Hisayoshi Kobayashi, President of Japanese company Riken Keiki, has strengthened industrial gas detectors and alarms since he assumed his current position and it’s producing results in developing markets overseas.

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Source: Riken Keiki

In an interview with The Gas Review, he said, “We increased our overseas sales ratio to 30.5% for the fiscal year ending in March 2018, just as we planned. Making RKI Instruments in the US a complete subsidiary last year contributed to that achievement.”

“In addition, we are working hard to deepen relationships with all of our agents around the world by exchanging information with them and verifying the business status of each of them. We are anticipating that good results will gradually appear and there are places where the seeds we planted are already starting to bud.”

“Anyway, it is important to view things over the long term.”

Riken Keiki added 11 locations to its overseas centres in the last year making a total of 50 companies. Its priority is to place centres in core regions. In Europe, the company placed a new centre in Germany in May last year and in Southeast Asia it placed a new centre in Malaysia in April this year. Riken Keiki previously established centres in the US, China, Taiwan and elsewhere. It also has agents in South America and India and are building a global sales network.

“There are no countries or regions that do not have a gas detector market of some sort,” Kobayashi continued.

“First we establish an agent and then we widely promote products that are suitable for that country or region. Even if the demand is small for individual countries or regions, it is important to accumulate a track record.”

“The reputation of reliability of Japanese equipment in terms of quality is high regardless of the country or region, but Japanese products also have a reputation for being expensive. Some customers want low-priced goods, but we want to achieve results with unique products.”

Riken Keiki shares the recognition of the importance of the overseas market throughout the company.

“Major gas detector companies mainly from the US and Europe are establishing centres throughout the world and conducting business from them. In that sense, we are a newcomer. In other words, there are no places where manufacturers have not ventured, so that makes it difficult for us to enter the market. To get started, we need to remain conscious of that.”

So Riken Keiki needs to eliminate the barriers between sales structures overseas or in Japan to increase the ability to compete without obstructions.

“Our policy is to make business decisions with eyes fixed overseas, not just for sales but for the entire company. Even if the department or section is intended for sales in Japan, they need to actively venture overseas. Laws and regulations vary by country and region, so we must go onsite to get information. There’s no way to grasp the situation with just mail exchanges. By going onsite, you can also deepen cooperation with agencies.”

At the same time, the environment field including VOC (volatile organic compound) detectors has emerged on the global gas detector market. This resulted from stricter exhaust regulations for chemical substances that have an adverse effect on the human body, starting with VOCs.

“VOC regulations are a world-wide movement. Regulations are becoming stricter in Japan, Europe, the US, South Korea, Taiwan and China, and this is driving growth in demand for VOC detectors,” Kobayashi said.

“For this application, our portable GX-6000 product can detect six components simultaneously. It contains PID sensors that detect VOCs and other substances. The detector contains data that enables detection of several hundred chemicals. If the target gases are known, the corresponding data just needs to be accessed to be read directly from the memory. Currently, the demand to detect benzene is high among the VOCs and both portable and stationary models are required by customers.”

Gas detectors for semiconductor manufacturing are the main field. The demand for these is good in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China, but the market environments are getting stricter all the time.

“Even if you have a good track record, just proposing products is not enough to get the customer on board. New proposals are necessary, such as reducing running cost and improving the detection level while reducing the total number of installed gas detectors, or automatically managing safety with a gas detection system.”

Energy is one of the areas that Kobayashi has strengthened since he became President.

“Our OHC-800 explosion-proof calorimeter has accumulated a good track record in applications such as switching a fuel to LNG. However, the world is moving toward renewable energy and coal fired power generation is declining worldwide. It’s possible that we will feel the impact in the future. However, higher oil prices are bringing recovery of shale gas development, which is good news because the demand for portable detectors is recovering as well. After all, the US is the world’s largest gas detector market, so that is important.”

Increasing the overseas ratio means that Riken Keiki must make products that match each region.

“The Japanese market demands gas detectors that are high quality and reliable. We will use that knowhow to develop products that match regions overseas. Different specifications and prices are demanded by different markets. We must develop a product line up to meet all of those needs. After all, it would be meaningless to set up a sales network if we did not have products to sell. Making decisions with eyes fixed overseas is important in all aspects of business.”