Research & Development(R&D)/Manufacturing
SEKISUI CHEMICAL’s Approach to R&D and Its R&D System
With the putting of efforts into practice for its Group Vision forming the framework of its medium-term management strategy, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group is aiming to maintain its strong corporate presence for 100 years and beyond. The Medium-term Management Plan “SHIFT 2019 -Fusion-” is positioned as one step forward toward a “new phase of growth” for the realization of the aim, and establishes the acceleration of new business creation through “technology fusion” as one of the top priorities. Actively promoting the fusion of in-house technologies with those from outside, the Company is working to increase the pace of commercialization in the new markets and fields that will play a part in the Group’s future while creating attractive themes that look beyond at what will follow.
Forming the basis of these efforts are the 25 technological platforms with direct links to the Group’s two business domains, “Residential and Social nfrastructure Creation” and “Chemical Solutions.” These are the fundamental technological platforms that support the Group’s product lineup and should even be said to be the source of its competitiveness that has been cultivated over many years. An example of this would be our processing, which imparts smart value to components and our molding that enhances the functionality of materials. In this area, we listen to the needs of our customers as a way to best determine the path to adding value. Moreover, by effectively combining multiple platforms, we will continue to develop new products and services that are capable of maintaining a clear lead in the market even in a harsh competitive environment.
Serving as the R&D system in the Group responsible for these platforms are the four primary R&D centers within the Housing Company, the UIEP Company, the HPP Company, and the Corporate headquarters. In addition, Sekisui Medical Co., Ltd. and other key affiliated companies maintain independent R&D divisions and facilities. Directly linked to the enhancement of existing businesses and the pioneering of new frontiers, the R&D conducted at the divisional companies focuses on product development and manufacturing technology themes that will lead to profit in the near future.
In fiscal 2018, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group introduced several new products to the market. Working to bolster initiatives aimed at addressing rebuilding demand, the Group launched New Parfait to further fortify its product lineup. Steps were also taken to inject other products into the market including a non-flammable urethane thermal insulating foam material for onsite use, the first of its kind to acquire approval from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as an organic non-flammable material. Looking ahead, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group will continue to actively introduce new products in fiscal 2019 as a part of efforts to secure a new phase of growth.
In contrast, as an independent research unit the center within Corporate headquarters is conducting research into themes that present extremely high technical hurdles to be addressed over medium- and long-term timeframes, large-scale themes spanning the entire Company, and new business domain themes which we have never challenged before as a group.
For example, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group participated in EcoPro 2018 -International Exhibition on Environment and Energy- in December 2018. Here, the Group’s film-type perovskite photovoltaic battery drew wide-ranging attention and expectation as a next-generation solar cell. In addition, the Group is moving steadily toward the world’s first practical application of a bio-refinery technology that converts waste into ethanol. Through these and other initiatives, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group is actively promoting the development of other themes with a view to creating new businesses.
Moreover, divisional companies and Corporate headquarters are bringing to the table their respective capital while engaging in co-development activities to promote a variety of fusion themes. SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group has also established the New Innovation Committee (NIC) as a forum to support these endeavors. The NIC is comprised of officers who oversee the Group’s R&D, manufacturing, business strategy and human resources functions, and is charged with the responsibility of calling for and evaluating themes with the potential for fusion. Those themes considered worth pursuing are then supported either through corporate expenses or through the dispatching of personnel. Several themes have already been approved and are in the process to realization.
As one example, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group is taking preparatory steps to develop a Town Energy Management System (TEMS) under which the Company will purchase excess electricity generated solar power generation cells from customers living in SEKISUI HEIM houses. In addition to supplying this excess electricity to customers living in SEKISUI HEIM houses that are not equipped with power-generating facilities, the purchased power will also be made available use at domestic plants and business sites of the Group. Plans are in place for this service to begin from fiscal 2019.
Strengthening Manufacturing Capabilities
The Group is working to promote R&D that helps to create new products. At the same time, the Group is placing equal emphasis on strengthening its manufacturing capabilities in a bid to reinforce the competitive advantage of its existing products.
