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The company behind the pioneering Benda Method

Interview - August 30, 2022

Since developing the "Benda Method", a cold bending method to bend steel, Benda Kogyo has gone from strength to strength. A leader in the manufacture of metal ring components for the automotive industry, the company is now looking to apply its ring production technology in other industrial fields. 


What is Benda Kogyo’s main business and can you run us through some of the key milestones in your company’s history?

Benda Kogyo was established almost 60 years ago now and was founded on September 5th, 1964. At the time the company was founded, no technology existed for using a cold-bending method to bend steel, so we thought that was something we could achieve ourselves. The latest commitments of the company all center around the idea of SDGs and part of our company philosophy outlines this, with our goals of contributing to the development of society. We will contribute to the sustainable development of society, as a corporation that can provide dreams and joy through work, to bring happiness to all people regardless of race or age.

I think the core of our business revolves around what we call the "Benda Method”, which is a Cold Bending method. “Benda Method” is ring production technology through bending, cutting, welding, trimming, normalizing, shot-blasting and press process from steel bars. This was developed from the ideas of our founder, my grandfather, way back in 1964. Our business was established as a family business, and the first generation of our business started from huge infrastructure projects, and in fact, using this method we can bend all the iron in the world, and we try to make the impossible possible. This was the core of our foundation and in many ways still is.

The Cold-Rolled Bending method came later, approximately 10 years after founding, and was another key milestone in our company’s history. The process is most commonly used to bend metal that hasn't been heated. Roll bending is accomplished using a mechanical jig that uses three rollers to bend metal into a circular arc.


During our research, we came across a quote from your founder Mr. Kazuyoshi Yashiro that said this bending method came to him in a dream. Is this true?

Yes, however, the dream was broader than just the bending method itself. His experience before establishing this company was working for a trading company. It was there that he was able to see many different types of equipment for many different applications. The role of trading companies was to listen to customers’ requests and find equipment to suit those needs. He wanted to take this company from one that acquires equipment to meet customers’ needs to a company that produces that equipment in-house.

We made a move into the automotive sector later and were in mass production. We were able to maintain a reasonable price and high quality, and in 1986, we opened our first overseas facility in Incheon Korea. In those days, we saw Japanese companies first started operating overseas in countries such as Korea. We opened a Chinese facility in 2006, however, our monozukuri was based here in the mother plant in Japan, and throughout the years we have been expanding and growing. We established a Thailand facility in 2013, and then in 2019, we integrated five plants and a warehouse we had in Incheon Korea, aiming to enhance our competitiveness there.

For three years now we’ve been in the COVID-19 era, and we diversified our production to meet the needs of electrification. It isn’t just Japanese car manufacturers that are ramping up those efforts, in particular, we see a real push in Europe to expedite a transition to EVs, but the Japanese approach seems to be a move towards hybrid vehicles, whereas Europe is going full force towards EVs.

The reason we are mass producing parts right now lies in the needs of the domestic market. The Japanese market is making moves towards hybrid vehicles, which we are attempting to cater to on a large scale. We also have an R&D center here in Japan, and its mission is to create pre-steps and work on developing projects for the future of the company.


Are there any other products that you would like to highlight?

Rings are another pillar of our business with divisions such as ring gears, boss rings, axel rings, and inertia rings. They are used in a wide range of applications such as trucks, tractors, cars, forklifts, and jet skis. Ring gears transmit the power of the starter motor to the crankshaft when the engine is started. Due to the addition of idle reduction functions in recent years, a greater level of durability and quality is required. In addition to ring gear assembly, we have also recently introduced drive plate assembly for new types of HVs.

Mass hybrid damper rings (flywheel damper) too are something that we have introduced, as a part of the assembly. Mass rings are mounted on the motor-build-in transmissions and have two functions. One is to reduce noise and vibration from engines, and the other is to absorb torque fluctuation of engines, when driving under heavy load and/or the battery is low etc.

Mass rings are produced from hot-rolled bars, made in-house, using our own technology due to their large section. In the process, heat is applied to the wire rod and forms the taper shape from a round cross-section, using rollers.

We have many customers all across the globe, and our facilities are in Korea, China, and Thailand. Domestically our products are used by a wide range of clients from various industries, and we need to cross-link with our clients to see what they are doing with ourproducts. It helps us discover new applications and introduce new products to our customers.


We understand that the automotive sector is your major market, and this sector is going through huge changes right now with the shift to EVs. How are you tailoring or changing your offerings to better cater to the new needs of car makers?

Our company has been praised for our ability to introduce comfortable work environments for our staff and our ability to create a healthy atmosphere. The automotive industry has been experiencing a huge amount of change recently and quality is vital. In fact, “Quality is Vital" is a big part of our company’s philosophy that was advocated by Yasuhiro Yashiro, the first president of Benda Kogyo. It continues to live on in the Benda Group. At the Benda Kogyo Higashi-Hiroshima plant, there is a large stone monument inscribed with the words “Quality is Vital". This stone monument deepens our understanding of how these words have been cultivated and ensures that this philosophy will be passed onto future generations.

Can you tell us a little bit about your One Benda Project and NEXT? What are the aims of the project and how does it link with your mid-term strategy?

NEXT stands for New Era Xpanding Technology. Era refers to a historically important period of time that demarcates other eras with a generation characterized by momentous events. Expanding or Xpanding emphasizes the X to refer to the deepening and growing of heretofore unknown, out-of-box technologies. Additionally, NEXT can also mean “Never Experienced X-Time” to refer to this unknown era we have never experienced before. The goal is to develop new ideas and new product lineups for the new needs of the market. We are currently in the third phase of this mid-term business plan we set up a few years ago and we are moving to fields alongside the automotive industry, for example, wind power generation, robotics, and automated manufacturing to name a few.

