The Japanese industrial gas and equipment market has entered into an era of upgrading, as the industry seeks to maintain a competitive edge in its manufacturing sector and the solutions that drive it.

Even if the super depreciation of the yen were to continue, it is thought that the Japanese manufacturing industry will not engage in capital investment with the purpose of mass production as before.

Instead, the country appears to be focusing on enhancing the manufacturing set-up for the users. While there is practically no new construction of plants for producing semiconductors and liquid crystals, for example, the replacement or upgrade of facilities to maintain the highest standards is ‘quietly being accomplished’ says The Gas Review (TGR).

Specifically in terms of gas and equipment, it is no longer a concept of mass production but rather that if the processes of the user cannot be coped with, then no business value emerges. Stable gas supply has been critical until now, but it is recognised that the time for upgrades and innovation has arrived in Japan.

This is a far cry from the early 1990s, TGR notes, when it was just gas and equipment for semiconductor fabrication that coped with the ultra-clean technology required. The idea now is that, in addition to the trend for a number of users producing product in small numbers, all gas and equipment should be responding to the growing need for high purity – not just equipment for the semiconductor business.

The global shortages of helium in recent years served as a stark reminder to Japan of just how dependent it is on importation of such product. Japan would now like to come up with its own investments in helium, to secure stable supply not only domestically but also to meet growing demand from the nearby East Asia market. Similarly, high purity ammonia production has shown that Japanese technology and supply has potential overseas, with its product used to supply LED manufacturers in the wider region.

The Japanese quality of gas and related equipment has been amongst the highest in the world, but the time has come for an upgrade of its facilities to maintain this competitive edge on the international stage.