Despite a promising sales start, WHIRLPOOL CORP. has pulled out of Japan's appliance market. The Benton Harbor, Michigan supplier of refrigerators, microwave ovens, washing machines, dryers and similar products cited the country's prolonged economic slump and the currency and financial crises elsewhere in East Asia for its withdrawal. In June 1996, Whirlpool tied up with DEODEO CORP. (formerly Daiichi Corp.) to sell large refrigerators and other appliances through the discount retailer's 300 or so stores in western Japan. Their agreement also included joint product development and sales in other Asian countries. When it called it quits, Whirlpool had sold 6,500 refrigerators, 3,000 freezers and 20,000 microwaves in Japan.
IBM JAPAN LTD. partnered with FUJI BANK, LTD. and OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO., LTD. on an automatic teller machine that costs $23,300, about half of other multipurpose ATMs. The big commercial bank begins installation of the machine this month. Among other novelties, the ATM has a videophone that allows customers to receive financial product information as well as apply for loans.
The Honeywell Hi-Spec Solutions unit of HONEYWELL INC. has a contract to install its Profit Controller advanced control technology on oil refiner SHOWA YOKKAICHI SEKIYU CO., LTD.'s residual fluid catalytic cracking unit in Yokkaichi, Mie prefecture. Among other benefits, Profit Controller is said to increase plant throughput, improve quality consistency and reduce energy consumption. Project implementation will be handled jointly by Phoenix, Arizona-based Honeywell Hi-Spec Solutions and YAMATAKE- HONEYWELL CO., LTD. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 338, November 1997, p. 13). Showa Yokkaichi Sekiyu is the first local refiner to install Profit Controller.
With more of its factory automation customers migrating to PC-based networked environments, the subsidiary of robot manufacturer ADEPT TECHNOLOGY, INC. introduced the AdeptWindows industrial controller. It enables PC connectivity at what is said to be a dramatically reduced cost by providing built-in, plug-and-play Ethernet connectivity. The $14,000 AdeptWindows controller, which is compatible with all Adept robots, motion controllers and vision systems, also is as much as 50 percent smaller than the San Jose, California company's legacy controller products, saving factory space. It also features solid-state mass storage for ease of serviceability. Sales are forecast at 100 units a year.
Market newcomer OPTRAND INC., a manufacturer of fiber-optic pressure sensors, has signed FUCHINO MANUFACTURING CO., LTD. of Toda, Saitama prefecture as its exclusive distributor in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Designed for monitoring and control as well as testing and diagnostics, the Plymouth, Michigan company's products are used in such applications as internal combustion engines, braking, transmission and exhaust systems, plastics molding and die-casting. Sensors for combustion use are sample-priced around $1,600 each. Fuchino Manufacturing expects to sell 100,000 units in the first year of marketing.
The STARsine line of high-efficiency frequency changers and AC power sources from LING ELECTRONICS, INC. of Anaheim, California is available exclusively from MICRON KIKI CO., LTD. Designed to simulate nearly any form of AC power, the products cover 50 hertz, 60 Hz and 400 Hz and everything in-between. STARsine AC power sources are claimed to have no match among locally manufactured products. A 60-kilovolt-ampere unit costs $62,000. The Tokyo-based distributor expects to sell 20 units in the initial year of marketing.
An exchange rate of ¥129=$1.00 was used in this report.