This means that we are having wider business in addition to traditional roots in the automotive industry. It really was the major reason we established our R&D facilities, and the center here is helping us expedite different solutions for different customers.


You’ve mentioned your plan to have a wider business besides the automotive sector and you’ve shown us your intention to expand the business into agricultural machinery, ships and marine, jet skis, and all kinds of other different sectors. Is there a particular industry that you anticipate the greatest demand for going forward?

Of course, automotive ring gear manufacturing is and will remain the core of our business, and we are looking to expand that core business too, but as I’ve mentioned we are looking to develop more products and more solutions for a variety of different customers. Basically, our products are round in shape, so anywhere that needs a circular-shaped component can be a potential market for us. We are not sure right now whether that will be automotive, agricultural construction, ship engineering, civil engineering, or newer initiatives such as robotics and wind turbines. All of these industries require components with rotational features.

Industry itself is such a broad definition, and there are so many companies related to different kinds of businesses. Our company doesn’t have one pure focus but is able to tackle any industry or customer that requires excellence in rotational components.


In the last three years, you’ve automated your operations, and this has become an increasing problem for SMEs operating in rural areas such as yourselves. Japan in particular is experiencing a loss of skilled workers and the expertise they carry with them. What has been your strategy to transfer the technical expertise you’ve accumulated to the next generation of workers here at the Benda Group?

This is a problem that Japan has been experiencing for the past few decades, and Japan is the oldest society in the world. The aging problem and the aging workforce have affected our company, as it has many companies here in Japan. It isn’t the only country experiencing this, however, and we have similar situations in Korea and China, and it is for that reason automation is part of our solution. This in itself presents another problem; the issue of how you pass expertise accumulated by a human to a machine or robot. That is a very big problem and for that reason, we established Benda Engineering. It was not only established to decrease deficits in manpower, but also to increase the efficiency of the robots we use. The goal is to customize the equipment to meet the demands of customers and to make it appear as if the products were produced by hand.

Obviously, in many cases, it is impossible to completely replace the operation with machines, so we only do it to the extent that we can. In-house logistics are particular places where we can use robotics to ease the hardships experienced by employees, however quality control is one area where machines really can’t compete with humans. The human touch is vitally important in this arena and our final cross-checks are conducted by humans rather than machines. This part of the production is still preserved in the traditional way and without it, we could not meet the high standards of our customers.

One large aspect of the One Benda project is the idea of fostering human capital and delivering the essence of our technology and production methods through educational proposals. Basically, educating people in-house and fostering that human capital in order to get the best out of people. A human eye check is still needed despite the introduction of automation, and that human essence adds to the value of everything we do here at Benda.


We know that you have this facility in Japan, as well as a facility in Korea, so my question to you is, are you trying to replicate this approach in some of your other overseas operations? Do you have any plans to build similar R&D centers or Benda Engineering sites in places like Thailand or China?

We can’t see into the future obviously, and so many things are changing across the globe right now. We do have both a facility in Japan and also in Korea, and who knows what the future holds. Introducing our R&D capabilities to other countries is something that we are always thinking about.


How has your company mitigated the impact of COVID related logistics disruptions, and still maintained your production capacity as well as managed to deliver to customers in a timely manner?

We had suffered from a severe impact on our sales. With the sudden effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales are down around 20% and it is not just isolated to Japan but has spread to China and Korea. We’ve seen a big plunge across the board, and even now we are still feeling the aftershocks. Our major customers are mostly in the automotive sector and until now many of our customers have felt the effects of the pandemic and have still not recovered. We ourselves are getting back on track now, with things slowly reverting to pre-2020 numbers, but unfortunately, we are not there yet.


The Connected cars, Autonomous driving, Shared, and Electric (CASE) era is coming, and the automotive sector has gone through great transformations in the past decade. One of the great challenges of hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles is the weight; trying to make the car lighter to increase fuel efficiency, and as such we are seeing all kinds of new functional materials being used in automobiles. Do you have any plans to change the composition of your products and how are you tailoring your products to these industry-wide changes?

The cold bending method introduced by Benda as well as the metal plastic forming technology we have can pretty much fit these new and current market demands. The mass rings we make are a very good example of this, and we are working very hard to meet the lofty market expectations of materials being lightweight and flexible, to be replaced by similar parts made by casting. This mass ring is helping car manufacturers to reduce weight and therefore increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. When you talk about the current state of customer requests, we are all hands ready to deal with the kinds of needs and demands that come our way. Of course, if in the future we are presented with demands for even more lightweight products then we look forward to devising solutions for that.


What does the future hold for your international strategy and are there any markets that you are interested in tackling? If so, what is your strategy to enter those new markets and further your global reach?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific answer for you in terms of what countries we are targeting right now. Obviously, we already have a very solid establishment in three countries right besides Japan, those being Korea, China, and Thailand, but the Southeast Asian region is geographically close to already established operations. We are looking into areas that are anticipating infrastructure booms and spikes in economic development, and Southeast Asia is one possible target because of those reasons. The density of a population is another factor to consider, and thus makes India a future potential target as well.


Could you tell us what is next for Benda, what is your next mid-term strategy?

We are actually in the planning phase of that right now and are actively working on our vision for Benda for the next 10 years. Analysts are predicting that the traditional combustion engine industry is going to peak by 2030, so as a company that is so closely related to that industry, we need to make detailed plans and monitor the situation closely.