The issue of Business Networking is very important in today business World. Through business networking, one business from other side of the world can get to know other business taking place on the other side of the world.
Since I came to Japan, I have visited a number of factory in Japan. whereby some of them are Furniture companies and others are not furniture companies, but are utilizing Kaizen and 5S which is one of my major university study in my research titled “Engineering manufacturing processes using “Kaizen and 5S2” Japanese philosophy. Jica has been organizing a number of business networking events so that African Business people like me can meet as many companies as possible, in Japan and see how we can share our experiences and business opportunities. Not only I got business networking from Jica events but also various company tours by organized by Jica, University, myself and even through Internship company like Kashiwa Woodworks Co.,.
During my first internship at Kashiwa Woodworks Co., I got an opportunity to visit other companies for furniture making, furniture showrooms and also shops that sell furniture and furniture making machines in Takayama and Nagoya, where by my company managed to buy different machines of more than 4 Million yen from one of the companies in Nagoya and ship them to Tanzania, also buying Trucks and other tools from different companies, some from the introduction done by Kashiwa Woodworks Co., especially for the furniture making machines, that Kashiwa Woodworks Company played a great role to connect me with that Company, and other connections are from Business networking events e.t.c.
During my current final internship with Yagi Woodworks Co., I also got an opportunity to visit a number of Furniture showrooms in Osaka and learn a lot of things from them about Japanese furniture business. From most of the showrooms I visited, I managed to see in detail, take photos and ask questions about their furniture and designs, and I have learn a number of things from my visits, and these mentioned below are some of them.
From my visit I managed to see different designs and most of them amazed me. To be honest, most of the furniture designs are not yet available in Tanzanian market but mos of them can be made using our current machines. They are so unique and are designed with an amazing creativity by talented Japanese designers. The good thing is that; they are not necessarily be complicated designs, but they focus on usability and making the customer (user) impressed to buy.
Japanese showrooms are arranged in a very creative manner. All Furniture are visible well with enough of lights in the showroom. The soft music to make customer’s mind relaxed and comfortable when he or she is looking for furniture to buy, impressed me. The showroom attendants where on uniforms and they were so welcoming and try their best to answer in details every question I ask them. The furniture were arranged in a proper arrangements and some of them were organised together with the lights, carpets or wall color that they match best, and they do this in order to assist the customer to decide which one will be best for him or her.
Each showroom was branded itself with the unique look of the products, showroom staff uniforms, showroom interior and exterior design, furniture unique look that can tell the uniqueness of the company and also even the music played in the showroom is special for that shop.
Most companies in Japan, not only for furniture but also for cars, machines etc, tends to specialize in one type of product only. In the showrooms I visited I saw specialization as well. Some of the showrooms has furniture made by certain type of wood only, some of them only make chairs, some only tables etc. In Africa we do not specialize that much, when we make wood products we try our best to make everything; tables, chairs, sofas, cabinets, beds etc; using various types of wood as long as is suitable for that product, all done under one roof. We try to capture as much market as possible.
The issue of market segmentation somehow looks the same as specialty. Market segmentation is the process of defining and subdividing a large homogenous market into clearly identifiable segments having similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics. Its objective is to design a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment. Few companies are big enough to supply the needs of an entire market;(like Kashiwa Woodworks Co.,) but most must breakdown the total demand into segments and choose those that the company is best equipped to handle. Market segmentation encourage specialization in most cases.
One of the things that I saw almost in every shop I visited, that I would like to implement it back home is customer care. The staff are fully aware of their products and are ready to give at least basic information to a customer.
Marketing is another important business issue that I learnt from my visits. Almost all the shops I visited had some important marketing tools such as Website, Business cards, Brochures and Catalogs. All the tools has the information necessary for a customer, things like shop details and address. For Catalogs and Brochures; includes products photos with other product details.
From my visits I realize that, there are a lot of things to be learnt from Japan’s complete business flow, from manufacturing to presenting the final product to a customer with high quality service and the quality of the product itself. For instance at Yagi Woodworks Co., the furniture start to be designed by a Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. The furniture blueprint is printed out with the full accurate measurements of every part and what material should be used in every part of the furniture. Most of the times these blueprints are designed by a separate company special for designing furniture using CAD software. Then the blueprint is used by furniture making expert who starts preparing each part accurately with checking for accuracy throughout the process, in order to make sure that the final product become exactly like the one on the blueprint.
My name is Gregory Mlay, from Tanzania. I am living in the city of Dar es Salaam, where we run a company called Woiso Original Products Company (WOP). In the year 2015, I applied for the African Business Education (ABE) Initiative program, to come to Japan for a Master Degree in Information systems, and also to learn how we can improve our production quality, quantity and efficiency in a Japanese way, so that we can expand business in various regions not only in Tanzania and Africa, but also outside Africa, and be able to hire more Tanzanian men and women and to serve more markets with high quality products and services.
