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Sankosha: Japanese quality finishing equipment manufacturer for laundry and dry cleaning

Article - March 22, 2024

From its humble beginnings in the City of Hachioji, Sankosha has now grown to be the go-to manufacturer for dry cleaners across the world.

The company behind the renowned Sankosha and Ajax brands of dry cleaning machines, Sankosha has been an global ambassador of ‘Made-in-Japan’ quality for 30 years. With its roots in the City of Hachioji, Sankosha has built an established presence in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and, although not a household name, the company is well-known among those in the dry cleaning industry. “We are a global niche company that is known by those in the know,” states Yusuke Uchikoshi, president of Sankosa, who runs the company (founded by his father) along with his brother, Keisuke Uchikoshi, the executive vice president.

Unlike many of its competitors, Sankosha boasts a total in-house manufacturing system, from design to prototyping and production, and can produce 2,000 units per year. In fact the development of this in-house system comes down to the company’s origins in Hachioji, as explained by Yusuke Uchikoshi. “The reason why we have such a high percentage of in-house production is that we are located in Hachioji, where it is difficult to find subcontractors. If we were located in areas where the automotive or shipbuilding industries are prevalent, then we would have been able to have a subcontracting model. Compared to other companies, we are unique in the way that we have been able to establish a group network, which allows us to take care of everything by ourselves. This is something that other companies are not doing.”

Sankosha’s overseas sales now represent 80% of total sales, compared to 50% in 2007. And the company’s international success can be traced back to its initial move to the U.S. back in 1993. While cracking the U.S. market was difficult at first, dry cleaning business owners soon came to recognize the benefits of Sankosha’s machines over those made by American manufacturers, which were not as durable and thus required more maintenance after a short period of time. “Our machines can last from five to ten years. Sometimes no maintenance is required at all. This resulted in the customers choosing our equipment instead of the equipment from the U.S. companies that did not last long and required regular maintenance," says Keisuke Uchikoshi. "More and more customers began to choose our company. The 'Made in Japan' brand equipment had a great reputation, and many Japanese finishing equipment manufacturers started to go to the U.S. They saw how successful we were, so they wanted to follow suit."

Be it in the U.S., Japan or beyond, Sankosha has always been associated with three characteristics: quality, cost performance, and innovation – factors that have guided its success and are key to product development. "These three characteristics allow you to position yourself at the forefront of any age," adds Yusuke Uchikoshi. "The concept of our brand is to provide trust and assurance, and when it comes to future products, we want to provide new surprises to our customers. We highly value our company culture, which allows us to provide all of these aspects to our customers."

One particular highlight solution developed to cater to customer needs is the ST-900 press-free machine, which allows dry cleaners to treat washable garments without using multiple processes, saving on energy and human labor. "If dry cleaners buy our press-free machine, they can reduce their labor costs immediately. If we set the price of our machine at less than the labor cost for two people, the companies will want to buy it," states the president.

Offering both its premium and standard brands, Sankosha and Ajax respectively, the company has solutions for all budgets and aims to expand its customer base in the U.S. and Europe. Meanwhile, it will continue to develop new products based on quality, cost performance and innovation, with automation and robotic labor-saving solutions top priority due to the aging society in Japan and many developed countries.

"Based on these three key elements, we are trying to develop and produce new machinery and new solutions so that we can cater to the changing society," adds Yusuke Uchikoshi. "We have already developed new machines such as our press-free machines (ST-9000) and our universal folders (AF-1000J). By enhancing and combining our technologies, we can develop new solutions."

However Keisuke Uchikoshi is quick to point out that the company is not only focused on the aging society and labor-saving technologies. “We are also focusing on how we can help existing dry cleaners to survive in this changing industry. I focus on the present, whereas my brother focuses on the future under the presumption that we cannot only stay in the drycleaning industry. We will need to expand for us to be sustainable in the future. While I have a short-term vision, my brother’s vision is for the long-term. Of course, we need to focus on both, and there must be a balance. They complement each other.”