The Silicon Review
The movement to protect the environment has gained traction worldwide and switching to or partly using next-generation energy sources that do not rely on fossil fuels is becoming an urgent priority. Hydrogen production technology, which allows the use of renewable energy, has garnered attention as well. In Japan, the government has indicated its support for achieving a hydrogen-based society, and related research is said to be making progress around the world. TANAKA Precious Metals has been developing electrode catalysts for fuel cells for years, and it boasts some of the highest shipment quantities in the world for electrode catalysts used in polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs). PEFCs, which are small, lightweight, and offer high output, are used in fuel-cell vehicles, domestic fuel cells, and so on, and demand is expected to increase.
In conversation with Isao HIRANO Director & Senior Corporate Officer of TANAKA Precious Metals
Q. Can you tell your company’s history in brief?
TANAKA Precious Metals was founded in 1885 in Tokyo as a money-exchange business that deals in precious metals. Ever since, we have supported society’s development by providing industrial products made from precious metals. In 1907, we succeeded in industrializing the platinum filaments used in light bulbs. Afterwards, we produced micro Profiles for communications device contacts, and other products composed primarily of precious metal materials. We have since succeeded in productization of gold ultrafine wires for bonding, sensors for automobiles, catalysts for exhaust gas purification, catalysts for fuel cells, crucibles for manufacturing sapphire substrates for LEDs, and more, and we have made progress in developing and turning precious metalmaterials into products.
Q. What are the services that you offer?
Our services include procurement of precious metals, purification, development, manufacture, sale, export of precious metals industrial products. We also handle precious-metal assets, products and jewelry in Japan only.
Q. What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s growth?
Throughout our long history dealing in the materials known as precious metals, the core of TANAKA Precious Metals has been trust and reliability. Through our technology, products, services, and employees, we have met our customers’ needs in an effort to serve as a representative of high-quality Japanese brands. In addition, we welcomed Metalor Technologies International SA, which is engaged in the global refining business, as a group company in 2016, and we have reaffirmed our relationship with our group companies to create a “new alloy” from TANAKA and Metalor. We will give form to the TANAKA brand through a skillful combination of steady business development and active global expansion, with an eye toward the company we will become in the next 300 years.
Q. Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?
TANAKA Precious Metals conducts business activities that take CSR into consideration, which includes human rights, the environment, safety, hygiene, and ethics. We have established the “TANAKA Precious Metals Conduct Charter,” which conforms to the content of the “RBA (formerly EICC)” to meet the demands of our global customers as well as societal expectations. In fiscal 2018, we had several of our domestic plants and overseas plants be audited by RBA-certified third-party organizations, and we also underwent customer audits and have implemented corrective measures. Also, in addition to asking our business partners to abide by the “RBA Code of Conduct,” we continuously conduct compliance surveys and provide feedback. We obtained a “Silver” certification from EcoVadis, a supply chain CSR evaluation organization, in its assessment of our initiatives with regards to the environment, society, ethics, and our supply chain.
Q. What will you do for market expansion? How do you position the US in that?
We believe that the demand for highly reliable precious metal materials will continue to rise due to increasing efforts to prevent worst-case scenarios, such as the highly accurate LIDAR technology, considered a core technology for automated cars, and the highly integrated state-of-the-art semiconductors found in IoT devices. Even against this backdrop, the United States is the most important market. It has many global manufacturers of consumer products and many bases for the development of cutting-edge technology. Going forward, we will focus on the United States as an industry-leading market on a global scale for its aeronautical and space development market, where reliability is emphasized and funds are plentiful; its automobile industry, which is on the cusp of a major technological turning point; and its medical field, where demand is anticipated for precious metal materials for use in devices and surgical tools.
As we are a producer of materials, we would like to begin planning from the initial stages of development. At TANAKA Kikinzoku International (America), we will establish a marketing role in addition to its function as a business location, and we will propose effective uses for precious metals for new markets, including industry-academia and venture corporations, starting from the new product idea stage. We are also working on the development of “precious metal precursors for CVD/ALD” for use in platinum, iridium, and other thin film formations to meet the market demand.
Isao HIRANO Director & Senior Corporate Officer (Global Marketing / R&D Division) of TANAKA Precious Metals
Isao Hirano first began working for the company in the Sales Department. In 2001, he became manager of the Seoul branch after which, in 2006, he became head of the Western Japan Headquarters. Later, he was appointed managing director for distributors while he simultaneously was sales director for the entire Asian region including the ASEAN region as head of the Asian Sales Headquarters. Following positions overseeing operations in the U.S. and Europe, in 2011 he established the R&D-Marketing Division directly under the leadership of the former president. He also held the positions of Head Office managing director and division chief. From 2012 he has been head of the Development Division, overseeing unified management of both the Marketing and Technology Divisions. Under the slogan “Mastering Precious Metals,” we will actively work to tackle environmental issues, energy policy, and environmental pollution policy through research and development focused on precious metals as well as business activities that provide a stable supply thereof.
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