Woiso Original Products Company (WOP) is a pure Tanzanian owned company, that deals with Leather products manufacturing. Our Company is located in Dar es Salaam, Eastern Tanzania and has “Point-of-sales” in six (6) big regions in Tanzania, such as Mwanza, Arusha, Mbeya, Dodoma, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro. We have been doing manufacturing for more than 15 years now, and we have been able to touch lives not only of our customers but also of our staff who mostly are the young people in Tanzania, who get the opportunity to work with us, and be able to run their lives and their loved ones. We are so proud for that.
ABE Initiative program objective.
The objective of ABE Initiative Master’s Degree and Internship Program is to support young personnel who can be a “Navigator” for contributing to the development of industries in Africa. This program offers opportunities for young African men and women to study at master’s courses at Japanese universities as international students and experience internships at Japanese companies. The aim is for them to develop effective skills in order for them to contribute to various fields. Beyond acquisition of skills and knowledge, this program also intends to cultivate excellent personnel who can recognize and understand the contexts of Japanese society and systems of Japanese companies. The expected outcome of the program is a network of potential contributors to the development of African industries who will also lead Japanese businesses to engage further in economic activities in Africa.
My Experience in Japan
I would like to talk about my experience in Japan in academic and business perspective, so that I can go direct to the point of linking my coming to Japan with my current carrier in Tanzania.
I applied for a masters program in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of Kobe Institute of Computing (KIC), the program that focuses in utilizing ICT innovation in Solving various issues: and because in our company and Tanzania in general, we have a number of challenges that ICT innovation knowledge can play part in solving them, I saw it was a good idea to take this course.
During my research year, I specialized in studying how Kaizen and 5S can be utilized to improve manufacturing processes in Tanzania, with the case study of our company, Woiso Original Products Co. These two philosophies of Kaizen and 5S originates in Japan and they are very famous and most companies utilize these philosophies, and I felt that it will be important to learn more from the origin (Japan) and see during my internships how Japanese companies use them practically in a live business environments, so that when I go back home, I can be able to implement the techniques in Tanzania.
My Experience at Yagi Woodwork Company
Because our plan is to extend manufacturing to Furniture making, I decided to do my two internships in Furniture making companies, that not only produces quality furniture, but also utilizes Kaizen and 5S effectively. My first two weeks internship I went to Kashiwa Woodwork Company in Takayama, Japan where I learn more about Kaizen and 5S, and very little about Furniture making; and for my last one month internship I joined Yagi Woodwork Company in Osaka where I will get an opportunity to learn about Kaizen, 5S, furniture making and also visit other companies shops to see various designs (Japanese tastes of furniture designs), products display in shops, catalog designs, branding, marketing and sells of furniture in Japanese way, so that I can have a broader knowledge in what to expect when we do business with Japanese companies in the future.
At Yagi Woodwork Company I learn a number of things especially by seeing how they utilize machines with a small number of qualified staff. This is different thing compared to what we are doing in Tanzania. Also at Yagi Woodwork Co.; 5S and Kaizen is implemented, and I had the opportunity to see in live environment the implementation of what I learned in my University research. During my University research, I studied that there is 7 wastes that every company should fight to eliminate them in their production environment in order to maximize proper utilization of resources such as time, money, materials, utilities, labor power etc; and these wastes are called Lean wastes which are 1. Transportation 2. Inventory 3. Motion 4. Waiting 5. Over production 6. Over processing and 7. Defects. I will not be able to talk about them here and how they relate to each other, but I learned and saw how Japanese Companies are doing their best to eliminate these wastes in their manufacturing.
Most African companies do not perform well like Japanese companies, and most of the time, African companies collapse from business because of the growth of the mentioned wastes to be too high. But for the Japanese companies, not only furniture companies but also other companies like Toyota, Sony, Fujitsu, Toshiba etc,. The strong point of their products has been QUALITY. Researches shows that, Kaizen and 5S, not only increase products quality but also lower products costs as all resources are utilized effectively and efficiently in producing a particular products, and no resources will be allocated to do work that is not related in making the product. and by doing so, the customer will eventually pay for the product itself and not pay for wastes.
Other furniture Shops in Osaka
During my internship I got the opportunity to visit other shops in Osaka to see various designs of furniture so that I can learn and even introduce them in our market in Tanzania. Some of the few strong points I learned from my visits is the Japanese creativity in making the products with much high talent and experience that consider many things such as uniqueness, usability, quality, efficiency in utilizing raw materials etc. Some shops are making their furniture withing Japan and few of them imports from Indonesia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong etc.
During my visits to various shops in Osaka, I got to know the best way of doing some of the things that in Africa we do different. Things like Wood joining techniques, Wood selection, combination of other materials in making furniture such as utilization of Leather, Fabrics, Steel parts etc which expands the playing ground of producing various furniture for the customer.
Opportunities for Japanese Companies in Africa
Africa is still lagging behind in Industrialization but is very rich in natural resources. Japanese companies has a great opportunities to utilize these opportunities for the mutual benefits of our countries and our people, investing in various sectors in Africa. Currently, Tanzania is welcoming local and international businesses to start their businesses within the country, and policies and procedures for investments has been improved to ensure fast, easy and friendly environment for doing business for the local and the international companies.