HOW MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC ACHIEVED STEADY GROWTH IN POLAND AND CEE: TECHNOLOGY, SERVICE, RELATIONSHIPS, AND HIGH “iQ”

Michael Majchrzak, publisher of Control Engineering Polska, interviews Hitoshi Namba, President of Mitsubishi Electric Central Eastern Europe.
During Automaticon 2015, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Hitoshi Namba President of Mitsubishi Electric Central Eastern Europe, and Mr. Wojciech Wąsik, Marketing and Strategic Planning Manager, about for Poland, CEE and Europe and why they think Mitsubishi Electric well positioned to continue to grow its business  regionally using the Polish model for success as its template for our to sell its products in the region.
MM: Mitsubishi Electric came to Poland with its Japanese customers, primarily in the automotive sector over ten years ago. What was the percentage of your revenue then with your ‘legacy’ customers, and how has that changed today?
Hitoshi Namba: When we first came to Poland, approximately 90% of our customer base was with Japanese customers. Today, that number is down all the way to 10%, and the majority of our customers in Poland are companies that we created business deals with here. Today I am happy to say that the numbers are reversed, with approximately 10% of our customer base coming from Japan, the 90% locally generated business.
MM: That is a significant change in a relatively short period of time, especially considering that some of your stronger competition have been on this market for many decades. Please tell me about your strategy in entering the Polish market, why it was successful, and how it relates to your development plans for other markets in the region going forward.
Hitoshi Namba: Well, like many other companies we entered the market with a local distributor, MPL, and it was only 5 years ago that took over the business 100%. Ten years ago was too early, but five years ago was the right time for Mitsubishi Electric to take over its operations in Poland. Regarding strategy, it has changed as our clients have changed. When we first entered the market, there was large demand for our lower end products such as PLCs discrete products. As the market has matured, the demands of our customers in terms of the sophistication of the products and systems has also matured. Today we find our customers are interested in full solutions rather than discrete products. What I mean by that is that they are interested in our iQ complete platform solution and working with our CC-Link one protocol solution. This provides for simplicity and consistency for our customers, allowing them more time and resources to focus on applications.

The iQ platform offers a one vender / one platform that has one complete system under the umbrella of one software system. The iQ solution offer has the advantage of complete and seamless integration with all systems.  IQ-R is answer for PC based system in that it can compete with PC based performance. With iQ, Mitsubishi takes care of system integration. iQ offers an extensive array of controller types that seamlessly operate together on the same backplane, thus leaving engineers more time to focus on applications. The new generation of IQ-R developed over time, but this version is a revolution in terms of speed and technology. The important thing to remember is that are a solutions focused company rather than a product focused company. We offer fully integrated solutions fitting our customers unique requirements.
In regards to other markets we are following our Polish template of starting off with local partners, training them and working with them to grow the brand on the market. We started in Poland with a local distributor and built our brand through working closely with them. We were the first company in Poland to set up a fully functional showroom in Balice (near Krakow). We have thousands of visitors per year. We also have set up a showroom in Prague, and plan to have more in the new regional markets that we enter.  In general, direct sales are the most important for us as a company in the long run, but we also are strong believers in building strong relationships with our distributors. We build trust and provide full support for them. Generally, we have three main sales streams: direct sales, distributors, and solution partners dedicated to particular industries. This structure has served us very well in Poland and it is the structure that we are using to expand our business throughout the region.
MM: What are the strategic vertical sectors that are the most important for you right now?
Hitoshi Namba: Automotive has always been an important sector for us, but other key sectors, especially for our robotics business, are life sciences, food, water treatment, for example. Since we produce lighter industrial robots, these industries with lighter products are key for us. Our robots generally are very efficient for these types of industries with pick and place applications for example. We see a huge market for our robots in these areas. Our industrial robots integrate directly with our iQ platform and CC-Link protocols, thus facilitating an easier implementation of upgrades and expansions for our customers. Again we offer one network able to work with many platforms.
MM: How much does price play a factor in the success of Mitsubishi Electric in this region, where prices and costs are generally lower than in developed Western and Asian economies?
Hitoshi Namba: In the beginning when we first entered the market via our distributors and partners, price was an issue, primarily because Polish companies had not yet become global OEM’s but operated more on the local market. As these CEE markets have matured and companies started to focus more on issues such as the quality of their finished products, the speed to market, and other equally important issues, price has become less of an issue. Today the majority of our customers require advanced technology, excellent customer service and support, and platforms that allow easy and seamless integration across their automation and production systems.
MM: Last question. There has been a lot of hype recently over Factory 4.0. What is your opinion on this concept, and how is Mitsubishi Electric positioning itself to take advantage of this trend in factory automation?
Hitoshi Namba: We are prepared for Factory 4.0 already. We have been providing complete integration technologies for years via The Mitsubishi Adroit Process Suite (MAPS). MAPS is a life-cycle software tool that offers value along the entire value chain. It addresses the shortcomings of most PLC SCADA integration tools in that it offers value to the engineering and integration phases. It also extends the integrity of the “as delivered” solution and offers customers the ability to handle the normal extensions and maintenance of any automation solution.  MAPS provides a wizard approach which can automatically generate PLC and SCADA projects, significantly reducing the time spent on development and configuration. It also ensures a standardized and structured design which eases on-going maintenance of the plant throughout its life-cycle.
With MAPS, reports covering areas such as I/O schedules, PLC and SCADA tag configuration can be automatically generated. This automatic report generation ensures that the project on handover also reflects the “as built” up-to-date electrical and instrumentation drawings that are aligned to the SCADA tags and PLC I/O. The reports are database driven, so even through on-going maintenance the reports will always reflect the current status of the electrical and instrumentation configuration.
MAPS is a strong starting point for Factory 4.0 in the Factory 4.0 is an information sharing concept based on integration of different platforms within the factory. With MAPS, CC-Link and the iQ Automation platform, we are well positioned to help our customers take advantage of the changes required for Factory 4.0 in their factories.
MM: Thank you for your time.
Hitoshi Namba: Thank you.