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Full range of integrated solutions’

18 July 2011

: Mitsubishi Electric’s Chris Evans talks to David Strydom about the company’s recent business including its work with the food and beverage sector


Can you define what Mitsubishi does in your own words?
Mitsubishi Electric provides a full range of integrated solutions to the globalautomation market. What many people will not know is that the company is at theleading edge in many other areas including Building Systems, Space andTransportation Systems. The Mitsubishi brand stands for quality, reliabilityand innovation but it isn’t just about the performance of our products, as weare also very proud of the professionalism of our engineering and supportactivities offering high quality customer service. It’s this dual approach toquality, in both product and service, which has brought about many successfulautomation projects right across UK industry.

When, why and by whom was the company established in the UK?
Mitsubishi Electric was established in the UK in 1976 as a wholly ownedsubsidiary of the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and at that time includedfour manufacturing locations. The initial focus was related to consumerproducts and industrial sewing machines. Today we still retain an airconditioning manufacturing centre in Livingston. The Automation SystemsDivision was established in 1982 and revolutionised the plc marketplace in thatyear with the introduction of the first compact plc. This innovation meant plcscould be considered for smaller machines and applications where previouslylarger modular systems were too expensive.

How did the recession affect Mitsubishi - if at all?
Like all automation suppliers, sales generally fell during this period butaccording to independent market data, we “outperformed” the market in manyareas and product ranges. It was a difficult period where investment waslimited. We took a tough yet realistic approach to the market conditions andwith careful planning we focused on areas of our operation which would maintainand even extend frontline services. As such we have emerged with ourorganisation intact and in a strong position, already growing our businessagain.

Are you finding the recovery is having a positive effect on your business?
Yes, I guess at the beginning of the recovery we were all paranoid aboutongoing performance with the media firmly fixed on a “double-dip recession”.Yet, as each month passed, we all began to gain more confidence as we saw thecontinual growth of industry and of course, our own business. In fact, many ofus are now beginning to use the “recovery” word in public! The last eightmonths of 2010 were fantastic, giving us the opportunity to develop ourresources further. We’re confident but ready for the challenge of serving andsupporting a growing industrial market in 2011.

How much business does Mitsubishi do with the food sector?
The food sector is a very important area for us and we have extensiveexperience in many areas of food manufacturing and packaging processes. Overthe years we have built strong relationships with food manufacturers, OEMmachine builders, as well as System Integrator’s operating in the food sector.Our products have proven over many years to be well suited to the requirementsof the industry. There’s an urban myth around which we rather like to support,that whatever food factory or plant you are visiting – somewhere on site willbe a Mitsubishi automation product tucked away inside a panel quietly doing itsjob, year after year. Whereas we are happy to subscribe to this, I should pointout that on many sites there will be a totally integrated Mitsubishi solutionrunning the operation. We have had a good deal of success in this sector overthe years but we are keen to widen our scope into new areas within the sectorwhere maybe we have not been so strong.

STUART THIS IS EXTRA COPY

How important will the food sector be to you in 2011 andbeyond?
Investment in food preparation and manufacturing has recently been presented inthe media as pretty recession proof, with growth in a number of sectors of themarket. Our involvement in the industry has always been a backbone of our UKbusiness and I believe we have benefited from the industry’s stability andstrength. Food continues to be a key area of focus moving forward and we havebeen pleased, not only to support the industry but also to bring innovationwhich has helped companies improve performance and reduce energy.

Does Mitsubishi have a view on 'lean manufacturing', and if so what?
“In our view the key to a “lean” operation is the ability to easily collate andanalyse data and turn that data into vital information for the efficientoperation of the manufacturing plant. One of our key strengths is the diversityand flexibility of our open network architecture (we don’t major on one opennetwork we support all major connections) and therefore we can easily overlay adata gathering solution on top of our own or anyone’s automation platform. Wealso have innovative non PC based solutions for connecting the plant directlyto the enterprise level and this offers a greater level of security and lowercost than a traditional Windows based gateway PC approach. If you couple thatto a full range of energy monitoring, OEE and visualisation solutions we have astrong offering in this area.”