In the Medium-term Management Plan “SHIFT 2019 -Fusion-,” we stated “minimizing manufacturing risk and fortifying our ability to respond to the new era of manufacturing”* as a policy relating to manufacturing capabilities. Regarding the building of a culture to reduce manufacturing risk as one of its priority measures, the Company will promote the strengthening of CS quality infrastructure by, for example, promoting the intrinsic safety of equipment and the thorough promotion of safety-aware human resource development as well as the building of a CS quality information knowledge system. As part of our efforts to bolster our manufacturing capabilities, we will use quantitative assessments of our production technology capabilities to strengthen our technical capabilities in automation and information technologies, while accelerating the introduction of new technologies relevant to ICT/IoT technologies. At the same time, we will further enhance our manufacturing core strengths through the nurturing of manufacturing human resources, as we have been doing up to now.
Such organizational approach will enable the Group to engage its prominent technologies and quality in the continuous development of new frontiers in the domains of “Residential and Social Infrastructure Creation” and “Chemical Solutions” for the betterment of the environment and the people’s lives in the world.
* The Third Industrial Revolution: IT/Information Society; The Fourth Industrial Revolution: AI
Human Resources and Benefits for R&D and Manufacturing
The Group presents Great Invention Awards to acknowledge researchers and engineers that have created highly unique and innovative inventions with the potential to become profitable technologies and products. These awards and the accompanying monetary endowment are one way the Group demonstrates its recognition of and appreciation for its talented researchers and engineers.
So far in the current fiscal year, certification has been awarded to advancements in conductive fine particles and anisotropic conductive materials.
The Group has also established a specialist position system for researchers and engineers with highly specialized skills. The system selects exceptional individuals who have been recognized as possessing highly advanced skills and appoints them to uniquely defined specialist positions. The system promotes ongoing development and aims to cultivate outstanding researchers and engineers recognized both inside and outside the Company. As of April 2019, 21 people held specialist positions.
The Group introduced the Meister position to recognize individuals that exemplify the range of manufacturing skills and technical objectives of the Group. The position is intended to promote the Group tradition of superior skill and craftsmanship and increase the motivation of each and every technician. As of April 2019, 3 people held Meister positions. Cultivating and encouraging the Group’s talented manufacturing technicians by acknowledging their highly refined skills inspires motivation and will further elevate the Group’s high level of manufacturing expertise in the years to come.
Fundamental Policy on Intellectual Property
Intellectual property is an important management resource that underpins growth and revenue aimed at optimizing corporate value. Accordingly, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group places considerable emphasis on strategic IP activities in order to maximize its technological prominence and contribute to business growth. Among a host of activities, the Group identifies business strategies based on an analysis of the competitive environment. To this end, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group assesses the IP landscape, which includes a review of IP, market and peer data. The Group also engages in IP portfolio management.
Intellectual Property Management System and Major Activities
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group has set up independent intellectual property divisions at its Corporate headquarters and at each divisional company. This takes into account the Group’s divisional company structure and enables the Group to promptly engage in activities that are attuned to the business environment of each divisional company.
The intellectual property divisions, the business divisions, and the R&D divisions at each divisional company are tasked with constantly maintaining cooperation and periodically holding Intellectual Property Strategy Committee meetings for divisional company presidents. Through these means, the Group is able to engage in activities that facilitate the building of an IP network almost to the complete exclusion of competitors.
The Intellectual Property Division at the Group’s Corporate Headquarters is responsible for the planning and drafting of basic IP strategies that are common to the entire Group, IP education and training as well as management of the patent management system. Taking into consideration its corporate R&D mission of creating new businesses, SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group draws on an analysis of the IP landscape at an early stage to engage in strategic IP activities that allow it to overwhelmingly succeed while continuously dominating the market.
SEKISUI CHEMICAL Group has adopted a new two-tiered IP education and training system from fiscal 2018. In addition to a basic IP education and training component that covers areas common to both Corporate headquarters and each divisional company, this new two-tiered IP education and training system contains a second component aligned to the particular features of each divisional company that is designed to enhance practical skills. Moreover, steps were taken to update the patent management system in May 2018 in order to maximize the contribution to strategic IP activities.
In this way, the intellectual property divisions at Corporate headquarters and at each divisional company are endeavoring to build a close-knit Group-wide IP structure while engaging in strategic IP activities that are attuned to the business environment.