High-End Measurement Instruments
At the Nanotech 2014 exhibition, shortly before it became known about the alliance of companies,
we met Mr. Shin-ichi Watanabe, Sales Division’s Director & Senior Executive Officer at JEOL who provided details of the product positioning, the company’s activities in the Russian market
and JEOL business development plans.
Mr. Watanabe, this year JEOL turns 65 years, what results does the company have to celebrate the milestone birthday?
Indeed, our company was established on 30 May 1949. The original name was Japan Electron Optics Laboratory and later abbreviated as JEOL. Since our inception, we have focused on designing and manufacturing scientific and measurement instruments. At present we produce transmission electron microscopes and scanning electron microscopes, X-ray fluorescence spectrometers, photoelectron spectrometers, mass spectrometers and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers. We also produce the electron-beam lithography systems, sample preparation devices and other laboratory, industrial and medical equipment. The range of application of our instruments is very wide, from the semiconductor industry to medicine. Major customers represent the research laboratories and educational institutions as well as business firms from different industries.
For 65 years JEOL has grown into a large group comprising 9 Japanese and 18 overseas companies, which employs more than 3,000 people. The headquarters and manufacturing plants are located in Japan. Our consolidated performance forecast of 2013FY is a turnover of 100 billion Yen and an operating profit of 5.5 billion Yen. Compared with the previous fiscal year, the company’s net profit and capitalisation will grow.
Can we call JEOL an export-oriented company? How important is the Russian market to your business?
The sales pattern is different for different types of products but on average about 50% of our equipment is sold outside Japan. JEOL products are sold in more than 100 countries. In key markets including in Russia we have representations, and we also work through distributors. In addition to sales under our own brand, we use OEM-partnership schemes. In particular, in Europe and North America, Siemens Corporation sells under its brand some types of JEOL equipment.
In Russia we have been working for 55 years; the first project was implemented in 1959, and a year later we opened a representative office in Moscow. In 1985, due to economic difficulties, its operation had to be suspended, but in 2005 the office was re-opened. In 2010, we created a subsidiary company JEOL Russia, which employs 10 people and mainly deals with the user support service.
In total, we installed about 700 instruments in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Among the most significant projects, for example, the installation of a transmission electron microscope JEM-2200FS in the research and educational facility ‘Nanosystems and Modern Materials’ of the Novosibirsk State University (NSU). Even Vladimir Putin was shown this microscope when he visited the NSU. Now we are working on an interesting project in Vladivostok. After its implementation the most modern transmission electron microscope in the Russian Far East will have the JEOL brand.
We believe that the Russian market has very good prospects. Its growth are fostered due to federal programmes for the development of higher education, science, high technologies, in which funds are invested including the creation and modernisation of research laboratories and centres. Our company is involved in those projects, and we are glad to contribute to the development of the Russian economy.
In Russia JEOL instruments have a reputation of the elite equipment intended primarily for scientific research. Is this positioning typical for your instruments?
In their functionalities our instruments rank among the best being a high-end instrumentation. We strive to emphasise this also by engaging leading industrial designers. For example, the scanning electron microscopes JSM-IT300 and Neo Scope were designed by Ken Okuyama known for his developments for the legendary car brands Ferrari, Porsche and Maserati.
Special emphasis is put on cooperation with scientific and educational centres. In the United States, Japan and Western Europe account for 60 to 70 % of our instruments installed. In Russia, this figure is even higher. We work closely with the University of Tokyo which has one of the world’s top research laboratories equipped with the most modern equipment. University staff checks the instruments in real scientific work and, if necessary, show them to our potential customers. This form of cooperation is mutually beneficial as the University acquires state-of-the-art equipment, and our customers can study the operation of the instruments and the feedbacks of the competent users.
In the leading research centres of the world our electron microscopes are used for research in materials science, chemistry, biotechnology, medicine and other fields. In particular, those are JEOL devices which are used by many researchers who study one of the most innovative modern materials, graphene. Cooperation with scientific institutions for us is not only about business but also image. Our staff is very proud of the fact that our tools facilitate the science development.
How is the service and methodology support to JEOL instrument users organised?
One of our key advantages is to properly arrange for service backup. Back in 1950 we created a worldwide network of service centres designed to offer a comprehensive user support ranging from repair and maintenance to the methodical assistance. The company’s leadership attaches great priority to the improvement and development of this system.
What trends in the electron microscopy sector would you mention?
First of all, the scope of application of electron microscopes especially related to materials science, biology and medicine are being expanded; so modern apparatus should be suitable for different types of research. For example, material scientists usually require a high accelerating voltage while for biologists such high acceleration is not needed.
Secondly, the instrument operation speed requirements become more demanding. High performance is particularly relevant in the industry, particularly in the semiconductor industry in terms of quality control.
What are JEOL’s development plans?
Currently a medium term development plan covering the period from 2013 to 2015, which is called ‘Dynamic Vision’, is being implemented. Along with the plan the new corporate slogan ‘Solutions for Innovation’ was adopted. The key objectives of the plan are to improve profitability and strengthen the company’s position as a market leader in the high-end instrumentation class. To achieve them, a set of measures were identified to develop the R&D division, increase manufacturing power and wholistically strengthen the JEOL brand. In the research and development of new products we will focus on innovative solutions which are exemplified by our products such as ARM200F atomic resolution analytical electron microscope, InTouchScope touch panel scanning electron microscope, NeoScope desktop scanning electron microscope and others. As far as production is concerned, we expect to increase the capacity of our businesses while reducing costs through optimisation of our logistical and production processes. Strengthening brand management involves rational product line planning, investing in solutions for growing segments as well as increased attention to user support service.
Thank you for the interesting interview.
The interview was taken by
D.Gudilin and O.Salikova