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Eight Tool opens new factory as it looks to expand global reach

Interview - August 17, 2023

Companies that focus on high-quality products can often struggle to meet high-volume demand. Japanese tool manufacturer Eight Tool has managed to bridge the gap between quality and increasing demand with the construction of its new purpose-built facility.

YASUHIRO OKA, PRESIDENT OF EIGHT TOOL CO., LTD.
YASUHIRO OKA | PRESIDENT OF EIGHT TOOL CO., LTD.

A lot has happened around the globe in the past year. Japan has opened its borders, and the WHO has officially declared that COVID is no longer a global health emergency. At Eight Tool, you have opened a new building as part of your Tottori factory and participated in exhibitions like Cycle Mode Tokyo 2023, held in April. As president, how would you reflect on your business in the past year?

Since our previous interview in June 2022, almost one year has passed, and in that time, we have experienced significant growth in order volume. We have been able to meet customer needs, and our overall business performance has greatly improved.

As you may know, we completed the construction of our new building at the Tottori facility on January 26th. This new building has increased our production capacity to meet the growing demand from customers. It marks a major milestone in our company's history and sets the stage for further growth. Additionally, our participation in Cycle Mode Tokyo 2023, after a long absence from such exhibitions, was aimed at raising awareness and introducing our new product in the bicycle market. The new product received positive feedback from participants, along with new product development ideas. We reconfirmed that the bicycle industry would be another attractive market for EIGHT TOOL.

After our previous interview, as the COVID-19 situation gradually improved, we resumed overseas business trips to see our customers as well as follow up on new leads in person. As we were featured in Newsweek International magazine during the summer of last year, we utilized this platform to expand our customer base and gained new ideas for product development through conversations with customers. We are currently working on implementing those ideas. Since the last interview, we have visited the United States, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and South Africa, which means we have covered almost all continents except for Australia.

 

Do you have a specific target or number in terms of market share that you would like to achieve for the bike market? Additionally, among the products showcased at Cycle Mode 2023, which one do you believe has the most potential in helping you achieve that goal?

We entered the bicycle market around six to seven years ago, and at this moment, we are still at the stage of building brand awareness in the industry and learning the various needs to keep developing suitable products for it. There are various stakeholders in this area, including cyclists, bicycle manufacturers, bicycle mechanics, and bicycle shops. We realize that our brand recognition in the industry is still very low, and each category of stakeholders has slightly different demands in tooling. With the recent surging trend of increasing opportunities and time spent cycling during and after COVID, we would like to attract customers in every sector by promoting our high-quality products.

 

Cycle Mode Tokyo has played a crucial role in advancing your presence in this industry. Moreover, as the current pandemic subsides, many exhibitions, both domestic and international, have resumed after a long suspension. Is participating in international events an area of interest for Eight Tool?

We are also aware of the resumption of such large-scale events overseas, and we plan to participate in these events by ourselves, as well as through our wholesalers. For example, in the US, we have done the IMTS, one of the largest machining conventions in September, and then we were at FABTECH in Atlanta in November last year. Additionally, we are going to AWFS in July, and we will be in Chicago for FABTECH in September. We were also in Mexico for the TECMA trade show in Mexico City in April. In May, we had a show in which our wholesaler participated, in Shanghai.

 

When attending these exhibitions, which type of product are you looking to gain the attention of customers? Are you focusing on a specific product to increase brand awareness and sales?

Each exhibition has different purposes. However, for the Cycle Mode Tokyo 2023 event, where many bicycle manufacturers participate, it is rare to find tool manufacturers, so in this particular exhibition, our focus was not only on raising brand awareness but also on introducing our tools for bicycle sports to users. We worked hard to explain the products we have and emphasized the quality of our tools. We wanted customers to understand which tools are good quality. Of course, brand awareness is most important when participating in exhibitions, but we also emphasized product quality and the appeal of our product line.



The Osaka Expo will be held in 2025 for six months. Many business leaders from around the world are planning to attend, and an estimated 28 million people are projected to visit the event. What opportunities do you see for Eight Tool during the leadup to Osaka Expo, and how do you plan on taking advantage of them?

