President and chief executive officer, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
Born: November 18, 1940, in Kagoshima, Japan.
Education: Kyoto University, postgraduate studies, 1965; Osaka University, M.S., 1975, PhD, 1978.
Career: Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, 1965–1997, researcher in the Central Research Laboratory; 1995–1997, director of information technology; 1997–2001, senior vice president and vice president of the Corporate Research and Development unit; 2001–2002, executive vice president and vice president of the Information Systems & Network Services unit; 2002–, president and chief executive officer.
Address: Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Mitsubishi Denki Building, 2-22-3, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8310, Japan; http://www.global.misubishielectric.com.
■ Tamotsu Nomakuchi was a scientist who specialized in miniaturization and miniature machines; during his career at Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, he was sometimes the company's representative at scientific conferences, serving on panels or delivering short talks about the details of measuring high-technology equipment with small, hypersensitive instruments. Mitsubishi Electric was typically run by people with advanced degrees in engineering or physics, and it was probably a sign of Nomakuchi's ambition to advance within the company that he studied to earn a doctorate in physics while still working as a researcher at Mitsubishi Electric. After Mitsubishi Electric saw a downturn in its fortunes, Nomakuchi was selected by the board of directors to lead the company out of its doldrums. By cutting wasteful businesses and forming mergers and alliances with onetime rivals, even while pursuing an environmentalist policy, Nomakuchi helped Mitsubishi Electric to the most profitable years in its history.
Mitsubishi Electric was part of the enormous Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan's largest company. Mitsubishi Corporation was begun in 1870 when a young nobleman descended from samurai, Yataro Iwasaki, leased three ships and began a shipping company. He created the symbol for his company of three diamonds touching at a point, the source for the name Mitsubishi, which means "three diamonds." He and his successors spun off new companies and purchased others, uniting them all through family ownership; such a gathering of companies tied together by family ownership was called a zaibatsu .
In 1921 the part of the Mitsubishi shipbuilding company that specialized in manufacturing electrical systems for ships was spun off and incorporated into Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. By Nomakuchi's era, Mitsubishi Electric would manufacture electronic equipment, communications equipment, components for automobiles, and machines for construction, transportation, and energy industries. Before and during World War II, the parent company, Mitsubishi Corporation, was deeply involved in the buildup and support of Japan's military, and many in Japan as well as outside Japan blamed Mitsubishi Corporation and Japan's other powerful zaibatsu for encouraging Japan's militarism in order to profit from Japan's wars. After Japan's defeat in 1945, the Allies broke up the zaibatsu into many smaller companies. Mitsubishi Corporation was broken up into more than one hundred companies, but almost immediately Mitsubishi Electric began to recover by producing consumer electronics, such as radios, in 1945.
During the 1950s and 1960s many of the former members of Mitsubishi Corporation formed ties by buying shares in one another, and the holding company Mitsubishi Corporation was reborn as a keiretsu , a group of companies tied together through cross-ownership and traditional association. Traditionally, members of a keiretsu were expected to work together and consult with one another about business plans. As president and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Electric, Nomakuchi showed an independence of mind, insisting that members of the Mitsubishi keiretsu were like members of a family who were independent of each other—implying that cooperation with one another was not required.
Nomakuchi joined Mitsubishi Electric in April 1965, following postgraduate studies in engineering at Kyoto University. He worked in Mitsubishi Electric's Central Research Laboratory, remaining fairly obscure except for occasional attendance at a scientific convention. In 1975, he received his Master's degree in engineering from Osaka University; in 1978 he received his doctorate in physics from Osaka University. In 1993 Mitsubishi Electric introduced Factor X. This Factor X was a numerical measurement of the level of environmental friendliness of Mitsubishi Electric products, figured by comparing the materials and energy used and the toxic products released of a new version of a product with the same parameters as its predecessor. As president and CEO, Nomakuchi used Factor X to motivate researchers to improve the environmental friendliness of company products. In 1997 Nomakuchi was named to Mitsubishi Electric's board of directors and became a corporate senior vice president and vice president in charge of the Corporate Research and Development unit.
In June 1998 Ichiro Taniguchi became president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric; at the time, there was no official chairman of the board—the CEO had the responsibilities of a chairman of the board. In that year Mitsubishi Electric began manufacturing residential photovoltaic cells in its Iida factory in Nagano. In October 1999 Mitsubishi Electric and the American company Space Systems/Loral won a joint contract to build the Optus C1 satellite for SingTel Optus, Australia's second-biggest communications company. This was the first time a Japanese company had won a satellite contract to be delivered overseas.
In April 2001 Nomakuchi became corporate executive vice president for Mitsubishi Electric and vice president in charge of the Information Systems & Network Services unit. His elevation came in an atmosphere of crisis. The company grossed $33 billion for the fiscal year that end March 31, 2001, but it lost $58 million. It had assets of $33.1 billion, but its debt was $27.3 billion. In late 2001 Mitsubishi Electric contributed $1 million to disaster relief for recovery from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
In 2002 Mitsubishi Electric had businesses in 35 countries, and its electric components were found worldwide, from televisions to communications satellites. On March 5, 2002, Mitsubishi Electric established the Corporate Strategy & Management Office to absorb the Associated Companies Department, the Corporate Strategic Planning Office, and the Public Relations Department, in the hope of centralizing cooperation among Mitsubishi Electric's numerous subsidiaries at home and overseas. This heralded a general restructuring of the company's management. On April 1, 2002, Taniguchi was given the newly created office of chairman of the board, while Nomakuchi was made president and CEO for Mitsubishi Electric, with powers over corporate governance greater than Taniguchi had enjoyed.
