Supporting communication that must be done by radio
Even in this age of cell phones, the need for "radios" we create will not disappear. This is because they play different roles.
The telephone is a very useful tool for one-on-one calls. However, it is not possible to convey voice information to many people at once. With a radio, it is instantaneous. When within the range of each other's signal, even 10,000 people can hear each other's voice immediately.
In the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, everything was lost. Communication infrastructure, including cell phone lines, was no exception. In the "no coverage area" as far as the eye can see, it was two-way radios that supported the exchange of life-saving information without the need for relay stations or power lines.
The final fallback must always be radio. We make products that support communication in such situations.
Both radio and business are evolving.
Of course, it is not enough to be complacent just because radio is necessary; just as cell phones evolve, two-way wireless devices must evolve as well. Icom has been involved in wireless LAN-related products since the 1990s, when the term IoT was still not in common use. Our knowledge of network and IP technologies has accumulated since that time. With RF (radio frequency) technology, which is the core technology of Icom, we have eagerly adopted new technologies to create unprecedented products. For example, we have developed LTE transceivers that use cellular phone communication networks and satellite communication transceivers that use satellite lines to talk to each other, solving the problems of interference and range.
The rapid trend toward digital transformation and the IoT are also changing the business environment. At Icom, too, a new business offering subscription services such as LTE transceivers as an MVNO has become one of our profit pillars.
Icom's strength lies in its outstanding RF technology and Made in Japan.
Icom's technological core competence is RF technology, including amateur radio, which is the essence of RF technology. In amateur radio, we pioneered digital communication with the D-STAR standard. This technology has also contributed greatly to the evolution of commercial radio equipment. For example, the technology and discoveries made during the development of D-STAR were instrumental in realizing the shift to radio over IP communication in commercial radio systems. Applying technology across product categories is one of our strengths.
On the other hand, we are committed to being a specialized radio manufacturer. We do not handle products that span multiple domains, as is the case with consumer electronics manufacturers. We believe that focusing our resources on manufacturing specialized in RF technology will lead to growth.
Another strength of our company is that we have adhered to the "Made in Japan" philosophy for nearly 60 years since our founding. Our engineers, production engineers, and production site staff complete all processes from start to finish (including shipping), in the same language, in the same country. This is one secret of our high-quality, high-precision manufacturing.
Evolving the way manufacturing is done
We are also evolving the way we approach manufacturing. In anticipation of a shrinking and aging workforce in the future, we have introduced a robot production system in our factories. Already, more than 1 million radios have been produced on the robot lines since their implementation two years ago. We have also developed our own 5G gateway unit and are working to build a smart factory with advanced IoT. We are also exploring business possibilities such as establishing a new factory model and monetizing as a service, our expertise in automated production.
To spread our wings even further
As for product strategy, sales of land mobile professional radios are currently the largest, but we are looking to expand into a variety of categories. We would like to strengthen our efforts in IP products to increase reoccurring earnings. Therefore, it is essential to increase the number of software engineers in terms of human resources. However, competition for excellent human resources is becoming increasingly fierce. Therefore, in addition to our normal recruitment activities, we are considering the use of expertise within our overseas subsidiaries, as well as M&A activities, as examples. As part of our global strategy, we are also considering expansion into neighboring countries of our major markets, namely the United States, Germany, Spain, and Australia.
It is true that the market for radio equipment itself is shrinking due to the emergence of other communication tools. However, this is not necessarily a negative factor; it is also leading to a shakeout of our competition. We believe that Icom, which can continue to supply products that meet the needs of the situations where they are needed, will be able to continue to grow even under these circumstances, and in light of this potential, have set a sales target of 35 billion yen in our mid-term management plan.
Bringing Icom together. “One Team, One Plan, One Goal”
I am promoting the concept of "One Team, One Plan, One Goal". I was inspired by the "ONE FORD" concept of Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, who was a friend of mine when I was stationed in Seattle, where Icom America is located. To realize our corporate philosophy, "A bright future and enjoyable technology created by communication," we must transcend all boundaries and bring together all the people who support Icom, both in Japan and overseas, under a single thought. I believe that is my mission.