Yanmar relocates marine recreational HQ to Europe. Appoints top Japanese business woman as president
Yanmar has announced far-reaching strategic changes to its marine recreational engine business. In a double break with traditional Japanese business practices, Yanmar Marine International commenced the relocation of its marine recreational engine business headquarters from Osaka to Almere in the Netherlands and recruited a leading young Japanese business woman, Mrs Shiori Nagata, as its first president, with effect from January 1 this year.
Almere, about 40km to the east of Amsterdam, has been home to Yanmar Europe BV since 1988, when it opened a new distribution hub serving the many market sectors for Yanmar diesel engines Russia, Europa and Africa. Final assembly of marine diesel engines up to 260mhp, in the Yanmar range which extends to 480mph, is also carried out there. However, the Dutch business unit has now also become the administrative, sales and marketing headquarters for its global marine business.
Mrs Nagata, who has been appointed to head the business, joins Yanmar following a career in management consultancy and business leadership. On graduation from Tokyo's Keio University she was employed by Deloitte for four years. While there she was offered the position of division manager of corporate strategy and planning at Tohato, a then-ailing confectionary manufacturer which had been acquired by private equity fund Unison Capital. Within three years she had succeeded in turning the fortunes of that business around, leading to sale to Japan's largest food manufacturer.
At that point Mrs Nagata moved to Unison Capital, one of Japan's most powerful private equity groups. From Unison she joined Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, a government-backed investment company and the country's largest investment vehicle. There she played a leading role in several venture capital projects including a wind turbine start-up, a biotech company, a producer of innovative textiles, and a start-up that introduced Japanese animation content to Hollywood movie studios.
In her new role Shiori Nagata has been assigned the task of globally reorganising the marine recreational division Yanmar Marine International and managing its transition from a product-oriented company to one that's market-driven. Her focus is on the recreational and light-duty commercial sectors, giving special attention on developing Yanmar's business in the US market.
"My current assignment is to revitalize Yanmar’s marine recreational business, double its sales and establish the Yanmar brand globally," she says. Part of this, she adds, is "to help change Yanmar’s corporate culture and way of thinking, making it faster, more effective, proactive, innovative and creative and thus turning Yanmar into a leading global company.
My challenge is to ensure that we leverage our standing in the market by getting up closer to the needs of our OEM and end-user customers so that we respond quickly to their demands and be ahead of the curve as new market trends develop," Shiori Nagata says. She explains: "Until recently, that approach has not always been the way with Japanese manufacturers, who in the past have tended to be more remote from their customers and delegate market interaction to their distributors."
With Yanmar Mrs Nagata joins a company with an engine manufacturing tradition that goes back more than 100 years. As one of the key players in the small-to-mid-size marine diesel engine business the company has long had a strong presence in most of the world's main boating markets, particularly in the sailing-cruiser auxiliary propulsion segment. Here it has a well-earned reputation for quality and reliability, with a vigorous product development programme that has made its units some of the most reliable, energy-efficient and lowest-emission products on the market.
Yanmar's new hands-on market commitment by top management marks a sea-change in Japanese corporate attitudes. Other Japanese companies have been adopting it too in recent years but few, if any, have gone as far Yanmar Marine International by transferring a whole business unit beyond its shores and into the market heartland.
Far rarer still is the appointment of a young Japanese woman new to the company by a Japanese corporation with background national cultural values that venerate seniority, have high regard for time served and a tradition of male leadership.