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Ihara Science: Success in adversity

By Japanese standards, Ihara Science Corp. is a young company whose origins date back to 1941. During Japan's post-war boom, companies relied heavily on hydraulic pressure technology to manufacture goods, generate power and increase industrial production capacity. 

Company founder Masaji Ihara rode the wave of Japan's post-war boom by developing innovative products such as bite type fittings, which guaranteed the smooth running of the machines that powered Japan's industrial sector.

Ihara Science Corp. CEO Masaji Nagao

However, as Japan entered the so-called "Lost Decade" of the 1990s, Ihara High Pressure Fitting Co., as the company was then known, suffered a huge blow and its very existence was at stake.

The Japanese economy's flat growth, coupled with the evolving technology of motorized power, meant that Ihara's lifeblood, which was the hydraulic power market, began to dry up.

The crisis forced management to adjust and adapt, confident that overcoming adversity would make the company stronger.

Masaji Nagao, Ihara Science's CEO since 2011, recalled: “If we were to survive, we had to stop thinking about just making and selling products to customers. We had to carry the burden of creating total solutions to their problems.”

So, in 1997, the company came out of bankruptcy and was reborn as Ihara Science. For Nago, the rebranding meant: "We had to stop our obsession with developing and improving the ‘Saiteki Haikan System’ or ‘Optimum Piping System.’ We needed to see ourselves not as mere manufacturers but as pioneers of total piping solutions.”

Armed with an MBA from Dartmouth University and extensive experience at Hitachi, Nagao has shown how a specialized manufacturer can thrive in the 21st century.

Ihara Science’s obsession with reducing waste, and improving the efficiency of fluid movement through its philosophy of “saiteki haikan” is a prime example of Japan’s leading edge in specialization.

“Ihara Science owes its success not merely on its piping system. First and foremost, it depends on the collective energy and dynamism of its employees. Ihara Science aims to be the No. 1 in fluid movement technology. Ihara Science works hard to satisfy our customers by transmitting our emotion through our product,” Nagao said.

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Japan 2017, Part 2 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

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