Unfortunately, we are not going to exhibit at the Osaka Expo in 2025. However, since a large number of people will be coming to Osaka, we want to seize this opportunity. We are currently working with the administrative body to explore options for capitalizing on this event. We aim to enhance awareness of the brand of Eight Tool, which specializes in quality hexagonal wrenches. Our goal is to showcase our product lineup and quality to the world.

 

Speaking of products, in our previous interview in June last year, you introduced us to the EL/ARMOUR, which is the plating applied to some of your products that enhance wear and rust resistance in hexagonal wrenches while being environmentally friendly, free of hexavalent chromium. What impact do you think the release of the EL/ARMOUR has had on the industry, and how have customers responded to it?

It would be definitely hard to find any other products that realize these qualities mentioned above without using hexavalent chromium. We consider ourselves pioneers in this regard. The impact of this new product has been significant in the industry, and we have received positive customer feedback. Many customers seamlessly transitioned to these new products upon their release, demonstrating widespread acceptance. As customers switched to this new product, we noticed their attention to the color varieties. We made small adjustments and fine-tuned the colors, which evoked different reactions from customers. The lesson we learned from this process is the importance of not hesitating to make small changes or improvements.

 

Could you explain the strengths and uniqueness of your tools?

Our tools are characterized by what we call Eight Quality, which encompasses product quality, material quality, processing precision, the product line, and environmental consciousness. These factors form the foundation of Eight Quality, and we aim to convey this to the global audience.

 

We also know you offer bespoke products tailored to meet your customers' exact needs. Can you provide a specific example of a product you created for a client using this service?

There was a T-shaped wrench, where the requirement was 1 meter in length. Our longest regular item is 500 millimeters, so that is twice as long, but the client needed a longer one to go into very narrow small spaces. That request came from India and was for the automotive industry. We managed to manufacture one and the customer was satisfied with both the fact that we actually came through with the requirement and the quality of the final product. We accommodate custom order manufacturing on a daily basis and consider this to be one of our strengths as a specialized manufacturer and a part of Eight Quality.

 

Since the beginning of last year, we have witnessed a significant devaluation of the Japanese yen against the US dollar. This devaluation has led to increased raw material costs however, it has also made Japanese exports more cost-effective compared to many global competitors. As a company with a presence in the United States, how have you perceived this macroeconomic environment? Has it presented more challenges or opportunities for your firm?

While we have witnessed the devaluation of the Japanese yen, since we conduct transactions based on the yen, our impact has been limited. However, as you mentioned, it has been beneficial for our customers. What concerns me is when the yen strengthens significantly against the US dollar, as that would affect our revenues. In such a scenario, we might need to control production costs to offset the potential loss through cost savings.

 

In the previous interview, you stated that your international goal was to provide your tools worldwide. You have been promoting your products in Europe, South and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania. Which of these regions do you believe has been the most successful for you so far? How do you plan to sustain the growth you have experienced in the last 12 months?

Different countries have different preferences for our product series. Some countries prefer our premium line, while others prefer our standard line, which is one level below the Excellent series. It is crucial to tailor our products to meet the diverse needs of different countries. In terms of Europe, we aim to enter markets where we are currently not present. Our starting point will be to allow people to see and experience our products first-hand. Once they start using them, we believe they will appreciate the value we offer. That's how we plan to expand in Europe, and of course, Australia as well.

 

Regarding Europe, which specific country are you targeting for market penetration?

Europe consists of many countries, and while we have already entered a few, there are still numerous countries where we see opportunities for expansion. We recently went to South Africa for the first time and identified areas with significant growth potential. I am particularly interested in those regions. We have also been exploring the opportunity to enter the aerospace industry. We are working on developing a wrench suitable for aerospace applications. We have received orders from spacecraft manufacturers in that regard and have been discussing further product development.

 

As your company celebrates its 65th anniversary, how would you like Eight Tool to be perceived globally?

I would like users to view our tools as something precious. They are not just ordinary tools. I want them to be used with care and passion. Although our price range may be higher than average, we make sure to provide products that are of great quality. We also want to provide products that last longer and our customers can use for a longer period of time. Even if they continue using our products for a long time and our new products may not see much demand, that's okay. I want users to value the longevity and quality our tools offer.


Interview conducted by Karune Walker & Sasha Lauture

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