Home > Mining > View from the Top

Dantotsu and Monozukuri: Komatsu’s Strategic Backbone

Mark Baker - Komatsu Mexico
Director General


Fernando Mares By Fernando Mares | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Thu, 05/11/2023 - 10:36

share it

Q: What sets Komatsu apart from other machinery suppliers? 
 A: We work in a competitive sector, but Komatsu has several differentiators. We are one of a few companies that provides a complete range of mining solutions for both surface and underground operations. However, what really differentiates Komatsu is its product quality as well as the value of its services. Although we are more expensive than other machinery suppliers, our total cost of ownership is lower due to our low cost of maintenance, high reliability of the equipment and strong product portfolio that can meet all our customers' requirements.

We have a strong focus on developing solutions for our customers. Komatsu’s product development policy calls for Dantotsu. Dantotsu is a Japanese word that means “unique and unrivaled.” In our philosophy, it means to create products unrivaled in the industry, to create the best product with the best performance features or specs. This way of thinking is apparent in the design of our electric trucks and rope shovels as well as in our services. Our next milestone will be the implementation of this philosophy in the underground segment.

Q: How does Komatsu’s historical background influence the company’s manufacturing standards?
A: Komatsu has a long history, having celebrated our 100th anniversary a few years ago. There is a long, well-documented history of developing our products and manufacturing standards while focusing on the highest quality.

Over 30 years ago, the company established the Komatsu Way, a management philosophy that aims to establish a common DNA for the entire global organization, which today has more than 60,000 employees. The Komatsu Way has three pillars: leadership, brand management and what we call Monozukuri.

Monozukuri uses manufacturing methodologies for total quality and translates them into product development, as well as into quality processes. It also incorporates kaizen, or continuous improvement and 5S, which is workplace organization. Komatsu’s brand management is a customer relationship methodology in which we look to become indispensable for our customers. These three elements of the Komatsu Way are our guiding principles that today unify us globally.

Q: How does this diversity enrich Komatsu’s operations? 
A: Since Komatsu is a Japan-based company, we have strong Japanese values. Nevertheless, we also source our values from all over the world since we have strong international teams. The cultural aspect is important for us and Komatsu is working hard to develop diversity in other aspects beyond culture, including gender diversity and incorporating people with disabilities.

It is well-documented that diversity improves productivity and employee satisfaction. Mining traditionally is not a sector where women or people with disabilities work, mostly because the sector often lacks the infrastructure to accommodate them. This however is rapidly changing, and Komatsu is looking forward to contributing with inclusion in all its shapes, which is beneficial for both the company and broader society. 

Q: What is the main difference between the service offered to the mining sector and other industries the company serves? 
A: The main difference between the mining industry and other industries is the application and the requirements, or the specific project’s needs. The mining industry is capital-intensive and has a heavy focus on shareholder requirements, environmental requirements, safety requirements and the social license to operate. Komatsu develops its product portfolios to align with the needs of its mining customers. The mining sector is one with extremely high standards due to the severity of the application. 

In the case of Mexico, the challenges in the mining sector are the same. Our customers have made a commitment to production levels and are continuously working to improve productivity.  In the future the trend will be towards increased underground operations as the cost of surface mining increases. There are aspects, such as social issues, which must be considered. These issues include means meeting the communities’ needs for employment, infrastructure and maintaining a healthy environment. From Komatsu’s point of view, the conditions and needs in Mexico are like those present elsewhere in the Americas.

Q: How is Komatsu working toward the electrification of mining operations? 
A: In 2021, Komatsu formed the Greenhouse Gas Alliance (GHGA), with Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco & Boliden. Since then, several other mining houses have joined and all have declared their commitment to the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050. The idea is to have a common platform for product development that can be used by all companies instead of developing unique equipment for each company.

Haul trucks are the single biggest contributor for emissions in an open pit a mine, so Komatsu is developing a power-agnostic truck that today uses diesel but tomorrow will be powered by a battery or hydrogen fuel cell. The truck has a long-life cycle of between 15 and 20 years. The idea is that the power module can be replaced as technology advances. In parallel, our customers are implementing low emissions energy systems, such as solar and wind power and desalination plants to reduce water consumption.

Q: How important is Mexico and Latin America in Komatsu’s operations? 
A: Latin America is Komatsu's second-largest business region, after North America. Mexico is an important country in the region, especially in terms of the mining, construction and agricultural industries. Our top countries in the region are Peru, Chile, Mexico and Brazil, in no particular order. 

Komatsu works with all types of clients in Mexico, including big, medium, and small sized mining companies and contractors. We are growing in the underground segment and are already well-positioned in the surface segment.

Q: What are the main machinery trends in 2023 and how is Komatsu going to participate in them? 
A: There are three main trends in the mining industry: achieving zero emissions, optimizing maintenance and productivity using data and technology as well as increasing the use of autonomous vehicles. With regards to zero emission, the goal is to have advanced solutions in place by 2030, which seems remote but is technically around the corner. The year 2023 is important for the development of new equipment and technologies, for example. 

Autonomous vehicles are becoming more common in the mining industry as they provide improved safety, reliability and productivity as well as lower operating costs. The implementation of this technology also leads to more skilled job opportunities for the local workforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the use of technology and data analytics forward to further optimize processes and reduce risks. In 2023, we will see an improvement in the use of data and the application of that information in mining operations, in particular, the execution of optimized maintenance strategies and operating conditions.

Q: What are Komatsu’s plans in Mexico for 2023? 
A: Komatsu will continue with our branch expansion strategy and competency development initiatives to ensure we have the best service capability in the market. We will continue to be close to our customers and collaborate with them to meet their requirements. 

This year, the mining law reform could pose a challenge for us as well. Komatsu will interface with our clients to support them to adapt to any legal requirements that our placed upon the industry. Our objective is to work with our customers to be successful despite any legal challenges or changes that might appear down the road. Our focus is to continue to grow the business, footprint, and the brand. 

Besides mining, we have identified opportunities for growth in the waste management sector with one of our partner companies and their product line. The Mayan Train is an important project for the country and the construction segment, where we are participating closely with contractors involved in the project. 

Photo by:   Mexico Business Publishing

You May Like

Most popular