Marty Kobayashi
Corporate Officer of Koito Group and President of North American Lighting Mexico
Koito Group, North American Lighting Mexico

Quality-Oriented Products, Suppliers

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 05:00

Both quality and responsiveness are added values for a company looking to enter an automotive supply chain, according to Corporate Officer of Koito Group and President of Koito’s subsidiary North American Lighting (NAL) Mexico, Marty Kobayashi. “Delivering high-quality products in the time they are needed can be the main differentiator for a company,” he says

Japanese suppliers are characterized by an efficient manufacturing production based on the Kaizen model, which focuses on improving working standards through problem visibility to determine the root of the problem and gradually test possible solutions for the process. According to Kobayashi, one of Koito Group’s biggest achievements was to install a new plant outside of Japan that followed the Kaizen model. “Our employees helped significantly to achieve this and now they contribute to the company’s mission,” he says

A major determinant to improve quality is being more customer-oriented, says Kobayashi. Koito Group and NAL Mexico have focused on customer feedback to improve the overall quality of their product and build a relationship with current and potential customers based on trust. “Every month we receive feedback and by taking care of PPMs we can know where we stand in terms of customer satisfaction,” he says.

An adequate sales strategy is also needed for companies to attract potential clients. Japanese companies work following long-term projections once they close a deal with an OEM and Koito Group, together with its subsidiaries, is no exception. “Our business relationship with a new client starts at Koito Corporation. Once an agreement is reached, the group defines which of its subsidiaries is going to take care of the OEM. In Mexico, we are supplying lighting systems to Toyota Guanajuato, Toyota Baja California as well as to Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Ford,” says Kobayashi.

NAL Mexico relies on word of mouth for new clients. However, Kobayashi says new customers have been easily convinced by seeing the company’s manufacturing process with their own eyes. “Every time a client needs a solution, they pay us a visit. When they see our facilities, they are impressed by our organizational scheme for large production volumes. This gives clients confidence,” he says. 

Koito Group and NAL Mexico’s manufacturing systems have benefited greatly from the Kaizen system, which has allowed the group to identify potential technological innovations and adapt them to the newest trends and requirements from OEMs. NAL’s portfolio includes headlights and backlights with the latest LED technologies, which is a testament to the industry’s global shift toward LED technologies. “Since it is difficult to find cheap automotive LED components, Koito Group has a special lighting-source development division to use cheaper alternatives,” Kobayashi says.

NAL Mexico started operations in 2014 and it plans to reach full production capacity at its San Luis Potosi plant by 2020. The company is already trying to make its operations more local although Kobayashi says Mexican automotive companies often have a hard time when entering Asian supply chains. However, having a local supplier base can provide benefits for both, Japanese and Mexican companies. “A local supplier base would be a major advantage for NAL Mexico because we are still importing products from China and Japan,” he says. The company welcomes new supplier applicants, as long as they comply with NAL Mexico’s quality and responsiveness needs. “We want to avoid problems we have had with other suppliers regarding deliveries,” he says.

Developing a supplier base is key for NAL Mexico and the Koito Group, which is why the group normally implements programs to strengthen the capacities of its current suppliers and potential collaborators. “We are sending NAL workers to local companies to support them in implementing Kaizen processes so they can comply with our requirements. Our employees have been excellent when helping local companies,” Kobayashi says.