With its high-performance polyurethane materials, INOAC has become a worldwide leader contributing to the success of the automotive, housing and lifestyle industries.
“Today, our international business is growing faster than our Japanese operation, and the U.S. is our largest overseas market.“
Soichi Inoue, Chairman, INOAC Corporation
Founded in 1926, INOAC plays a critical role in the housing construction sector, supplying insulation materials across Japan and beyond. The journey to today has been an interesting one, including the creation of a factory in the north of the country to support those workers previously in the coal industry, and growth continues, as explained by the company chairman, Soichi Inoue.
“Today, INOAC has many factories, from Okinawa to Hokkaido, and because our material is bulky and transportation costs are high, we have to make our products locally, helping the development of local businesses.
“Hakuba, for example, is a popular winter skiing destination, and as well as supplying a large amount of insulation boards, we also produce special mattresses for local homes and establishments. We have a plan to set up a factory there that manufactures our newly branded ‘Color Foam Hakuba’ mattresses.”
The focus of these bedding products is proving to be a real driver for the chairman.
“This new brand has become like a personal hobby of mine,” Mr. Inoue continues. “I started doing business in Hakuba after conversations with a local school manager and now we are expanding further. We are able to produce both mattresses for sleeping and insulation material in the same company thanks to the wide range of uses of polyurethane.”
Another field that is being developed at INOAC is in the automotive industry and changes to electric vehicles (EV) are opening new doors. “EVs must be lighter than their gasoline-powered counterparts, which represents an opportunity for us,” says Mr. Inoue. “INOAC makes products that can reduce the weight of vehicles and to deal with these new market demands, we are developing more and more EV components. At the moment, about 40% of our business comes from the automotive industry — which has become more international, with the U.S. being the biggest market for us — while 60% remains with construction as well as living goods, such as mattresses.
One particular success has been the development of CALMFLEX, a unique sound absorption and damping material utilized in various applications, from near-silencing car engines to preventing neighbor disputes upon the arrival of a child’s new piano.
“Our R&D activities are conducted on a global level, not only in Japan but in China, New Jersey, Singapore and elsewhere,” explains the chairman. “We employ young chemists and dispatch them to the U.S. and Germany so that they can study new technologies, working as assistants.
And when it comes to the environment, research is also evolving. “The creation of environmentally-friendly products and production processes is a key focus of our R&D. We actively conduct chemical recycling operations and have signed various partnerships to develop eco-friendly products, such as our bio-foam used for eco-sponges. While inconspicuous, foam is a material utilized across many applications, including in women’s bras and underwear. As brands become more eco-friendly, the demand for our product increases, including with a famous fashion brand. One could say that while INOAC is not visible, it is playing an important role from behind the scenes.”
With almost a century behind the company, Mr. Inoue continues to look ahead with a clear plan and a global vision. “My policy is that in every country, be it the U.S., China or across Southeast Asia, we always make partnerships with local people. At INOAC, we create a work environment that is conducive to the location, respecting local cultures and the people. We always employ local managers overseas, just as in the U.S. where they are all American.
“Today, our international business is growing faster than our Japanese operation, and the U.S. is our largest overseas market. We began in Canada before opening a factory in Kentucky. Then, due to their good relationship with the U.S., we opened a large factory in Mexico and moved a sizable part of our business there, allowing us to be more competitive in the North American market.
"INOAC’s policy is to create a business environment that benefits our employees, clients and the areas where we conduct business, contributing to the local society. No matter the location, no matter the country, growing with the local region and the local people is our goal.”