[From September Issue 2014]
Sewing machine, typewriter, facsimile, printer and online karaoke system: all of these products make our lives convenient and comfortable. Brother Industries, Ltd., in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture has produced all of these items. Founded in 1908 as Yasui Sewing Machine Co., the company repaired imported sewing machines.
Before he died, YASUI Kanekichi, the founder of the company, stated in his will to Masayoshi, the eldest son of his ten children, that “you should cooperate with your brothers.” Masayoshi took the opportunity to change the company name to “Yasui Brothers Sewing Machine Co.” and joined forces with his brothers to complete a domestically-made sewing machine. Since then they have used the brand name “Brother.” Brother was later used in their company name, too.
Brother Industries’ defining characteristic is its corporate culture of being up for a challenge and unafraid to fail. For instance, in 1986 the company put the TAKERU, a vending machine for PC software on the market, but in the end the product failed. However, using the technology acquired through developing the machine, an online karaoke system was developed. The system is now known by the name of JOYSOUND and has become one of the top brands in the karaoke business.
Brother Industries has not stuck to one product, but has changed the focus of its business along with the times. For instance, the PRIVIO NEO series was developed using a revolutionary method to create a combination printer-copier-scanner-fax machine that anybody would want to own. Its most unique feature is that to slim down the product, the A4 size printout comes out the front vertically, not horizontally. However, printing vertically made the paper curl. In order to prevent this, the developers put tiny vertical waves in the paper. And that’s how they came up with such an innovative product.
Brother Industries does more than develop original products. The company has used its resources to support victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in the Tohoku region. For example, company employees started up an initiative to make sandbags – which are indispensable for growing seaweed. At first, volunteers got together and made 200 sandbags using their sewing machines both at work and at home, then sent them to Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture.
The response from the fishermen was that they wanted more. So, 150 additional sandbags were sent. This became an annual activity and, in 2013, 850 sandbags were made. This year, 1,000 sandbags are to be sent. The company canteen has been serving up dishes made using the seaweed as an ingredient for a limited period. The business that started out with sewing machines has ended up bringing together staff and the people of Tohoku in a collective effort that has borne fruit.
Text: ITO Koichi