SPECIAL REPORT: Harmonizing Business with Employees and Society

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By Taro Ichikawa

Everyone but me is my mentor. True to that maxim, constant communication with employees is his tenet. I feel a sense of gratitude for all those who are working in my company. I want my employees to share with me not only a sense of commitment and responsibility but also a sense of pride and happiness as colleagues, says Masaki Ishihara.

Ishihara is the president of Hinomaru Kyuso -- the Sun Flag Express -- headquartered in Takamatsu City in Japans Kagawa Prefecture, which deals with transportation of ordinary cargo, logistics of packaging as well as transportation, storage and administration, haulage of foodstuffs, and development of transportation systems.

The company was set up in July 1957 and today employs 45 persons in managerial positions, 170 workers and 136 part-time workers. In 2006, it obtained the prestigious G-mark. (As of 2009, 17.9 percent of 63,122 truck companies in Japan had been awarded G-mark.)

Ishihara expands upon his tenet in a New Year message: No company can survive unless it co-exits and shares its prosperity with the society and continues to provide advanced training and education to its staff. We have to look at ourselves from the perspective of a socially accepted idea and common sense.

Ishihara sees his corporate social responsibility also towards environment. Hinomaru Kyuso owns ten large trucks, 60 ordinary trucks, 17 small cars, 14 other vehicles and five forklifts.

All our trucks are equipped with digital tacograph. As in the case of other trucking companies which introduced drive recorder, the introduction of digital tacograph had a positive impact on drivers who are making concerted efforts towards eco-friendly and safer driving, Ishihara tells IDN.

As a result, the number of road accidents has decreased, and fuel consumption has diminished. Digital tacographs are equipped with GPS system so that we can track down entire route of each vehicle and record all aspects of each truck on the road. This makes driving smarter, safer and fuel efficient, he adds.

AFTER THE WAR

Ishihara was a salaried worker, and when he started working in the trucking business at the behest of his father, he felt that the overall social status of trucking was rather low. Meanwhile, I believe that the transportation industry sustains a vital part of modern day life. Time is fast changing and we must adapt ourselves to new challenges both as trucking industry on the whole and individual trucking companies in particular.

Ishihara fondly recalls his father, and the founder of Hinomaru Kyuso, Shogo, who was born in 1916. He graduated from Japans Takushoku University located in Tokyo and worked for Mitsubishi Mining Company before being drafted and dispatched to China during World War II. While serving in the army, he was on temporary leave from the company.

At the time of Japan’s defeat in August 1945, he was an army lieutenant stationed in north China close to the then Soviet border, and asked the Japanese troops to cross the border hoping that they would have a safe haven there. But he was not aware that the Soviet Union had abandoned its neutrality as agreed in the Soviet-Japan treaty. He was taken prisoner and put in a concentration camp in Siberia.

Returning home after being released, he resumed his work at the company but soon quit the job. He did not like the new working environment where his former subordinates had become his superiors during his absence from the company.

While he was having a drink at a bar, he met a friend of his, an official working for the Ministry of Transportation who recommended that he should start up a new transportation company. In those days, one had to obtain a truck license to start up a new transportation company and the official assured his support. So Ishiharas father started a transportation company with four tricycle motor bikes dealing with construction materials.

After graduating from a university in Kyoto, the son Ishihara -- the eldest of three brothers and sisters – took to a job at a credit union bank. He explains the reason: I had watched the transportation industry in the post-war reconstruction phase, when many drivers used to be rather coarse and drank a lot of alcohol), since my childhood. I had, therefore, no intention to join my father’s company in those days.

But some 20 years ago, Ishihara was asked to return home as his father got laryngeal cancer and started receiving cobalt-beam therapy. Fortunately, he recovered from cancer but the son ended up working for him. 
 
CONSTRUCTION BOOM

That was still during a period of construction boom. So the company dealt mainly with construction materials. But after the completion of The Great Seto Bridge that connected main lands of Honshu and Shikoku -- one of the four main islands and the smallest one in Japan. The Hinomaru Kyoso Company is located in Kagawa prefecture one the Shikoku side of the bridge – the construction boom subsided.

I developed a sense of crisis about continuing to deal with construction materials but my father did not want me to change his policy. He was then vice president of Kagawa Trucking Association and no longer actively involved in business operations. I respected his wish and the company continued to handle construction materials as long as he was alive. After his death, some ten years ago, I changed the companys policy, says Ishihara.

He explains: While continuing to mainly deal with construction materials, I introduced three vehicles to deal with foodstuffs. But in those days, we were simply transporting goods, let us say, from point A to point B. But one day I attended a seminar in Tokyo about 3PL (third party Logistics) which had become popular in the United States.

As price competition became severe and we needed to distinguish ourselves from other competitors, I was convinced that 3PL would secure our companys future. Initially it was difficult to make our staff understand the need of introducing a new system of operations but fortunately, we soon found out a client, a food company which commissioned us for a job.

Another change he made was to abolish long-range transportation and concentrate on operations on the Shikoku Island. The problem of transporting cargo long distance such as Tokyo and Osaka was that we were having hard time finding cargo on our way back. On top of that, transportation companies based in Tokyo and Osaka often carried cargo with dumping prices on their way back from local destination to Tokyo and Osaka.

This made local transportation company more difficult to compete with prices. On Shikoku Island, which comprises of four prefectures, we have strong networks including logistics centres with refrigerators so that we can provide efficient transportation service with competitive prices for example by loading different client cargo in one truck instead of running three trucks.

But the Hinomaru Kyuso Company continues to handle transportation of newspapers, father Ishihara had started. In fact, transporting newspapers such as Seikyo Shimbun, Komei Shimbun, Shikoku Shimbun, and Ehime Shimbun have become our main operation along with dealing with foodstuffs as well as Third Party Logistics operation.

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Related IDN articles:
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http://www.indepthnews.net/news/news.php?key1=2010-08-25%2003:21:56&key2=1
http://www.indepthnews.net/news/news.php?key1=2010-07-14%2021:03:34&key2=1
http://www.indepthnews.net/news/news.php?key1=2010-04-17%2010:41:56&key2=1

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