Table Speech

Dramatic Changes Occurring in the Horological Industry - Value of Watches in the Smartphone Society

December 11, 2019

Mr. Hideo Hattori
Chairman of the Board,
Morioka Seiko Instruments Inc.

 The IT industry has achieved quantum leaps in recent years and brought revolutionary transformations across other industries, including the automobile sector that undergoes once-in-a-century changes. The horological industry in which I work, developed from a local cottage industry in Europe. It is a small industry and has been less affected by external factors including technological innovation until quite recently when the IT sector triggered earthshaking changes. The world’s first Smartphone launched in 2007 played an instrumental role in changing our lifestyle, especially of the younger generation. The emergence of the network society and the rise of online commerce had a dramatic impact on traditional shopping patterns, customer expectations and created a new competitive landscape including the horological industry. Today in the U.S., Smartphone-connected-watches (Smartwatches) dominate 80% of the market for watches under 300 dollars.

 The horological industry is experiencing revolutionary transformation after 50 years since 1969 when our group company released the world’s first quartz watch. Since our company opened majority of the patent to the public as well as started external sales of the quartz movements, a number of watch part manufacturers entered the market on a global scale. Quartz watches gained wide popularity around the world and intensified the price war that commoditized what was once an expensive luxury item to become an industrial product. This gave a devastating blow to many watch brands and manufacturers in Switzerland, forcing a large number of craftsmen out of business. The country responded to this adversity by reorganizing the industry through mergers and acquisitions as well as introducing a skillful marketing strategy to make mechanical watches re-evaluated as high-end luxury brand items with unique qualities. Our industry undergoes polarization today, with mid-to-high-quality mechanical watches at one end and low-priced quartz watches at the other end.

 As we look ahead, the Japanese watch manufacturers must enhance their product development capacity for mid- to higher-price zone items that cost more than 1,000 US dollars, facing the new market environment where Smartwatches developed by IT companies gain popularity. Each company must evolve to survive by leveraging its strength and elevating one’s brand image. Our company tries to differentiate the functions as well as to win the global competition by offering a unique and attractive design that appeals to the emotions and artistic senses of our customers based on new manufacturing techniques that enable high-mix small-lot production. We must also harness innovative technologies of the IT sector including AI and IoT. I can say the Japanese horological industry that marks its half-century milestone from the launch of quartz watches will take a multifaceted approach over the coming half-century to initiate changes, such as introducing attractive brand marketing, innovative digital marketing, establishing multiple sales channels, nurturing craftsmanship as well as promoting smart factories.

Mental Health Management in the Stress Check Era

December 11, 2019

Mr. Yutaka Ono
Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Training

 A tragic suicide of a young employee in 1991 who had worked excessive hours at an advertising agency put the issue of mental health at work in the limelight. Monetary compensation will not alleviate the loss, pain and sorrow of the bereaved family, while the company must pay an enormous price not only in terms of finance but also tarnish its corporate image. Supervisors can also be held accountable for their negligence. Against the backdrop of increasing mental instabilities, a new Stress Check Program was introduced in 2015 which mandates all workplaces with 50 or more employees to conduct stress level surveys at least once a year and take necessary measures to ensure the mental well-being of employees.

 The Program was first introduced to prevent suicide among workers, but it proves to be also effective in addressing the presenteeism issue. Presenteeism occurs when employees come to work despite mental problems that can result in loss of productivity. It was estimated that the costs of presenteeism to business in 2010 amounted to 4 trillion yen, which greatly outnumbered the economic loss of 700 billion yen caused by depression-related suicides.

 When I read “Flowers for Algernon,” a novel written by Daniel Keyes, I realized intelligence does not necessarily endow personal happiness, and a warm human relationship form a sound basis for a solid sense of self. It also teaches each and every one of us has a unique role to play in society. Another book entitled “The Life of Wood, the Mind of Wood” written by Mr. Joichi Nishioka, a master carpenter specializing in temples and shrines, taught me that he uses all timbers of different thickness and shapes from the entire mountain to construct large-scale structures that last for centuries. I think the same applies to workplaces. Each employee has his/her unique talent. Sound mental health management enables organizations to maximize the potential and individuality of each employee and to create a dynamic and vibrant workplace.

 We can also utilize the Internet to create an employee-friendly working environment and improve their mental well-being. E-learning programs attract much attention lately to assist self-learning of employees as well as online consultations prove to be effective for high-stress employees. Advanced AI technology has been introduced to develop Chatbot that can behave as a conversational partner for people suffering with mental health issues and help relieve their stress and anxiety. I believe it will become a powerful tool to help companies build a robust mental health management system.