HCM's UH03, the first hydraulic excavator to be developed based entirely on Japanese technology, is registered as "Essential Historical Material for Science and Technology". Suzuki Komuten and HCM's business relationship started with this machine. "At a time when other manufacturers' hydraulic excavators were still operated by just 2 levers, the UH03 could be operated with the feet too. And the levers were very responsive and easy to use." said the company's chairman, Michio Suzuki. The UH03 supported the company's development in civil engineering work rooted in the local area of Kuki City.
Suzuki Komuten mainly undertakes public works such as river improvement, paving and sewerage works. Kuki City developed its sewerage system early on and the company was so busy at the time that there was barely time to sleep. The EX100 vintage machine shared both the good times and the hard times. "Maybe we took on too much work, but it was a struggle to get it done on time. We operated the machine until late every night, but it never broke down. At any rate, it was tough." said Chairman Suzuki. In fact, the EX100-1 has a largely mechanical control system, is resistant to wind, rain and floods and is gaining popularity on second-hand markets inside and outside Japan.
Michio Suzuki, Chairman
President Koji Suzuki who took over running the company from Chairman Suzuki talks about his memories from that time. "In the past, people made fun of HCM's construction machines, calling them 'machines from an electric shop.' But they were supreme products, easy to use and got up slopes without difficulty. Other manufacturers' products that we introduced around the same time reached the end of their service lives long ago, but the EX100 is still going strong."
Although the EX100 no longer works on their construction sites, it is still used for loading and unloading in Suzuki Komuten's materials stockyard. When it was still new, Chairman Suzuki used to sometimes meticulously clean the machine himself and it still shows no sign of slowing down. President Suzuki loves the machine so much that he says he will keep it for the rest of his life. He plans to give it a new coat of paint.
Koji Suzuki, President
When asked the reason for sticking with HCM products for many years, President Suzuki replied with a laugh, "I suppose it's a tribute to the sales rep's efforts. We've had a succession of reps, each one making the most of his or her own individuality and personality. Some of the reps came so often that I told them not to bother coming anymore because there was nothing left to talk about. They don't push their products more than necessary, but before you realize it, they've made you feel like buying." added President Suzuki. His relationship with the current rep isn't just a business one; they socialize privately as well.
When HCM opened its Saitama Higashi Sales Office in Kuki City in 2013, Suzuki Komuten undertook the paving work on the premises. Conversely, construction machinery maintenance, even of non-Hitachi machines in Suzuki Komuten's materials stockyard, was left entirely to HCM. In addition, President Suzuki sometimes introduces new customers to HCM.
"Our positions our different, but our intention is the same. HCM has all kinds of know-how and as it does business on a global level, it knows a lot about what's going on in the world. There are lots of things I want to ask. There are things that we can convey too. 99% of our conversations normally have nothing to do with machines. So what do we talk about? That I can't tell you!" laughs President Suzuki.
The sign in the cab of the EX100 says "Clean every day"
Since the company was first established, Suzuki Komuten has been engaged in civil engineering work with a focus on public works. When asked about the difficulties, President Suzuki replied in one word, "Process." "When people see the finished result, they admire it and say things like 'It looks great' or 'I bet it was a tough job,' but in actual fact, it's the little unseen efforts that it takes to get that far that are overwhelmingly tough." said Suzuki. Unlike work commissioned by private companies, all the evaluation criteria for public works are expressed as a score. For example, acquisition of ISO certification, creation of a worker-friendly environment, creativity and ingenuity on site ... If a company doesn't score enough points, it can't even take part in the next bidding process. "It's the company president's job to sort out all these unseen issues. If you wait until after other companies have done it, it will be too late. You have to make a conscious effort to take the lead." added Suzuki.
In his desire to transform the overall image of the industry, President Suzuki is already promoting systemic reforms that are for real, not just for show, including introduction of a 5-day work week. "Public works are by no means easy. We are a private company, but we are proud to fulfil the same role as the state or prefecture," says President Suzuki. That sentiment reveals itself strongly in their disaster response activities. When a disaster occurs, TV and newspaper reports focus on support activities by the Self-Defence Forces or volunteers. What is not portrayed is the many engineering companies and construction companies from all over the country that are working on the front line. Particularly memorable to President Suzuki was the ground improvement work to resolve the liquefaction generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in the Kurihashi district of Kuki City. The low-key task of laying pipes to drain the huge outflow of water progressed at the slow pace of 5m a day and seemed never-ending. It took two years to finally complete the work over a distance of 1km.
When heavy rain or a typhoon comes, private companies such as Suzuki Komuten patrol the rivers. When it snows, they clear the snow. When an earthquake occurs, they check the ground. In recent years, they even handled disposals when avian flu and swine fever (CSF) struck. "Of course it's business, so it's important to pursue profit, but that's not everything. Just like HCM employees, who take pride in the Hitachi brand, we, at Suzuki Komuten, are also proud of the Suzuki brand." said President Suzuki.
Lastly, when asked about prospects for the future, President Suzuki replied, "Maintaining the status quo." Of course that does not mean he is satisfied with the way things are. It is a matter of how they can fulfil their role and go on being a company that is needed amid a changing civil engineering industry in earthquake-prone Japan. "The hardest thing is maintaining the status quo," says Suzuki. Suzuki Komuten will continue to "aggressively maintain the status quo".
EX100 and 3 of the company's current core machines
Supporting the local community with skilled veteran employees
One of the reasons for choosing HCM machines, according to President Suzuki, was the color of the machines. "I have my favorite colors too. And I like that the machines are orange, not yellow." he added. Metallic blue, Suzuki Komuten's corporate color, is added to every new machine. The vibrant two-tone orange/blue color stands out even when there are many construction vehicles around, making Suzuki Komuten construction sites recognizable at a glance.
President Suzuki says of the company's machines, which are all as shiny as new, "They've got our sign on them. It's important that we look after our tools. Sales reps often say, 'When you look at a company, look at its toilets.' This is the same. The impression of the construction site will change too." added Suzuki.
|Engine rated power (PS/rpm)||76/2,300|
|Feature||EX100-1 was as a successor of "UH-7" model, which aims at a full-fulledged global model. The appearance sported a round-shaped design. Designers improved its hydraulic system (OHS) which was adopted for the "UH-7" series. This enabled significant energy saving, by utilization of the new E-P control system which could control an engine and pump at the same time through a micro computer. The hydraulic pilot cotrol system that was introduced aided in reducing operator's fatigue. (E-P Control system was awarded "Invention Award" by Japan Institute of Invention and innovation)|
The EX100 works as it is on its active service even now at the strage area. Hitachi Construction Machinery continues having its regular maintenance, and the cumulative cost could cover a new machine.
|■Business:||Civil engineering work, paving, building construction at heights, earthwork, construction work, plumbing|
|■Representative:||Michio Suzuki, Chairman
Koji Suzuki, President
|■Address:||1302 Yokebori, Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture|