“From Business Succession to New Challenges: Valuing the Voice of Every Employee | Kato Light Metal Industrial Co., Ltd.”
Kato Light Metal Industrial Co., Ltd. is gaining industry attention for its advanced aluminum manufacturing technology. However, at the core of its management lies the immeasurable value of ‘people,’ beyond just technology and numbers. The company’s management style, which cherishes the voices of its employees and sincerely accepts each person’s opinions and proposals, serves as a reference for many small and medium-sized enterprise managers. This article delves into the secrets and results of management focused on the employees.
About the Business of Kato Light Metal Industrial Co., Ltd.
Could you first tell us about your company’s business?
We perform aluminum extrusion molding as well as processing and assembly. In an era of constantly diversifying demands, we actively introduce the latest equipment and technology to respond swiftly to these needs. Utilizing state-of-the-art aluminum extrusion machines, we efficiently produce a wide variety of aluminum shapes.
Are there any special initiatives you undertake to maintain product quality and production efficiency?
To maximize production efficiency, our entire company works together to ensure timely, high-quality extrusion molding, even for projects with strict deadlines. Our manufacturing line is equipped not only with aluminum extrusion profiles but also with various facilities necessary for improving quality and finishing processes. We provide products that are trusted by our customers, with consistent quality management from extrusion to processing, assembly, and packaging.
On Business Succession
Did you always intend to take over the business?
Initially, when I became a working adult, taking over the company was not on my mind. I did ponder during my middle school years whether I should take over the company, but this thought gradually changed as I progressed through high school and university. The decision to join the company was significantly influenced by a suggestion from an acquaintance. I am deeply grateful to the company for allowing me to grow from birth to adulthood. It was this sense of gratitude that motivated me to take the path of business succession.
What kind of work did you do before taking over the business?
After graduating, I joined a trading company, then had experiences running my own business, and later as a consultant, I supported over 300 companies with management improvements. These experiences were varied and seemed to accumulate by chance, but in hindsight, they feel like they were all gained in preparation for the eventual turnaround of the company.
Challenges After Business Succession
Could you tell us about the main challenges you faced after business succession?
After the succession, the first issues I tackled were related to ‘people’ and ‘costs’.
Could you tell us about the challenges related to ‘people’ first?
Right after I joined the company, I realized that employees were hesitant to express their own opinions and thoughts. This was due to the company’s history, existing culture, an atmosphere of unease within the company, and a lack of management training for supervisors. Our employees are very conscientious, deeply thoughtful, and committed to their work. They are eager learners and do not cut corners in their work.
It seems there were various issues at the time.
What specific measures did you take to address these issues?
Firstly, we prioritized establishing psychological safety. To create an environment where employees could confidently speak up and take action, we enhanced management training. Concurrently, we clarified our mission, vision, and values and reaffirmed our organizational culture and shared values. We also restructured meetings to encourage participation and speech, enhancing the overall execution ability of our staff and encouraging the use of individual opinions and ideas for product and service improvement. Furthermore, we are reviewing our HR systems to put our established mission, vision, and values into concrete practice.
So, you started by ensuring psychological safety.
It’s admirable that you value each employee so highly!
What about the challenges related to ‘costs’?
After the business succession, we faced challenges such as a passive management style that was merely influenced by market fluctuations and a lack of a clear decision-making axis in response to customer demands. The lack of clarity in management policies and organizational goals was felt as a significant issue.
Could you tell us about specific strategies or measures you took to address these cost-related challenges?
We began by examining flexible procurement methods to adapt to market changes, implementing detailed cost calculations for each product, and clarifying and reconfirming management policies. In particular, we re-evaluated our quoting methods during price revisions, moving away from industry trends to more detailed estimates as a basis for pricing.
I’ve heard that you share cost-related information with all employees…
To maintain transparency in management, we share management information and achievements with all employees. We disclose not only sales and profits but also daily costs such as electricity bills, and we continuously report the results of initiatives such as electricity cost savings. Thanks to this, employees have become more proactive in their engagement. We also have a promise to return the profits to the employees if the profit margin exceeds a certain standard. As a result, employees’ ideas, such as those aimed at saving on electricity costs, have been implemented in real initiatives, and the results are tangible. I truly appreciate the efforts of our employees in these endeavors.
