The Chemical Daily recently conducted a round of interviews with the heads of R&D divisions of major Japanese chemical companies. For this installment, we talked with Sachio Hayashi, director and senior corporate officer at Zeon Corp. (TYO:4205) and division manager of the company’s Research & Development Center.
Hayashi said that Zeon’s system for developed products sets three steps as targets to clear on the way to commercialization. The first of these is sample production in a laboratory; the second involves the establishment of mass production technology and, in the case of tires, user evaluations on metrics such as fuel efficiency and rolling resistance; and then the final step is getting the product adopted by customers and onto the market.
Looking to respond to market needs with more timely commercialization, Zeon is strengthening efforts aimed at improving the speed and accuracy with which it gets to market, Hayashi said.
In the exploratory phase of its R&D, Hayashi said that Zeon takes a close look at issues such as a theme’s marketability. He noted that there are some cases in which, after providing prototypes to users, the company does not receive feedback within the expected timeframe. The assumption in such cases, he said, is that the product did not align with user needs well enough, causing the user to put off their evaluation.
Hayashi also noted that Zeon is running what it calls its Multi-review initiative as a means of finding value with its development themes in a wider range of areas. This initiative, he explained, sees other employees within the company provide advice on development.
Getting from the laboratory to mass production in a speedy fashion requires breakthroughs to be made on a technological level, Hayashi said. To this end, he continued, the company is making sure to involve production technologies right from the development stage, and is holding technology development conferences led by in-house experts to help search for solutions.
Zeon is currently working on a wide range of products that are set to hit the market in the near future, Hayashi said. He gave examples here of tires, engine room hoses and gaskets, gloves, adhesives, medical materials and optical products.
Hayashi explained that Zeon classifies its rollout of R&D efforts into four categories. These are efforts involving current technologies for products already on the market, current technologies for products not yet on the market, new technologies for products already on the market and new technologies for products not yet on the market. The company then takes into account investment costs and market competitiveness for each theme here, he said.
Zeon’s overall plan going forward, Hayashi said, is to become quicker at collating the entire company’s expertise and using this for the creation of next-gen businesses.