understand about Excimer lasers is that they are one of the most advanced industrial equipments in the world and also one of the most difficult tools to manufacture.  Unlike most products, Excimer lasers cannot be produced using a conventional manufacturing line or process.  Each unit, after assembly, has to be carefully tuned to operate at its maximum performance level, which requires the collaborative know-how and experience of multiple departments working in harmony.  Japanese companies have traditionally been very good at inter-department collaborations.  It is not enough that the R&D department or the Manufacturing department is independently strong.  It is the collective and cooperative strength of these departments that make company as a whole very strong.  The fact that all of these departments are in one location here in Japan, and the fact that advanced Engineers from R&D, Manufacturing, Manufacturing Technology all cooperate to create the best possible product is what allows us to consistently deliver extremely high quality products to our customers.

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Another source of Gigaphoton’s strength is the fact that the tools used to manufacture our lasers is also developed by us.  Hence, our own Engineers are constantly performing maintenance and performance tuning on the manufacturing equipment.  This makes it very difficult for others to produce Excimer lasers because you cannot simply buy equipment to manufacture them.  The custom built tools necessary are essentially black boxes developed by highly advanced Engineers.

[Q] What do you want to appeal to your customers the most about Gigaphoton?

Gigaphoton is a small company but we are producing one of the most advanced industrial equipment in the world. We take great pride in the fact that the tools we make play a crucial role in manufacturing semiconductors that are used in millions of products that enrich people’s lives. At the same time we also feel we have a tremendous responsibility to our customers. This fuels our motivation to constantly improve and perfect our technology and our company as a whole.