Fujitaka Creation Co.,Ltd.
To report a unique Nassenger business case study, while the heat summer of Okinawa was still going on, we visited Fujitaka Creation Co., Ltd which has a wide range of apparel goods to interview with Toyokichi Takazato, President of Fujitaka Creation and Yukio Ishimori in charge of Marketing about their inkjet business.
1. Launch of Manufacturing with Passion for Okinawan Brands
Fujitaka Creation started out as a bedding wholesaler and later expanded its product line-up to include miscellaneous goods such as T-shirts. Unfortunately, the company soon found that simply buying in goods was not enough to establish a suitable product line-up and expand sales. To address this problem, the company introduced screen printing equipment for T-shirts to its factory and began planning and manufacturing products in-house. Subsequently, however, with the advent of increased cost competition from the Chinese textiles industry, product differentiation became more and more difficult.
Finally, it was realized that the company had reached its limit as far as in-house manufacturing in domestic factories was concerned. This led to the establishment of a system where planning and design were carried out in Japan, while manufacturing was outsourced to factories in China. However, Fujitaka Creation found that it could not abandon its ambition to produce products with high added value in Okinawa and continued in its efforts to develop new products.
2. Encounter with the Inkjet Printer, “Nassenger”
It was around this time that inkjet textile printers made their debut. Compared to conventional screen printing, the inkjet method made possible the realization of compact equipment that does not require skilled operators. In addition, this method does not require plates for printing and produces low levels of waste that impacts on the environment. Inkjet printing also offers the appeal of being able to create designs freely on PCs. This was a print system that would make it possible to produce products with high added value. At this point in time, one of the Fujitaka Creation's customers introduced Konica-Minolta's inkjet textile print system, “Nassenger V” to them. Before going ahead with the introduction of the system, the company carefully conducted a number of printing tests to find out whether or not the system would actually be capable of producing the required designs and, after verifying the high-quality finish of products produced by Nassenger, decided to proceed with the fully-fledged introduction.
3. Product from Okinawa Prefecture, Kariyushi Wear
As long as the company was going to manufacture products in Okinawa, they wanted to produce truly Okinawan items. With this in mind, the company decided on “Kariyushi wear,” a product now widely known as an item typical of Okinawa Prefecture. This Kariyushi wear is an authorized product of Okinawa Prefecture that the prefecture is supporting and promoting as the official summer wear to encourage the prevention of global warming and the promotion of energy conservation. 310,000 Kariyushi garments were produced in 2008. However, with so many products already in circulation, the company was faced with numerous competitors and difficulties in product differentiation, and this led to a price war in some stores. The most prominent feature of Kariyushi wear is its unique, highly-fashionable design so representative of Okinawa. Many people in Okinawa feel that they wish to wear their own design that is different from apparel worn by others. Inkjet technology enables the manufacture of multi-product types and small lots with a short lead time and this makes it possible to expand the added value of Kariyushi wear.
4. Construction of Stable Inkjet Printing System
Nassenger V boasts high reliabilityThe digital textile printing method enables plate-less printing and this is why it is suited to multi-product type, small-lot printing. It is, however, a fact that many inkjet printers cannot produce the printing speed required of a production machine. In addition, even printers capable of reasonable speed produce poor quality due to less dot density. On the other hand, Nassenger V, introduced to Fujitaka Creation by one of its customers, provided sufficient speed and realized an extremely satisfactory level of productivity. To make manufacturing within Okinawa Prefecture possible, front-end and back-end processing equipment was introduced into the company's factory to link all manufacturing processes. This was because the inability to implement all processes in-house would have resulted in a loss of competitiveness and reduced added value. Moreover, the problem with front-end processing that was experienced at the beginning was resolved, and the system was completed so that the stable production through Nassenger's high quality is ensured.
5. Realization of High-added Value Products thanks to Nassenger
Fujitaka Creation Co., Ltd. merchandizes more than 100 different Kariyushi wear designs each year, or 300 types if differences in coloring patterns are included. In addition, the company carries out all work processes in-house including planning, design, manufacturing and sewing. This is one of the great advantages of this company. Using the previous screen printing system, it was only possible to produce about five samples (i.e. Product samples used during business discussions with customers) due to problems such as costs and lead time. With the Inkjet printing method, however, it is possible to produce as many as 200 samples at the same cost as screen printing. Showing samples is an extremely important part of business discussions and simply showing photographs or samples of fabrics is not enough. The ability to produce so many samples is one of Fujitaka Creation's great advantages. Furthermore, because all processes are carried out in-house, samples can be produced in a mere three days once the design has been decided.
6. Satisfaction with Nassenger
So far, Fujitaka Creation has introduced two Nassenger V units into its factory. These machines are operated by one female employee with no previous experience of printing. We asked what aspects of the printer the company was satisfied with and about requirements. The inkjet's color reproducibility is the feature that the company is most satisfied with. The controllable inkjet droplets faithfully reproduce multi-colored, complicated designs produced on a PC. No more than the required amount of ink is used where needed and this makes for a high degree of efficiency. In addition, the small dot size makes it possible to faithfully reproduce even delicate designs.
All of this makes it possible to produce product-differentiated Kariyushi wear with high added value. Moreover, employees say that the printer is highly reliable as a production machine. The company also expressed extreme satisfaction with Konica-Minolta's technical support system.
What looks like the texture of the fabric is actually inkjet printing. This is a technique made possible only by inkjet technology.
7. Material selection, design, sewing and manufacturing supported by female employees
While collecting information for this article, we were impressed by the power of the female employees in the company. Female employees are involved in all processes from product design to manufacturing and sewing. With the aim of producing items of even greater merit, the company is also experimenting with in-house production of raw cotton. It may well be that we will soon be seeing the appearance of genuine Okinawa brand products made from raw materials from Okinawa Prefecture.
8. “Kukuru,” directly-managed Kariyushi Wear Store
Fujitaka Creation Co., Ltd. has recently opened a store under the direct management of the head office factory. At present, “Kukuru” (Okinawan word meaning “heart”) is crammed full with 300 types of Kariyushi wear featuring a wide range of designs. Customers can actually handle items so that they can purchase the design of their choice. A wide range of sizes is available from S for women to 4L for men.