Kunio Morimoto and the Task in Tampere
Text: Annikaisa Knuutila, Photography: Olli-Pekka Latvala, Published in Tampereen kauppakamarilehti 15.2.2017 (# 1/2017)
Objective: Smooth Flow
When Kunio Morimoto, the Executive Director of Bronto Skylift, is asked to name his most important task at Bronto Skylift, he answers with a question:
Do you remember the men’s Olympic 4x100-meter relay in Rio de Janeiro?

Jamaica’s victory, yes. But...

– Japan took the silver! Even though the statistical individual records of the runners were much weaker than those of the quartets of many other countries. The team had, however, trained in baton passing a great deal and concentrated on the performance of the whole team. This inspired each individual runner to improve their record time. Generating just this kind of ‘smooth flow’ and ‘total flow’ is my most important task at Bronto. The people here at Bronto are already successful as individuals, and now all I have to do is to get them all to play smoothly as a team.
The Winning Pair
Japanese Morita Holdings Corporation acquired Bronto Skylift at the beginning of 2016, and Kunio Morimoto came to Tampere in March last year.
Morita Corporation, part of Morita Group, is a company specialised in firefighting trucks
whose market was 60% Japanese. In order for the company to grow, they had to look
 beyond Japan.

– Bronto is a strong and reliable brand, and a global pioneer with its state-of-the-art aerial
platform technology. The Bronto products complete the Morita product range, which did not
previously include high-rising aerial platforms.
Kunio Morimoto says that the goal is to retain the independence of the Bronto brand and management, which is a win-win situation for both Bronto and Morita.
– We have good process improvement projects going on in production, product development and marketing, and we strive towards using the Morita network to distribute and sell Bronto products, and vice versa, whenever possible.
Pronto Bronto!
According to Kunio Morimoto, Bronto is one of the most important companies in Morita Group. In order to maintain its position, Bronto must reach the Morita Group general annual 10% growth target.

– Therefore the most pressing of my tasks is to improve profitability and support Managing Director Harry Clayhills in achieving our goals. We must improve accuracy, staying on schedule and customer consciousness. In 2017 our target is much higher than in 2016, and therefore we will begin the Change programme this year. 
Programme key words are ‘smooth flow’ and ‘Pronto Bronto’. We must expedite
decision making.
 – We shouldn’t wait until an idea is fully finished to start running, but finish the idea while we are
Kunio Morimoto believes that as long as the Bronto spirit remains good and positive and the team begins to play together and the flow becomes flexible, efficiency will improve.

– The basic idea with ‘smooth flow’ is that ‘customer comes first’, which does not only mean thinking about the final customer, but that every Bronto employee should consider the next work stage an internal customer.

In Finland Kunio Morimoto noticed that he was working overtime much less – if at all – than
before, and realised that he was a ‘workaholic Japanese’.

– Japanese people like to work, and a work day, travelling time included, can easily take 13 hours. The Japanese government has already taken measures concerning working overtime, and
people’s work-related stress is now discussed more often than before.

In Japanese a sign is not a letter but a word, and there are 2000–3000 signs. For instance the first part of Kunio Morimoto’s name consists of three signs denoting ‘tree’ and it means ’forest’
Kunio Morimoto

1958   Born in Osaka, Japan
1980   Bachelor of Machinery, Kyoto Institute of Technology 
1980 Joins Morita Corporation (Overseas Technical Div., Overseas Engineering Dept.)
2001  Manager, Technical Laboratory
2002 Senior Manager, Purchasing Dept.
2004 Senior Manager, Overseas Business Div., Overseas Business Dept.
‘Internationality and understanding other cultures has always fascinated me. When I was in my twenties, I sought the company of foreigners, subscribed to Newsweek and read English novels. At work I performed and studied export-related tasks, participated in the launch of three joint ventures in China and Vietnam, and studied new firefighting-related products and ideas in the Netherlands for a few months.’
2008 Senior Manager, Technical Management Div., Production Dept., promoted to Executive Officer, Production Dept.

2011 Director, Production Dept.
2015 Executive Director, Production Dept.

2016 Executive Director, Overseas Business Dept.
‘One company your entire life. In Japan people have usually stayed at the same workplace for a long time, but now this custom is changing and young people don’t think that way anymore.’
2016 To Tampere  -  Executive Director, Bronto Skylift Oy
‘I did not know anything about Finland, but studied Finnish (difficult!) and the Finnish culture. I have had a good time so far, and I am enjoying my stay in Tampere. I think that I will work here for at least three years.’
Professional Philosophy
Stay on schedule and keep your promises, do not make excuses. Think positively.

