Eleven years after TOSHIBA MACHINE CO., LTD. was forced to end sales of its mainstay machine tools and other products in the United States for shipping prohibited machine tools to the then Soviet Union, the company is ready to resume robot sales here. Its near-term goal is to put together a distribution network in the Midwest, signing marketing and maintenance agreements with 10 companies by October. With that infrastructure in place, Toshiba Machine hopes to be selling 100 small robots a year within two years.
Competitor NACHI-FUJIKOSHI CORP. has opened an advanced technology center for robotics in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The R&D facility is an integral part of the diversified manufacturer's goal of boosting sales in the United States in the wake of weak Asian demand for its products (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 343, April 1998, p. 5). Nachi-Fujikoshi makes bearings in Greenwood, Indiana and machine tools at its NATIONAL BROACH & MACHINE CO. subsidiary in Macomb, Michigan.
To backstop its U.S. machine tool marketing efforts, MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD.'s primary American operation and its onshore production unit have established a manufacturing technology center in Wixom, Michigan. Located there to serve the automotive industry, the center showcases MHI's gear-cutting and grinding machines. The company makes computer numerically controlled lathes and machining centers in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
With demand for machine tools sagging at home, a number of other builders also are strengthening their American operations in an attempt to capitalize on the stronger U.S. market. For instance, two years after its last expansion, OKUMA CORP. is in the process of boosting the combined output of CNC lathes and machining centers at its Charlotte, North Carolina plant. The new capacity will be 170 units a month, or 30 percent more than the company currently can turn out. For its part, YAMAZAKI MAZAK CORP., which has made CNC lathes and machining centers in Florence, Kentucky for the last 20 years, will establish two more regional counterparts of its Kentucky-based national technical center. Located in Atlanta and Houston, the new operations not only will handle sales in their territories but will have the capability to work closely with customers in developing engineering solutions. MAZAK CORP. already has four regional technical centers across the United States.
Also hoping to offset slumping demand at home, a FURUKAWA CO., LTD. subsidiary has an October launch date for a large vehicular crane designed specifically for the American market. TOMEN CORP.'s Norcross, Georgia office and five distributors will handle sales of FURUKAWA UNIC CORP.'s 14.3-ton crane. Until now, that company has sold only 5.5-ton and 8.8-ton truck-based cranes in the United States. Gunning for 10 percent of the market in this product class, Furukawa Unic hopes to sell 50 or so 14.3- ton cranes in 1999 and 200 the next year.
Industrial sewing machine manufacturer JUKI CORP. is branching out in the United States. Within this year, its Wayne, New Jersey subsidiary will introduce mailing systems that automatically classify and stuff envelopes products that now are sold almost entirely to financial institutions and government organizations in Japan. Juki plans to use its existing U.S. sales and marketing network to handle the new product.
By switching distributors, SEIKOW CHEMICAL ENGINEERING & MACHINERY, LTD. hopes to reverse the drop in U.S. sales of its Texel lined magnetic drive pumps. Its new representative is MAGNATEX PUMPS, INC. The Houston pump specialist is projecting annual sales of $2.1 million within three years. Put on the American market in 1994, the Hyogo prefecture manufacturer's products soon achieved yearly sales of $2.8 million but then fell by half. Magnatex works with more than 20 distributors around the country.
An exchange rate of ¥141=$1.00 was used in this report.