Nisshinbo Group DX Initiatives: Digital Business Department Business Creation

Yuji Kinoshita
General Manager of Digital Business Department

Digital is Only a Means to an End Leading to the Creation of New Business by Empathizing with Customers Facing Challenges

What is the Nisshinbo Group’s approach to DX?

Some associate DX with internal efforts to improve operational efficiency and productivity through digitalization, but in the Nisshinbo Group, each Group company engages in individualized digitalization efforts.

Rather than focusing on internal efforts, the Digital Business Department was established to utilize digital technologies to create completely new services and value for society. JRC, Nisshinbo Micro Devices, and other Group companies possess a wide range of digital technologies that are used in a variety of industries. The Digital Business Department is tasked with the Group-wide integration of digital technologies aimed at launching new digital service businesses that resolve social issues, from the planning stages, to marketing, customer proposals, and sales.

Before the department was established in 2020, there were of course efforts to bring together technologies and data held by Group companies in an attempt to create synergies. However, because these efforts were made within the framework of existing businesses, they leaned heavily toward our core business of manufacturing, creating a barrier to the establishment of service businesses.

In the Digital Business Department, DX means creating completely new services and value using digital technologies. We position IoT, AI, and other digital technologies as a means for creating services and value.

What is the Digital Business Department’s sphere of activity?

The Digital Business Department is an organization positioned directly under the Chief of the Corporate Strategy Center. To create something new, it is very meaningful to position an organization separately from the main business, as synergies are not magically created simply by integrating Group technologies. We must focus on specific targets and consider what needs to be created. The important aspect is the objective, and we are moving forward by focusing on a few themes from the perspectives of what we can achieve and what kind of technologies we can utilize to achieve those objectives.

Some of these themes include marine, drones, disaster prevention, healthcare, and 5G-related concepts. In the three years since the Digital Business Department was established in 2020, we have repeatedly conducted demonstration experiments for the commercialization of various themes, which are then revised on the basis of the insights and knowledge gained from these experiments. I assumed the position of general manager in January 2023, and am engaged in the creation of new value, drawing on knowledge gained from past efforts and rethinking concepts from a slightly broader perspective.

At present, there are 11 of us in the Digital Business Department, many of whom, including myself, are engineers. In creating new business, the ability to conduct sales on your own is more important than utilizing new technologies or planning new businesses. We cannot make advances in digital business until we are face-to-face with customers, identifying the issues confronting them, and proposing solutions to customer concerns. I personally make frequent visits to customers, and by observing their overall business, I can consider the issues they face and which aspects of their business can be made more efficient through digital business, which enables me to make proposals that will satisfy customers. The first step in creating new value and services is to empathize with customers facing challenges.

What are some of the specific initiatives the Digital Business Department is engaged in?

In the marine-related field, we have deployed the JM-Safety ocean safety protection service smartphone app since March 2021. This system was originally developed for the purpose of preventing collisions and accidents at sea. JRC’s JM-Watcher II was taken over and gradually improved by our department to acquire wind direction and speed data in real time while displaying the position information of surrounding vessels and providing earthquake and tsunami information in a flash report. JM-Watcher II was upgraded to JM-Safety, with the total number of downloads growing to over 30,000. In April 2023, MariPro, which manages the safety of workers on offshore sites, was released for marine civil contractor construction supervisors, and the overboard fall detection app for detecting overboard falls, one of JMSafety’s functions, was released for use by everyone who enjoys marine leisure activities. Additionally, utilizing JRC technologies, we have expanded services from B2B to B2C, and in the B2B area in particular, we will expand our target from large and commercial vessels to small- to medium-sized vessels, including the development of an app for managing small- to medium-sized vessels, as we attempt to increase Group recognition substantially in the world of maritime safety. In these new projects, our department handles the planning and development, with development itself entrusted to JRC and JRC Engineering, while the operation, marketing, and sales are handled by the Digital Business Department.

How will the Nisshinbo Group develop and retain human resources with digital skills?

While each Group company is responsible for developing the digital skills of its own human resources, the Digital Business Department collaborates with Group companies by participating in their human resource training sessions through lectures and presentations. In asking questions such as“ What is DX?” and“ Why is DX necessary?” and showing examples of how new perspectives can create value when discussing technology, we facilitate opportunities for individuals to think.

More than learning about digital technologies, in our department the key is to create business, so we also provide learning opportunities that include sending human resources to startup companies. As I mentioned at the beginning, DX and digital are only means to an end for us. We want to rapidly increase the number of Group human resources who know how to create and structure businesses that are in step with the times in a rapidly changing society.

What are the future prospects for the Digital Business Department?

We want to create new businesses in any way we can so that the ideas and businesses that emerge from the Digital Business Department will be a step forward to the next generation of business in each Group company. To this end, we must first be able to create new digital businesses unique to our department that are not influenced by current business activities, exemplifying innovation for Group companies. Beyond that, if a business can be nurtured to a certain scale and is expected to grow into a larger commercial endeavor, we will consider returning that business to an operating company within the Group.

For the past three years, we have been looking outward to create new digital businesses. Viewing the Group from this perspective, we realize that digital applications and digital data that were taken for granted within Nisshinbo do in fact have the potential to be transformed into new value. We will continue boldly taking on the challenge of bringing about global innovations by making know-how and knowledge internally accumulated by Nisshinbo available to other companies without leaking core technologies outside the Company, as well as by opening up core technologies and creating synergies with other companies.