Wife and three grown children.
Home in Osaka, Japan.

Golf, reading and spectator sports.
’I familiarised myself with the golf courses in Tampere and Nokia last summer. I am looking forward to spring.  Hopefully someone will invite me to play golf and does not mind that my score is 100–105 holes per round.’
What gives you energy?
Challenges, and finding something new to boost personal and the company’s growth.

Time for a meeting. Engineering Manager Mikko Asumaniemi (left), Kunio Morimoto and Service Manager Heikki Tiura exchanging opinions on modifying the machine to the customer’s needs.
Close by and Face to Face
One of Kunio Morimoto’s tasks is also to act as a bridge builder and communicator between Finland and Japan.  What has especially drawn your attention here in Finland?
– You have extraordinary business support systems: ERPs, CADs, CAMs, calculation systems and production control systems. I, however, think that the real answers come from the worksite, not from a computer. 
Morimoto has also contemplated whether people are better off working in their own cubicles or – as in traditional Japanese companies – in large rooms.

– In Osaka I sit at the middle of a 150-person office. It is a place where you hear and see the situations that take place between co-workers, and if a situation takes a turn for the worse, you can interfere. Communication works there. On the one hand everybody knows all the work tasks and can advance them, even if the co-worker responsible is absent. On the other hand, there is no privacy.
The sense of community is also otherwise valued in Japan. In traditional companies the working hours are fixed, and each department assembles for 5–10 minutes every morning to go through the day’s work tasks, business trips, absentees, visitors and meeting schedules. In the morning assembly management also meets employees and can make observations on the employees’ moods.
– Some departments also assemble after work for ‘one or two’ to share their thoughts and feelings. This kind of assembling is very important for relaxing, releasing stress and refreshing – somewhat like sauna to Finns! I really miss these after-work assemblies.
Hou-Ren-Sou: Report, Communicate, Consult
Kunio Morimoto stresses the fact that sharing information is very important to the Japanese.

– We call it ‘Hou-Ren-Sou’: report-communicate-consult. These morning assemblies represent exactly this, and during them the boss gets an impression of what is happening in his department in general, and if something special is happening, he can make quick decisions.
In Japan, however, organisations are highly hierarchical: Director – General Manager – Manager – (Deputy Manager) – Section Chief – Staff, and the authority, duties and responsibilities of each role are clearly defined.
– In Bronto the organisational structure is quite low and the hierarchy rather ambiguous. I am not always sure which tasks are whose responsibility and who has the authority over what. On the other hand, even if in Japan people can make decisions on matters under their authority, in other matters they have to ask their boss. Who then has to ask his own boss... And time goes by.
Make no Excuses, Apologise
Kunio Morimoto says that Finns are nicer than he expected, polite and modest.
– Although I have to say I am surprised that Finns do not have a culture of apologising at work. Nobody apologises for their mistakes or the trouble they have caused, instead everyone begins to explain why what happened happened. Perhaps they do not think that they made that mistake. In Japan we always say ‘I am sorry’, even if we are not necessarily personally responsible for the mistake. Anyhow, this appeases the manager who is then ready to listen to the explanation. Sometimes a mistake is also pointed out because the manager wishes the staff to learn from it and not repeat the same mistake.
Kunio Morimoto assures that cultural differences do not bother him, even though they
really are surprising at the first encounter. Like calling people by their first name
regardless of their age or status, for example.
– If I called my boss by his first name in Japan, I would be fired!

In Japan people are called by their surname, and when being polite, ‘san’ is added after the surname.

– So I, too, am to most Morimoto or Morimoto-san. This matter becomes even more complicated at work, since we have to add a title to the surname of those who are higher-ranking than us.

Morimoto himself is already accustomed to many European customs, even to being called Kunio.

– Actually it feels friendly and uncomplicated.

Kunio Morimoto says that he was surprised when he was asked about his holiday plans at Bronto.

–To be quite honest, I had never been asked that before. In Japan the company dictates
when you take your holiday, and everybody takes theirs at the same time. I think we have roughly
the same amount of holiday, but in Japan we take it in shorter periods. Finally I took two weeks of
summer holiday, cruised on the Baltic Sea and drove in Sweden and Norway. I used part of my holiday to visit Japan at the turn of the year. I wonder what will happen next summer... I am a little worried.

Article is also published and released in Finnish on Tampere Chamber of Commerce and Industry Magazine.
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