A small factory Fukui Press pioneered the demand for dyeing with the idea of reversal.
President Fukui's reverse ideation has been demonstrated in different aspects of his work. Although the factory could not take large orders due to their limited facility, he turned this weakness into a strength by specializing in small orders.
For the first time in a year, I took a trip to Shin-Ishikiri of East Osaka. East Osaka is known in Kansai as a site for small and medium sized factories, and is also the location of the office and factory of Fukui Press, a dyeing and washing company.
Often, a dyeing or washing factory is passed on as a family business over generations. This does not apply to Shin Fukui, the third successor and president of Fukui Press, who established the dyeing and washing business himself.
While his older brother inherited the dry cleaners business established by their grandfather, President Fukui concentrated on dyeing and washing.
Fukui Press is located in an area with lots of small buildings that look like corrugated iron garages, one street away from the main street of Shin-Ishikiri.
The facility is surprisingly small compared to an ordinary dyeing factory. While an ordinary dyeing factory is equipped with large machinery to deal with large orders, the factory of Fukui Press uses small and medium sized machinery, crammed in their small space of only 130 to 160 square meters.
President Fukui founded Fukui Press approximately 15 years ago, in the year of 2000. Until then, he worked as a salesman in a dye manufacturer, instead of inheriting the family business. This experience gave him knowledge in the dying business, which eventually lead to his decision in establishing a dyeing factory. At the time of their launch in 2000, fabric manufacturing and processing plants were shifting to China on a large scale, causing many factories to go out of business. Factories which went out of business were looking to donate their machinery, making it possible for new businesses to obtain machinery for a low cost.
Although bankruptcy still continues in the domestic textile manufacturing and processing industry, the rate has decreased significantly since the industrial shakeout in around 2000. As for the machinery, the demand grew in Asian factories, so it is no longer possible to receive machinery for free.
Going slightly off topic, a Chinese factory once contacted me through a friend, in hopes to purchase Japanese machinery from a factory which has gone out of business. They were willing to pay a good price, but unfortunately there were no applicants at the time. Similar requests from Asian factories have been made in various fields, raising the price of domestic machinery.
Why would a factory in the Asian region want to purchase Japanese machinery? Although factories in Asia are equipped with the most modern machinery, certain processes used in textile manufacturing can only be reproduced by old models, which are present in Japanese factories.
As one who remembers the recession in 2000, I cannot help but imagine the difficulties in launching a new business at the time. However, President Fukui looks back and says, “Actually, we were able to receive orders smoothly.” Why were they able to receive orders while other factories were forced into bankruptcy?
One reason is their website, which they launched at an early stage. Currently, in 2016, it is not uncommon for small or medium sized companies to have an official website. In fact, companies that do not have websites may appear unreliable. However, many textile manufacturers still do not have websites.
Currently, most research is done online through personal computers, smartphones, and tablets. Companies without a website are often not found, and therefore never contacted. While the boom of Japan-made products is said to have returned, a very few inquiries are made to domestic factories due to the absence of websites.
Back in 2000, it was even rarer for a manufacturer or processor to own a website, and therefore Fukui Press was able to dominate orders from clients who searched for factories online.
The importance of online information is demonstrated through the methods of Fukui Press.
Even with the experience as a salesman of a dye manufacturer, I wonder what kind of prospect President Fukui had when launching the factory, especially since domestic factories were struggling in the late 90’s due to the overseas transfer of the industry. I admire his courage to make the decision in such a situation, but President Fukui just laughs and says, “Machinery used for dyeing is exactly the same as machinery used in dry cleaning. Although some tune-ups are necessary, you can handle both by changing the rotation speed on the same machine.” It is clear that his experiences watching the family business have helped him in his current field.
President Fukui’s reverse ideation has been demonstrated in different aspects of his work. Although the factory could not take large orders due to their limited facility, he turned this weakness into a strength by specializing in small orders.
Fukui Press did not have the ability to process orders of thousands or tens of thousands in quantity, but they were able to accept small orders of tens or hundreds. As a result, orders from many small and medium brands came flowing in.
Moreover, they were able to accept order correction/color correction requests for samples of very few quantities, which was appreciated by many small brands.
At around 2010, they also started a “re-dyeing” business for individual consumers. Prices are calculated by weight per piece plus the basic charge of 5000 yen per order. A shirt is 400 yen for 200 grams, a dress is 600 yen for 300 grams, and so on.
Taking advantage of the reuse and recycling trend, this service was able to establish a stable number of repeaters, bringing significant profit to the company. Items brought in are mostly high-end brand items which have faded in color or discolored over many years of use. Most of their customers are over forty, since not many in the younger generation own high-end brand items. “Since our customer base is limited to the elderly, we cannot expect a growth in users. Targeting the younger generation is a challenge we hope to address in the future”, says President Fukui, enthusiastic about further accomplishments.
The small dyeing factory has succeeded in making a fresh start and developing their own demand through a unique stance. I cannot help but hope for Fukui Press to continue to exert their presence in the industry.
Text: Mitsuhiro Minami
Picture: Koichiro Sato
Translation: Yukie Haneda
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