A Commitment To Technology And Innovation For More Than 100 Years
Yaskawa. If you have driven down Howell Avenue on the southern end of Oak Creek, you may have seen the building with this name emblazoned on the side, and wondered about the company within it. You might be surprised to learn that Yaskawa, although relatively new to the City, has been in existence for more than 100 years.
Daigoro Yasukawa founded the company in Japan in 1915, as electric motors were just beginning to replace steam engines in all areas of industry, with the mission to improve upon this leading-edge technology. His vision was to contribute to the wellbeing of the company’s customers, partners and associates – and ultimately to make a positive impact on the world.
Over the years, the founder’s vision became reality as Yaskawa made many contributions to electric power applications, industrial automation, and the creation of robotics and factory automation. While the company originally made its name as a manufacturer of electric motors, it has evolved into providing solutions in the areas of drives, motion and robotics. Combined, the company is the world’s leading manufacturer of Alternating Current (AC) drives (devices used to control the speed of an electric motor), servos (devices that produce motion in response to a command), industrial robots (machines designed to carry out specific tasks), and photovoltaic inverters (the “brains” of a solar panel that convert the sun’s energy to the electricity used to power our homes and businesses).
These components are the inner workings of elevators and escalators, HVAC systems, and biomedical robots, just to name a few. The technology spans many industries including agriculture, automotive, energy, textiles, packaging, and food and beverage. While the average consumer cannot go out and purchase these products directly, Yaskawa technology and innovation makes others’ products better.
Today, Yaskawa is a global operation with sales, service and manufacturing locations in more than two dozen countries in Asia, Europe and, since 1967, the Americas. They began operations in their Oakwood Road facility in 2009, moving from New Berlin in order to grow their business. Originally occupying 75% of the building, the company has since expanded into the entire space. Employing 250 workers on two shifts, Oak Creek’s facility is a value-added plant; they take Yaskawa Japan core products and add features to them in order to create a custom product for customers.
Cory Lemerande, Director of AC Product Management for North and South America, notes, “Every product line here in Oak Creek exists because of collaboration with a customer due to an unmet need in the industry. This collaboration creates unique value-added products, and ultimately solves a problem for the customer.”
Daigoro Yasukawa firmly believed that his company’s highest priority was to do the best possible job for customers in order to earn their satisfaction. That practice has remained in place to this day. Yaskawa prides itself on the quality, long-term relationships they build with not only customers, but also employees and community partners, as embodied in the company’s “It’s Personal” philosophy. Lemerande observes, “Unless taken seriously, it’s just a tagline.” But personal relationships are something Yaskawa takes very seriously.
Yaskawa associates are committed to providing their customers with a great experience with every interaction. They not only deliver their quality products on time, but also offer 24/7/365 customer service and technical support. They also believe in customer input, using surveys to gather feedback in order to improve not only their products, but also their processes.
The “It’s Personal” philosophy also applies to their workforce. The company believes in setting up their employees for success, by investing in training at all levels of the company, from the top tier of management to the manufacturing floor technicians and testers. This translates to more efficient operations, higher quality products, satisfied customers, and happy, loyal employees. Oak Creek’s Yaskawa facility boasts a 99% annual retention rate, and several employees have worked for the company for more than 40 years!
Yaskawa has incorporated the philosophy of continuous improvement into every aspect of its operation. Critical to this philosophy is teamwork, personal discipline and suggestions for improvement from all levels of employees.
Take, for example, the subject of workplace safety. Oak Creek’s Director of Operations Mike Salentine noticed that although quality was ingrained in the facility’s culture, safety was more individually dependent. Salentine wanted employees to realize that they were a part of the overall safety of the plant. His team developed 11 safety guidelines and engaged his employees to define what these guidelines meant to them, drawing upon their unique experiences and backgrounds.
Salentine knew he needed to find a way to make these guidelines visible, to serve as a reminder to his staff during the workday. So calling upon the company’s “It’s Personal” campaign, he asked his employees for photographs that answer the question, “Why do you want to go home safely?” These personal photos provide the backdrop for canvases printed with the safety guidelines and action steps that adorn the walls of the manufacturing floor. Titled “My Safety Commitment,” these canvases serve as a visible reminder to each worker that there are very important reasons to keep themselves and their teammates safe. Salentine hopes his staff takes that mentality home with them, too. “How many times have you stood on a chair to change a light bulb?” he quips.
Yaskawa America, Inc. was named one of America’s Safest Companies in 2017 by EHS Today, a magazine for environment, health, and safety leaders. Salentine is proud that his facility’s efforts have contributed to receiving that honor. “We no longer say safety is the number-one goal; it is a corporate value and is integrated into everything that we do.“
Community involvement is also a source of pride for the company. Experts in the field of robotics, Yaskawa is one of the sponsors of Round Table Robotics, Oak Creek High School’s award winning STEM club. (See related article on pg. 10.) Oak Creek’s facility also participates in MFG Day, an annual event for companies around the world to celebrate and educate others about modern manufacturing. That day, local students tour Yaskawa, learn the roles and responsibilities within the manufacturing process, and explore career opportunities available in Oak Creek. From engineers to assemblers and testing technicians, Yaskawa is hiring; this growth is good for the company and for Oak Creek!
Yaskawa’s future looks bright with innovations that continue to result in time, space and energy savings for its customers. Their installed products have saved the equivalent of 3% of the world’s annual power consumption – that’s equivalent to Germany’s yearly usage. With a commitment to invest in robotics and robotics research, and an expansion into the production of solar equipment, this Oak Creek company is positioned to remain at the forefront of its industry.
Yaskawa • 150 W. Oakwood Rd. • Oak Creek
1-847-887-7000 • yaskawa.com