Leading Japanese flat knitting machine manufacturer Shima Seiki Mfg., Ltd. changed its leadership at its annual shareholders’ meeting recently, replacing its former President and company founder Masahiro Shima with his son, former Vice-President Mitsuhiro Shima.
Mitsuhiro succeeds Masahiro as President, representative Director and Director of sales headquarters, while Masahiro becomes Chairman of the Board of Directors. The change in management is a strategic move by the company to further strengthen and improve its management system.
Shima Seiki was founded in 1962 and soon became an industry pioneer with Masahiro’s invention, the fully automated glove knitting machine and the fully automated seamless glove knitting machine. The seamless glove became inspiration for the eventual development of seamfree Wholegarment knitting technology for which the company is now best known. Meanwhile, it became an industry leader through its continuous innovation and consistent renewal of benchmark technology which more often than not has become the reference standard for the industry.
According to the company, its charismatic Chairman is described by many as ‘the Edison of Wakayama,’ his home town, referring to the inventor of the light bulb who is also renowned for the number of patents he held. Masahiro in fact owns patents more than 1,000. Considered by many as a genius of mechanical engineering as well as business management, the notion of filling his proverbial shoes can certainly be quite overwhelming. However, at a conference held for the Japanese press in May, Mitsuhiro humbly stated, “I may not be up to par with the likes of Thomas Edison or my father, but I do hold about 10 patents.”
“My father was a genius who founded the company and every one – especially I – am aware of that. It was his company and he did what he pleased, and he took the helm without looking back. Fortunately for the rest of us he was competent enough to lead this company to success, but it created within the company a passive culture that relies on a single leader to issue commands. I wish to change that and nurture a company culture that encourages individual creativity and exchange of ideas with a common goal to make this organisation succeed. That mechanism is already in place. Shima Seiki will continue as an innovation leader. From now, however, innovation refers not only to discrete mechanical inventions, but to creative collaboration in both hardware and software technology that yields synergistic benefits.”
Mitsuhiro Shima joined the company in 1987. He became a Director in 2002, and Executive Director in 2007. He has been in charge of system development, machinery production, material purchasing and corporate planning before becoming Vice President in 2012. The transition takes place during financially favourable times, just as the company announced one of its best fiscal years in its 55-year history, with record-setting figures posted in its fiscal report as of 31st March 2017. This includes a 25.9 per cent increase in net sales, a 94.8 per cent increase in operating income, and a 121.6 per cent increase in net profit over the previous fiscal year. This despite exchange losses incurred due to a rise in the value of the Yen during the year.