February 15th, 2017 | A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

The Inner Workings of Yanmar Vol.3
Hiroko Kiba Speaks to President Takehito Yamaoka

Hiroko Kiba: It’s important to have employees who feel glad that they chose Yanmar.
Takehito Yamaoka: Regardless of our 100 year history, if we don’t continue to create new value, then the value of our existence will be lost.

Freelance news presenter, Hiroko Kiba, delves deeper into the inner workings of Yanmar in the last of this three part series. This time, Hiroko Kiba goes straight to the top; talking with President Takehito Yamaoka. Yanmar Steps into the next 100 years since its Founding with a Brand Statement and Visions for a SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

Overcoming the Bursting of Japan’s Economic Bubble Demonstrates the Underlying Strength of Yanmar’s Workforce

Hiroko Kiba: In the last two interviews we explored the changes that Yanmar has been making in recent times. The decision to recreate the brand image that has been formed over the past 100 years with the new Brand Statement, A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE, was quite a big move for Yanmar.

Takehito Yamaoka: The much loved weather forecast animation characters, Yanboh & Marboh, came about in 1959; the same year that I was born. Both Yanmar and I grew up alongside these two characters.
However with the diversification of business and the acceleration of globalization over the years our core values diverged from the image that these characters portrayed. Our 100 year anniversary served as a turning point to make a break away from this image.

In 1998, the year that I was appointed as company President, Japan’s economic bubble had burst and we were pushing forward with various reforms in order to rebuild our company in spite of the severe economic slump. Even in the face of such severe conditions, the fact that we didn’t enter a downward trend is largely due to the underlying strength of our employees here at Yanmar. For that reason, I could pursue forward into the next 100 years with confidence.

Hiroko Kiba: A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE demonstrates Yanmar’s commitment to leveraging technology to solve global food and energy issues. As the president what are your thoughts and feelings towards this vision?

Takehito Yamaoka: Our current vision joins that of our founder “to conserve fuel is to serve mankind” with the present day needs; signifying our commitment to enriching our environment and creating a society that can enjoy prosperity with minimal use of energy. In aiming to achieve this vision we’ve devised four aspirations for our society which we are working to make a reality. These are; an energy-saving society, a society where people can work and live with peace of mind, a society where people can enjoy safe and plentiful food and a society that offers an exciting life filled with rich and fulfilling experiences.

Our Founder’s Spirit and Being Grateful to Serve for a Better World

Hiroko Kiba: In the “100 Years of Yanmar” handbook on Yanmar’s history, it talks about the time when you first introduced Yanmar’s engine and pump into the village of Sasayama in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. The photograph, which shows the people of the town gathering around in formal attire to watch the water being powerfully, pumped from the source, left a strong impression on me. The end goal is not the sale of the product, but rather the product is a means in which to enrich the lives of working people. From Yanmar’s beginnings you have been providing inspiration to peoples’ lives through providing added value and the security to live and work with peace of mind as stated in A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.

Takehito Yamaoka: I also feel that A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE was envisaged from this idea of providing inspiration. The Yanmar museum was established in the birthplace of our founder and my grandfather in Nagahama city of Shiga Prefecture, Japan, to commemorate 100 years of business operations alongside offering interactive experiences aimed at inspiring our visitors. We have also received numerous awards for our efforts, including the 2016 Good Design Award.

Hiroko Kiba: Beyond the scope of business, Yanmar’s various initiatives in talent development and fostering culture stem from the initial ideas held by Magokichi Yamaoka, correct?

Takehito Yamaoka: My grandfather wanted to put the profits gained through business towards a good cause, and therefore would provide financial aid to children in Nagahama who did not have the means to proceed to high school or university. This was the starting point for the Yamaoka Scholarship Foundation which was formally established in 1950.
Currently, the foundation has helped over 5400 people get a start in life. More recently we have been expanding our sights internationally, supporting students who are aiming to further both their education and soccer skills. In Japan and overseas we are pursuing ventures aimed at talent development and education. A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE echoes the motto that my grandfather lived by — “Grateful to Serve for a Better World.”

Modeling Workplace Organization on Soccer

Hiroko Kiba: The J-League soccer team, Cerezo Osaka, was originally established in 1957 under the name Yanmar Diesel Soccer Club. What attracted you to choose soccer as Yanmar’s corporate sport from such an early stage?

The Yanmar Global Cup hosts participants from Yanmar group companies all over the world
The Yanmar Global Cup hosts participants from Yanmar
group companies all over the world

Takehito Yamaoka: When we first established a subsidiary in Brazil, managing the business operations was quite a rocky process. However after introducing soccer, communication channels started to become more fluid. Yanmar’s soccer club started out with subsidiary employees coming to Japan to coach us in soccer in return for receiving training at our Amagasaki Plant. Nowadays, we have changed the structure and host a regular Group wide soccer tournament called the Yanmar Global Cup. The tournament hosts Yanmar company teams from all over the world and with the next cup also hosting a team from the Spanish based company, Himoinsa, who joined the Group through an M&A in 2015; we hope to see Group wide communication become even more global. Overcoming differences in language, nationality, religion, culture and driving forward towards a common goal, is essentially the same as business.