It’s clear that you value ‘people’ greatly in your management approach.
People are a vital foundation of a company. At our company, we respect individuals and manage our business accordingly. We believe that the sustainability of management begins with valuing people.
Efforts to Create a Comfortable Working Environment
Could you tell us about the efforts and initiatives to create a comfortable working environment for your employees?
We place great importance on the voices from the field. We strive to create an environment where it’s psychologically and physically easy to share opinions, and we have been gradually enhancing our welfare programs. While I am responsible for the final decisions, company policies are formulated together with our employees. We value proactive suggestions from our staff and continuously provide support for their concerns and challenges.
It seems you’re very attentive to your employees’ voices.
As part of my role, I believe it’s crucial to provide support and make decisions when employees are uncertain. Data analysis is important, of course, but I also value intuition.
Do you also incorporate employees’ voices in daily operational environments and welfare benefits?
Yes. Previously, our in-house meals were limited to bento boxes, but now we’ve made arrangements to include bread and snacks as well. We’ve also introduced ice vests and improved the working environment. We are making these changes incrementally based on employee feedback.
Through these initiatives, have there been changes in employees’ behaviors or mindsets?
I’ve definitely noticed an increase in employee contributions compared to the past. In recent meetings, there’s been a rise in proactive sharing of opinions and suggestions. I believe these changes are the result of consciously providing an environment that encourages expression and continuing to respect their opinions and suggestions. We will continue to value the voices of our employees and work on improving the overall culture and creating a more comfortable working environment.
The Vision for the Future
Finally, could you share your vision for the future?
Looking ahead, we plan to deepen our collaboration with venture companies. We are already cooperating with four ventures, combining their unique technologies and ideas with our manufacturing expertise to create new products and services.
Four years since I joined, our efforts are gradually taking shape. Our activities have been featured in newspapers, drawing attention from many people. Our characteristic is to create new value by partnering with venture companies that have financial constraints, leveraging each other’s strengths.
Ultimately, our goal is the realization of a ‘supportive aluminum society.’ This comes from our desire to contribute to society through our technology and products. We aim to be a company that embodies our mission, vision, and values and provides value not only to our employees but also to the wider society by achieving our profit targets. To this end, we will continue to work on various fronts, including restructuring our personnel system, organizational reform, and technological development.
The future certainly looks exciting!!
A Word from the Editorial Department
Interviewing President Kato left a strong impression of his sincere engagement with each and every employee. Post-succession, his fearless approach to tackling various challenges and the importance of maintaining connections across diverse industries were particularly striking. We look forward to seeing the effects of such internal and external initiatives. President Kato’s broad perspective and the expansion demonstrated through collaborations suggest significant potential for the future growth of Kato Light Metal Industrial Co., Ltd. After the interview, there was a light-hearted moment where the interviewer, Takahashi, suggested a photo shoot with everyone striking the “KK pose,” representing the initials of Kato Light Metal Industrial. Amidst serious discussions, President Kato’s warmth and humor shone through, making it an enjoyable and swiftly passing interview. Thank you.
Daiki Kato Profile
Born in 1990. After graduating from Keio University’s Faculty of Environment and Information Studies in 2014, he joined Moriya Trading Company. He began his own business, centered around importing Halal ingredients and supporting Halal certification, sparked by arranging meals for Islamic clients. Later, he excelled as a business improvement consultant at Persol Career Co., Ltd., conversing with tens of thousands of professionals, collaborating with executives and managers from large to small enterprises to achieve improvements in management, new business development, manufacturing, and logistics. He joined Kato Light Metal Industrial Co., Ltd. in October 2020. His special skill is connecting people. His personal motto is “Engage with all your might.” In sports, he continued playing water polo for 10 years through middle school, high school, and college, even participating in the Inter-High School Championships.
Company Profile of Kato Light Metal Industry Co., Ltd.
|60.5 million yen
3-47 Nishinomori, Kanie-cho, Ama-gun, Aichi Prefecture
|Number of employees
|Manufacture and processing of aluminum extruded shapes
Assembly and sales of products using aluminum