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Movers & Shakers. (Straight Talk).

Surviving as a machine tool manufacturer isn't easy. The road is strewn with corporate skeletons that once enjoyed fame and fortune. They were hailed as the "movers and shakers" of the industry. Witness names such as DeVlieg, Bullard, Warner & Swasey, Kearney & Trecker and Lodge & Shipley. There are others. You know they were good. Many of those early machines are still working today, decades after their birth. Companies have emerged with the sole purpose of rebuilding them. But the technological leadership that spent a lifetime dreaming up mother machines--metalworking machines used to build other machines -- has faded. Perhaps it's because developments today come in the form of more obscure software and electronics as opposed to mechanical improvements.

Even so, in the years spent covering the industry, I've found it still has its share of "movers & shakers." One of them is Teruyuki (Terry) Yamazaki. He is the driving force behind Mazak Yamazaki, a global manufacturer of machine tools head quartered in Japan. As chairman, Terry passed on the presidency and COO title to his son, Tom (Tomohisa), but it's clear Terry is still calling the shots. This article, and others we hope to complete in upcoming issues, will explore what keeps the movers and shakers on top of their game.

Mazak, as it is known in the U.S., is headquartered in Florence, KY The company's history, detailed in a pocket book it had written in 1989, was one of the more interesting I've come across. Such treatises are usually boring reading. The company was founded in 1919 by Terry's father, the 25-year-old son of a farmer who started by building straw mat weaving machines. He graduated to building woodworking machinery before moving on to metalworking. The war interrupted the business and the founder went back to building woodworking and mat-weaving machines.

In 1947, Terry joined his father and the two of them got back into building metalworking machines primarily because of the prodding of Terry. Ever since, much like the machine tool pioneers of yesteryear, Terry has done it all, from machine repair and rebuilding to tinkering, marketing, sales and exporting. For starters they bought used American and European equipment and rebuilt it. "What I learned from repairing and restoring many used machines was that a quality product can be properly restored to a first-class condition even when it is quite old... It taught me the importance of being sincere in the foundation of the work," he said. That's how he learned his trade and even then, he says, "my dream was to produce such high-level machines."

In 1962 he took over as president upon the death of his father. A year later he suffered through the masochism of starting to export. It turned out to be a fortuitous move. When the 1965 recession hit Japan, 10 machine tool builders went broke. Mazak survived thanks to the 40 or 50 units it was exporting monthly. Without that cushion, "1 don't know where the company would be today' he recalled.

From humble export beginnings, Yamazaki has become a truly global operation based on Terry's conviction that his machines should be built close to the market. In addition to three manufacturing facilities in Japan and the facility in Kentucky, Yamazaki-Mazak has plants in the United Kingdom, Singapore and China. It also has technical centers and sales offices in 80 locations around the globe.

The mover and shaker trait of embracing the latest in technology is rooted with the company founder. In 1934 it completed a motor-driven roll lathe that spelled the beginning of the end for belt-driven factories. Early on it embraced numerical control and introduced an NC lathe in 1968. Following the philosophy of using its equipment to improve its own operations it installed an unmanned manufacturing system in its Oguchi plant in 1981, the same year it introduced its conversational CNC Mazatrol control. It was a leader in the development of multitasking machines with the development of the Integrex and is currently upgrading its capability with advanced software it dubs the "e-machine".

It's target, according to newly named president Tomohisa (Tom) Yamazaki: a Super Digital Machine by the year 2019. With a history like that its no wonder Yamazaki Mazak recently brought 14 new products to market and introduced more new technology than ever, even as the industry wallows in recession. But then, that's what movers and shakers do--they bet on the future.
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Title Annotation:Teruyuki (Terry) Yamazaki is driving force behind Mazak Yamazaki
Author:Modic, Stan
Publication:Tooling & Production
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:May 1, 2002
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