Seko Kogyo and HCM do business through a dealer, Maruai Shoji. About 40 years ago, when Shinichiro Tanahashi, the current chairman of Maruai Shoji, was visiting major users in Gifu Prefecture he met Takemi Seko, the current chairman of Seko Kogyo and they found they were kindred spirits in their approach to business. Since then, Seko Kogyo has purchased over 100 HCM products through Maruai Shoji starting with the UH Series.
"HCM products have excellent operability. They move smoothly and you have a degree of freedom when working. I'm not an experienced operator, but even I can tell the difference."Said Seko Kogyo's President, Seiji Seko. He took over the management of the company in 2018 after working his way up in civil engineering design and supervision of construction sites.
For Seko Kogyo, a company that specializes in foundation structures, it is paramount to select a hydraulic excavator that can easily level the ground. The fact that the suspension is low and it is easier to see the ground with a HCM machine than with other manufacturers' hydraulic excavators makes them well suited to Seko Kogyo's work. One machine that President Seko speaks highly of is the ZX200 (semi-long arm), currently used for dredging the Nagara River. "The ZX200 has a longer arm than standard machines so there is less movement and it is easy to handle regardless of the task. With its heavy weight and easy soil compaction, the finished slopes look good. HCM wins hands down when it comes to 0.8m³ class excavators." confirms Seko.
Before choosing a machine President Seko always gets into the driving seat himself to get a feel for the machine and consults the operator. "Actually, there was a time when I was unfaithful to HCM with another manufacturer, but in the end I came to the conclusion that HCM's machines were better. Driving a different machine made me realize how easy Hitachi machines are to use." said Seko.
The oldest of the 37 HCM products currently owned by Seko Kogyo is an EX60 hydraulic excavator. It has sentimental value, because when Chairman Seko was first approached by an overseas buyer, he stubbornly refused to sell it. The engine still works, but it has finished its work and is spending the rest of its life quietly in the company yard as a machine recognised for its distinguished service.
Seiji Seko, President
ICT machines are gaining traction as the next generation of construction machines. Anticipating this trend, Seko Kogyo began introducing ICT construction machines over 10 years ago. "At that time 2D was introduced, unlike today's 3D. Since then, I was still fixing the finishing stakes by hand and it was hard work. Just when I was wondering if there wasn't an easier way, I saw an advert for ICT construction machinery." said President Seko.
President Seko approached a surveying equipment manufacturer and introduced the machine guidance system first in Japan. At the time, accuracy was poor because the technology was still under development and site workers had many difficulties. "But the calibration technology that we learned then is being put to use now," says President Seko. Today, ICT construction machinery equipped with a guidance system is fully exploited at nearly all Seko Kogyo's construction sites, achieving reduced work time and better efficiency. "As I had never driven a heavy machine myself before that, I was able to introduce them smoothly without any bias. Now, even 3D data design is all insourced." Led by the President, all the employees master new technologies. President Seko says modestly that it is something they can do because they are a small company.
President Seko sounds a warning, however, about claims by manufacturers that anything is possible with ICT. "Right now, there is still a good balance between ICT and people. Everything at civil engineering sites is tailor-made and there are areas where people are indispensable. It is important that every operator acquires knowledge and skills." said Seko. Technologically and in terms of market penetration, ICT construction machinery is still at the transition stage. The cooperation of customers remains essential for the evolution of ICT construction machinery.
Revolving field issues with ICT machine and operator by utilizing their respective strengths
Shizu collection area
ZX200 dredging the Nagara River
Surrounded by the three Kiso Rivers (Kiso River, Nagara River and Ibi River), Kaizu City is mostly located at sea level and is constantly at risk of flooding, storm surges or any other water-related disaster. Seko Kogyo is responsible for flood control in the region using ICT construction machinery for dredging, levee maintenance and other river works.
As President Seko explained, "Our work is like a game of cat and mouse. Sediment is deposited by the flowing river and if the temperature rises in future, the levees will need to be raised." He went on to describe his philosophy. "The best thing is for local construction companies to protect the local area. That is why we are intentionally purchasing construction machines instead of renting them, so that we can respond to any emergency at any time. We have our own machines and materials (mountain soil, stones, etc.) and we will support the region with our civil engineering skills." Seko Kogyo is raising the awareness of its operators so that they continue to develop skills and a sense of civil engineering in normal construction work, ready to respond to disasters for which there is no manual. Godai Tanahashi, president of Maruai Shoji, shares that aim. "The community has been good to us for 50 years since the company was founded. It would be easy for us to give up because it's hard work. But as long as there are customers who rely on the steel sheets and HCM products that we supply, we will keep on going, no matter what. That is our social responsibility." said President Tanahashi. A company's value doesn't lie simply in the blind pursuit of profit. Both companies have their sights set on maintaining the calm and peaceful everyday life of the area.
President Godai Tanahashi of Maruai Shoji
A chronic issue facing civil engineering and construction companies is the shortage of human resources. Seko Kogyo embarked on training foreign technical interns following enactment of the revised Immigration Control Law in 2019. "Just the other day I was interviewing in Hanoi. The Vietnamese are very earnest and diligent. They are so motivated that Japanese employers are sometimes moved to tears." said President Seko. President Seko was also inspired by their enthusiasm and their passion for learning, which many Japanese have lost sight of today.
The foreign technical internship faces many problems due to language barriers, cultural differences, so-called "black companies" that exploit their employees and other issues. The training company has to arrange housing and other benefits and is under constant pressure to provide opportunities for technical intern training. Even so, President Seko is progressive. "It is important to build a mutual win-win relationship. First, we teach them simple manual tasks, then in time they can get a heavy machinery license. We try to cultivate people who in future can be left in charge of a construction site. For this reason, we support the acquisition skills and we also provide follow-up support if they send for their family from abroad." confirmed Seko. The company plans to employ two Vietnamese in 2020.
"We aim to be a group of engineers where every employee possesses general civil engineering skills," says President Seko. The company will go on developing human resources regardless of nationality, gender or age in line with Japan's promotion of diversity management. Without doubt, ICT construction machinery will be an important key for opening that door.
Multiple construction machines are always ready for work at Shizu collection area
Hideo Kobayashi (left), Chief Marketing Executive of Maruai Shoji and longstanding bridge between the two companies
|Engine rated power (PS/rpm)||55/2,200|
|Feature||The EX60 was developed as a successor of UH025-7, it is the smallest model of EX series excavators. This model was launched to the market with different specifications from medium size EX models, which are new rounded shape design, retractable type cabin door which enables easy access at narrow ground, and front lever stand for better visibility during deep digging. It became a technical leader among 6 ton excavators, due to applying adavanced hydraulic system(OHS) and E-P control equipped with micro computer controller.|
The EX60 is stored in the company's material storage area as a meritorious machine. Although it is not used anymore, once turned on the engine it is still as powerful as it was back at the noon of its career.
|■Business:||Civil engineering works, mountain soil collection and quarrying|
|■Representative:||Chairman Takemi Seko,
President Seiji Seko
|■Address:||552 Numashinden, Kaizu-cho, Kaizu City, Gifu|