Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America is transforming supply chains and benefiting the environment.
Texas might not be the first place you’d expect to find traditional Japanese business philosophies, but Kiyoshi Okazoe, the president of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America (MHIA), believes the Japanese tradition of kaizen, or constant improvement, is perfectly suited to the US.
The concept involves all employees making small changes to improve efficiency throughout the supply chain and has been the central strategy for MHIA’s parent company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), for around 70 years.
But Okazoe is not interested in tradition for the sake of it. His efficiency-based approach is now more relevant than ever. In the rapidly changing world of modern business, waste reduction is essential to survival and also key to environmental protection.
“MHIA has a very unique business approach, blending American culture and Japanese sensibilities in everything that it does,” Okazoe says.
The MHI group’s unique business portfolio covers land, sea, sky and space. The conglomerate’s expansion in the US is driven by the manufacture of a huge range of products, from fork-lifts and tire machinery to massive systems like gas turbines and carbon capture technology.
“MHI brings together a wide portfolio of products and solutions,” says Okazoe, who has worked in the US for 14 years. While the company offers some of the world’s most sophisticated and efficient products, what really makes it stand out from the competition are the hundreds of manufacturing experts, engineers, productivity specialists and aerodynamicists dedicated to its projects.
Take MHIA’s Machine Tool Division, which produces horizontal boring mills and gear shaping machines but can easily leverage knowledge from aircraft and aerospace systems — allowing the company to develop truly state-of-the-art products.
“We bring not only highest quality products but also the best engineering solutions to the US market,” Okazoe says.
WORLD-FIRSTS IN EFFICIENCY
MHIA currently has 7,300 employees across 30 US states. The company recently moved its North American headquarters from New York to Houston as part of a continued expansion drive in the region.
Engineering expertise and a focus on efficiency have led Japan-based manufacturers such as MHI to be among of the most successful and sophisticated sources of foreign direct investment in the US. MHI is bullish on the US manufacturing market and Okazoe is aiming for 20% growth over the next two years.
“My challenge would be to make MHI a more popular company in the fields where we are now trying to expand,” he says.
Okazoe took the reins at MHIA in October last year. The wide portfolio of products the company offers mirrors the range of experience on his resume. Having joined MHI more than 40 years ago, Okazoe has held five different leadership positions, so he brings a broad understanding of all its activities.
He has a particular passion for environmental sustainability, having served as the General Manager of MHI’s Environmental & Chemical Plant Division. He now aims to place the company at the forefront of green technologies that improve output while reducing environmental impact.
One such project is the carbon dioxide capture system that allows industrial plants to collect up to 90% of their carbon emissions, pointing the way toward future large scale use. Since January, the technology has been in use at the Petra Nova project, the world’s largest carbon capture project, which opened on time and budget in Houston and has been selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) to receive up to $190 million as part of the Clean Coal Power Initiative Program (CCPI), a cost-shared collaboration between the US government and the private industry.
Such cutting-edge technologies may be modern, but they tie-in neatly with MHI’s traditional focus on kaizen. e company’s pioneering techniques cut down on wasted carbon, which in turn increases revenue and improves local air quality. Okazoe’s detail-oriented approach demonstrates his company’s commitment to technological, economic and environmental efficiency.
“We are at the cutting edge of strategic solu- tions for greenhouse gases,” Okazoe says. “ is technology has been struggling to make headway… but I hope we have opened up the path to commercial viability.”
COLLABORATIVE BUSINESS MODEL
MHI’s expansion into the US is facilitated by numerous partnerships and joint ventures. e conglomerate has close ties with iconic US companies like Caterpillar, Boeing and Southern Company. MHI has grown in the US because of historic tie-ins with two of the world’s biggest and oldest industrial groups, Hitachi and Siemens.
“Our current priority are our long term relationships,” Okazoe says. “They are a testament to our ability to align strategic goals with our partners and suppliers. We want to make it very easy to work with us and share success.” One of its most successful formal joint ventures is Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America, a partnership with Caterpillar.
The subsidiary company has benefited from the ex- plosion of online shopping as products are increasingly sold directly from warehouses. MHI has responded to this industry transformation by developing more efficient forklifts. The latest models have a longer battery life and can reach higher, meaning suppliers save on operational costs and can make full use of their storage space, a perfect example of kaizen in action in 21st century America.
But technical expertise and efficiency are not the only features driving the group’s ongoing success. More than anything else, the company’s stellar reputation depends on its tight bonds with other businesses and the community.
“Mitsubishi has long standing relationships with some of the most respected companies in the US,” Okazoe says. “We continue to employ thousands of Americans and will create more jobs in the US.”
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America resides in Houston, employs 7,300 people and collected US$35 billion (global) in annual revenue.
MHIA’S technology and in-depth experience have been invaluable in our work together, especially on the project we most recently completed in Texas. e MHIA team is a partner in every sense of the word. They take collaboration, technical expertise and a commitment to success as seriously as any organization we’ve worked with”
—KEVIN NEEDHAM, PRESIDENT-POWER ENGINEERING AT KIEWIT