Could you elaborate on the UK hierarchy of your company?
“Mitsubishi Electric is a well-established business in the UK and has a numberof autonomous operational divisions serving major electrical, electronic andindustrial markets.                                  As the“Automation Systems Division”, we are one of a group of businesses which sharethe UK Branch office facilities in Hatfield. Other divisions at the Hatfieldfacility include; Living Environmental Systems (Cooling & Heating) andVisual Information / Security Systems.                                       Workingtogether we are able to offer unique, fully integrated solutions in areas suchas building automation and environmental control.

Asthe Automation Systems Division we also have two other regional offices inWakefield and Livingston, Scotland.                                                                                                                                            TheHatfield HQ is the hub of sales, marketing and operations activities for theUK.                                                                                                                                                                       Wealso work alongside our European colleagues in a common direction for Europeand together we present our European customers’ requests and requirements forfuture product developments back to our factories in Japan.”

How important aresustainability and 'green' issues to the company?
“Environmental issues are very important to us. Mitsubishi Electric Group hascarried out voluntary environmental initiatives under our Environmental Plansince 1994. The Environmental Plan consists of a Core Environmental Policy, anEnvironmental Code of Conduct, an Environmental Management System, andenvironmental targets centring on Materials, Energy and Toxicity. Our Vision2021 initiative “eco changes” focuses on reducing CO2 emissions from productusage, production and power generation by 30% before 2021 and this is alsoallied to our commitment to product recycling strategies to “reduce, reuse andrecycle” as much of the product raw materials as possible.”

What is it about your process that distinguishes you from your competitors?
We are very proud of our innovation in technology. Mitsubishi Electric investsheavily in research and currently holds 20% of the world’s patents relative toour businesses. One of the biggest differentiators for Mitsubishi Electric isour history of “migration” rather than “replacement.” Compatibility across allhardware and software products is a fundamental design principle and we canshow easy migration paths across product ranges since 1982.                       Recently we were askedto upgrade a modular plc system on a range that was discontinued in themid-‘80s. We were able to convert the old software program within minutes andtransfer to the new hardware platform with the minimum of fuss. Today,customers are very concerned about whole life costs of machines and productionfacilities. In a typical application life cycle, hardware and software willevolve as it has to do but from Mitsubishi’s point of view we have a proven trackrecord of technology migration with the maximum of compatibility and theminimum of cost. I would challenge any of our competitors to match Mitsubishiin this important area.”

Howimportant are exhibitions such as Total Processing & Packaging?
“The Internet has changed how we access information forever and that has had amajor impact on the perception of exhibitions with today’s stretched resources.Yet the internet can’t pull together the physical product and a range ofspecialists in a single place where they are easily accessible to all.Exhibitions still offer value for customers who are able to access the “wholestore” and even come across new solutions that they were completely unawareof.”

What are your thoughts on the importance of investment in the BRIC countries?
“Emerging markets are very important to Mitsubishi as a whole. As a globalcompany, Mitsubishi operates and manufactures in many countries across theworld. Mitsubishi has built branch offices across the globe including India andas developing countries emerge the company is well placed to build on thatfoundation. China currently represents the biggest Mitsubishi market placeoutside of Japan.                                                                                                                                               Froma European perspective, Eastern Europe has been a significant growth market forus and we have opened branch offices in Russia, as well as the Czech Republicand Poland in recent years.”

Could you tell us more aboutyour background in the manufacturing sector.
“Since I began my career I have always worked with automation systems. Myoriginal background was control system design in hydraulic machine tools and Ihave a good deal of experience working in the food industry having beeninvolved in many design projects for food and packaging / handlingapplications. I joined Mitsubishi in 1995 as a project engineer so was involvedin supporting our customers in the field. Like the other members of the seniormanagement team I have progressed through the business and now haveresponsibility for marketing and operations within the UK Division.”


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