There is a company which processes glass for the luxury brand shops and department stores located in the main street of Ginza, Tokyo. I came to interview Mr. Nishio who leads a group of proficient workmen.
Next year is our 85th anniversary and I am the third generation. The primary director, my grandfather, is originally from Mie prefecture. He went for a training in glass the plant located in Asakusa when he was 12. The mirror in the plant was very dirty and he was disappointed about it especially after seeing beautiful Fuji mountain. He wanted to make more beautiful mirror, and this feeling was the beginning of our journey. He learned about mirror manufacturing through the books and started a small plant with four members in 1932. At that time, mirror was a symbol of luxury, and he just wanted to make something beautiful so that he can please his clients.
There was a regulation against the luxury goods around the time of Manchurian Incident. He could not avoid discontinuing his business for two years when the world war Ⅱ started. He came back to Tokyo after the end of war and found a pile of glass where there used to be a plant. He felt certain that it was his home, and it led him to restart his plant again.
However, a life of commoner was far from mirror, so he sold mirrors to the occupation troops. He got some chocolate instead of money and gave them to the children in the neighborhood.
My grandfather taught a technique of mirror manufacturing to my father from his early age. My father was not sure about my grandfather’s policy which was limiting only mirror manufacturing while Japan’s economy had bloomed.
Moreover, the major glass companies established agencies at the small mirror plants in the town. My father agreed for the agency contract, but my grandfather had hard time understanding the changes of the times. In conclusion, we sealed the agency deal in 1969. Therefore, our business has transformed from manufacturing mirrors to processing mirrors. Before seeing this transformation, my grandfather passed away when he was 57.
My father succeeded a business when he was 24 and the economy was growing rapidly since next year was Tokyo Olympic. During the bubble period, ornamentation was basked in the limelight.
People said, “The glass industry field will never be out of business.” I strongly remember that our plant kept bright light until the next morning.
My father passed away in 1992 because of cancer. He was in the hospital for 9 years but this company remained because of the strong trust relationship with clients. Before he passed away, we had a time to talk just two of us. I told him, “Do not worry about anything since I will succeed your business.” Then he held my hand strongly and nodded even though he was in the condition of gorked.
It was after the bubble economy burst, and glass industry was shrunk drastically. My mother asked me to work on the value-added field which is reading drawing sheet so that it will be advantage for sales. On the other hand, most of the employees told me to start learning at the factory floor. Therefore, I did both of them. In the workmen’s world, they did not accept me smoothly. I was not able to drink alcohol because of stress. The only thing that save me was the friends whom I met at the drawing school I went after work. I went out for a drink with them often without thinking about the hard situation in the company. I spent most of time for work since no one in the plant did not help me. My family and friends had hard time understanding my situation. The only person who became a major ally was my mother.
Since I had lived in the grim world, there was a feeling that I could not trust people somewhere in my heart. I have to let this feeling go now. Since I had not been accepted by other people, I had trouble accepting other people. I had been struggling about these issues, but recently, I finally overcame when I talked to an organizational development consultant. He admitted what I had been through for a long time. This incident concluded my entire laboriousness. Now I can see myself objectively because both of the consultant and employees pointed out the issues of me. I try not to deny myself but admit who I am including the ugly side.
I think it is important to be devolved into what you are doing. Your job has to be something exciting and delivering happiness to the clients. When your idea and a sensation bond are combined together, it becomes a great spiral.
I try to tell the sensation of work to the workmen. Therefore, I take them to the shops of clients to show the actual scene. I think it is important to show workmen how their products are used and what are the clients’ reaction. I would like to inherit our traditional technique and fundamental essence so that the delivering happiness to the clients will be descended at the high level.
There are two aspects.
One is cutting the edge of glass in 45 degree and bond two pieces without including any air bubbles.
Another one is processing mirrors for the usage of severe condition in outdoors especially in the environmental field like a solar-electric power generation.
Mirrors are used for a various purpose, so the possibility is expanded widely depending on the field.
I guess you get some difficult and impossible orders from clients sometimes, but how do you handle with those orders?
There is no easy job for us. We propose our idea even though it seems like a totally impossible order so that we can guide to the possible solution. Moreover, we need to complete everything within a budget. Therefore, we have to maintain a great communication with our clients.
We always intend to show our challenging figure. Since we keep challenging something new, it is possible for us to grow and also makes clients want to ask us.
I do nod, respond, and ask questions more than usual. The conversation with the workmen is composed with 60% of their talk in order to make them speak more. These process makes it possible for workmen to talk genuinely rather than dancing around. I ask many questions from the different angles in order to reach a core of the issue. The conversation should not end just once but a continuous approach is necessary.
As for the workmen, they are not good at expressing themselves. So, I always ask an awful lot of questions. For example, they cannot write their visions on the paper, but they do have feelings. When we made our company philosophy, we held study sessions with all the staff. They wrote out the reason why they wanted to work at this company in the time frame of past, current, and future. These reasons were categorized into the two different groups. The first one was the work which they could proud of. The second one was the skill they could get through Nishio. We combined two reasons together and made one philosophy. “This company should be the place where is held esteem by our family and clients. We solve any difficult orders by our won skill.”
We bring up this philosophy whenever we make sure our current stand point compare to the goal. Whether our way of working is not slipped off from the goal?
We would like focus on human resources development in order to expand our business to the overseas more. We would like to be the one where the number of young workmen is the highest. We should be able to think flexibly in order to make this possible.
We accept the plant visit from outside as a part of this process. In 2018, we would like to accept 100 people for the visit. We want the visitors to see our company rather than the glass itself. There are 13 junior high schools every year to visit us, so it will be great if they can learn and be interested in what we do through workmen’s work style. I think it is dangerous to hold the feelings of “I know everything” since SNS is very popular now. Our world is based on the five senses, I want children to experience something they can remember later. We got a phone call the other day from one of the students who visited us 10 years ago, and she asked us some questions regarding the glass. We feel very happy about what we have done.