I also enjoy playing soccer each week with team mates and close friends. However the best team is a team where each member can make independent decisions in order to put forward their best game play for the situation at hand. An enterprise should be the same. I'm building a company structure where, like in soccer, each employee thinks and act independently and walks away feeling satisfied that today’s job was done to the highest level.

Hiroko Kiba: As a sport that is enjoyed across the globe, soccer is a valuable tool for expanding business globally. As for another global sport, Yanmar is also the Official Technical Partner to the Oracle Team USA sailing team, in what is often referred to as the F1 of the ocean; the America’s Cup. When Oracle Team USA came first in 2013, the team stated that the success was in part due to the Yanmar engine equipped chase boats which supported the race boat.

As Technical Partner supporting the world’s leading team, Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup
As Technical Partner supporting the world’s leading team,
Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup

Takehito Yamaoka: I am enthralled to see them become the world’s number one sailing team. By equipping the chase boats of Oracle Team USA with our Yanmar 8LV diesel engines and ZT drive systems, we are able to support both the race and improve the team’s performance. Furthermore, the superb speed, power and durability which the engine displays in even the worst of conditions, is in part due to the Japanese fishermen who helped with this engine.

The America’s Cup, which was held in Fukuoka city from November 18-20, 2016, was the first to be held in Asia. Yanmar’s participation in the Cup was instrumental in deepening the brand image of not only our advanced engine technology but also as a company that is dedicated to delivering inspiration to the community.

Leveraging Business Opportunities to Build Winning Strength

Hiroko Kiba: The strengths of Yanmar’s marine business are more widely known in Europe and the Americas than in Japan. On top of building a globally unified brand image, the Brand Statement also outlines some quite big expectations for the future. What influence has this had within Japan?

Takehito Yamaoka: While we have already made efforts to transform the mindset of our employees, there's still more work to go. However, I have certainly felt quite a positive response in recognition of the changes that Yanmar has already been making. As both customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are inextricably linked together, as responses from outside the company increase so will responses from inside the company increase.

Hiroko Kiba: It’s important to have a workforce of people who feel glad to be working at Yanmar.
With a workforce of approximately 18,000 people, what do feel is unique about Yanmar?

Takehito Yamaoka: While it can be both a good and bad thing at times; I think that we have good people here at Yanmar. There are a lot of business areas that stop at second place, which is something that I want to amend. When investigating business areas where Yanmar has opportunities, we came up with approximately 300 different fields. We need to focus our attention towards the top 26 fields alongside delivering a strong competitive advantage.

Hiroko Kiba: So rather than focusing on being number one, you hope to be number one by focusing on meeting customers’ needs?

Takehito Yamaoka: That’s correct. For our customers as well as our employees, I want to create a community that inspires people. It is through this process that I hope we become the top company. A large number of Yanmar’s businesses are in areas which serve as the foundations for human life. My vision for Yanmar is to be a company that serves society from behind the scenes. For this reason, continuing to deliver advanced, forward thinking and new value to our society is paramount. Without this, the value of our company will be lost. I don’t want to merely be seen as a long standing company of 100 years in Osaka. A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE represents our forward-thinking stance and dedication to continue to contribute to society over the next 100 years.

Hiroko Kiba: Continuing the legacy of Yanmar’s grandfather, and the uniqueness that has been cultivated over the last 100 years, Yanmar is shaping a new future based on its four aspirations for society. I am looking forward to seeing what is to come. Thank you for your time.

After the Interview

Entering into the next 100 years of business, Yanmar has embarked on a new path, expanding out from its Yanboh & Marboh image.
In actual fact, reforms have been underway for sometime within the company and therefore for Yanmar employees the new Brand Statement, which is an extension of what has been implemented up until now, may seem to be stating the obvious. President Takehito Yamaoka is a fun person that invokes inspiration and excitement in the people around him. I hope to communicate to the outside world the qualities and the inner workings of Yanmar.


Takehito Yamaoka
President, Chairman and Representative Director
Yanmar Co.,Ltd.
Joining Yanmar Diesel Co., Ltd in 1982, Takehito Yamaoka was first appointed as general manager of the GHP Business and Customer Support Business. He later succeeded to become a director in 1990, the managing director in 1996 and the representative director in 1998 in the lead up to being appointed to his current position in 2012.

Hiroko Kiba
Hiroko Kiba joined Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS) in 1987 where she served as the first female sports presenter for various programs including Tetsuya Chikushi News 23. In 1992, she moved to freelance reporting following her marriage to professional baseball player, Tsuyoshi Yoda (current pitching coach for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a baseball team in Japan). Hiroko currently participates in councils and commissions for eight different ministries and agencies in Japan including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). During her time she has gathered extensive knowledge on energy facilities. Alongside having conducted over 300 world-leading interviews, Hiroko also works as a visiting professor at Chiba University in Japan.

Online advertisement on The Nikkei (Japanese newspaper):
July 25 to December 31, 2016

Translation from the Japanese by Yanmar