Nomakuchi introduced the "Changes for the Better" campaign, saying that he envisioned a company that emphasized the manufacture of high-quality products, with a worldwide brand image that was respected by customers, employees, and shareholders. He put his hopes in Mitsubishi Electric's technical expertise, in which he had much pride. In addition, he took a classic American approach to returning Mitsubishi Electric to profitability by working to reduce procurement and operations costs. This cost savings eventually helped Mitsubishi Electric make a profit in the next year (2003), even though Mitsubishi Electric's worldwide sales dropped 6 percent in 2003.
All Japanese semiconductor manufacturers were losing money in 2002. Hoping that by consolidating their resources they could compete with American, Korean, and Taiwanese manufacturers who were underselling them, in March 2002 Mitsubishi Electric and Hitachi merged their semiconductor manufacturing operations to manufacture chips. The new venture was called Renesas Technology. Later in 2002 Mitsubishi Electric contracted with Boeing to manufacture antennas to allow passengers in aircraft to access the Internet while in flight. This was part of Nomakuchi's broad ambitions for Mitsubishi Electric to expand its satellite business, because the antennas would contact satellites.
In July 2002 Nomakuchi was worried that falling stock prices in the United States would hurt the value of Mitsubishi Electric's stock, lowering the market value of the company, which would affect its ability to obtain loans at good interest rates. One of the notable aspects of his tenure as president and CEO was the furious rate at which Mitsubishi Electric paid down its debts. Meanwhile, he reorganized Mitsubishi Electric into five business areas: electronic devices, consumer appliances (such as washing machines), industrial electronics, communications and information products, and heavy equipment (such as electric turbines).
Even though Nomakuchi had made cuts in Mitsubishi Electric's holdings, at the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2003, the company still had more than 110,000 employees around the world, with 74 factories, 15 research laboratories, and 132 offices in 35 countries. In April 20, 2003, in another alliance with a longtime rival, Mitsubishi Electric combined its manufacturing of automation systems with that of Toshiba Corporation, cutting costs for each by sharing them.
In May 2003 Nomakuchi believed that the war in Iraq and an epidemic of a virus called SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) had hurt Mitsubishi Electric's export sales; a drop in the company's overseas sales corresponded with an overall decline in Japan's economy for April and May as well as the economy of Southeast Asia. Even so, he forged ahead with forming new alliances. On May 29, 2003, Mitsubishi Electric joined the Blue-ray Disc Founders industry group, which was devoted to developing the use of blue lasers for reading and writing DVDs and CDs. Members included most of the major electrical manufacturing companies of Japan, but Mitsubishi Electric was thought to give the group the additional muscle it needed to make its technology standard in Japan for DVD and CD drives. On June 12, 2003, the Optus C1 satellite was finally launched. After Mitsubishi conducted tests on it, the satellite became operational on July 18, 2003; its success became part of a marketing effort by Nomakuchi to find buyers for more satellites to be built by Mitsubishi Electric. That month, Nomakuchi revealed a new chip set for radar in automobiles that would allow automobiles to automatically adjust their speed as well as their distance from other vehicles.
Crucial to Nomakuchi's efforts to establish Mitsubishi Electric as an environmentally friendly company were the company's innovations in solar power. On October 21, 2003, Mitsubishi Electric's lead-free photovoltaic cells won United Laboratories' certification as safe, enabling Mitsubishi Electric to sell its cells in the United States. In December 2003 Mitsubishi invested $27.5 million to upgrade its residential photovoltaic-cell production capacity with a goal of producing 90 megawatts' worth in 2004 and 135 megawatts' worth in 2005. Nomakuchi hoped to power homes throughout Japan with solar energy from Mitsubishi Electric's cells.
Nomakuchi wanted innovation, and 2004 looked like a great year for Mitsubishi Electric's innovations. On February 17, 2004, the company introduced a liquid crystal display that could be viewed from both its front and its back; it could be used in mobile phones to allow the screen to be viewed while the phone was closed. On March 5, 2004, Mitsubishi introduced the Face-to-Face Video Call Center System that allowed people to see each other and simultaneously to see each other's documents when teleconferencing; the system would be important to medical people, who could consult with one another at great distances. On May 30, 2004, Mitsubishi Electric introduced a 7.42-millimeter-thick high-resolution camera to be used in mobile phones. Samples shipped in July 2004, and full production began in September 2004. Meanwhile, Nomakuchi urged new employees to eliminate old-fashioned ways of doing business. For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004, Mitsubishi Electric made a record-high profit of $112 million. The fly in the ointment was another member of the Mitsubishi keiretsu , Mitsubishi Motors, which was bleeding money; rocked by scandal and mismanagement, the company was losing hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Mitsubishi Electric sold about 20 percent of its automobile components to Mitsubishi Motors; when Mitsubishi Motors asked members of the keiretsu to give it financial help, Nomakuchi promised that Mitsubishi Electric would do so, provided that he approved of Mitsubishi Motors' recovery plans.
See also entry on Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .
"Corporations Racked Up Record Profits in Fiscal '03: More Needed to Lift Nation's Economy Out of Doldrums," Japan Times , June 1, 2004, http://18.104.22.168/print/business/nb06-2004/nb20040601a1.htm .
Kunii, Irene M., "Japan Hits the Panic Button: Once-Proud Chipmakers Are Merging for Dear Life," BusinessWeek Online May 27, 2002, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_21/b3784129.htm .
"Mitsubishi Electric Announces Consolidated and Non-Consolidated Financial Results for Fiscal 2004," Kensei News and Information Services, April 28, 2004, http://www.kensei-news.com/cgi-bin/bizdev/exec/view.cgi/20/23096 .
—Kirk H. Beetz