Our Japanese partner Imao is making ergonomics popular in Japan.
Although lean production methods originated in Japan, ergonomic workplace design is still in its infancy there, but awareness of its ability to solve acute demographic challenges is growing. Japan’s population is ageing faster than in any other country. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, birth rates are low and, on the other, life expectancy there is higher than anywhere else in the world due in particular to an extremely healthy diet. Ergonomic work bench design helps maintain the performance levels of older staff for as long as possible. What’s more, the significant efficiency gains achieved by working with an ideally configured work bench system also have a positive impact on a further economic challenge in Japan – it currently lies 20th out of 36 states in the OECD productivity ranking. Back in 2016, the Japanese government therefore made a start on reforming the country’s working methods and our Japanese sales partner the Imao Corporation is one of the pioneers of the ergonomics movement there.
Ergonomics as a way into the future
Imao’s trade fair activities demonstrate its commitment to ergonomics. For example, the company presented its very own “Workbench Show” at the Smart Factory Expo in Nagoya (September 2018) and Tokyo (January 2019). The centrepiece of this showcase was the item Work Bench System. Focusing on topics such as Industry 4.0, big data and robotics applications, the renowned industrial trade fair underlines the close links between ergonomic work bench design and Industry 4.0. A large number of representatives from the automotive, machine tool and aviation industries attended the show in September, reflecting Nagoya’s position as one of the strongest regional economies in Japan. The presentation of our solutions for ergonomic work bench design attracted a great deal of interest at both this show and the one in Tokyo.
Discussions revealed that fatigue, back pain and an associated shortage of manpower due to illness-related staff absences frequently pose a challenge for companies. Ergonomic principles and appropriately optimised, height-adjustable work benches with matching chairs are the perfect solution and create a win-win situation. The performance levels of existing staff are maintained for as long as possible, all the more since being in good health makes them particularly motivated. Ergonomics thus also has a preventive function. At the same time, it opens up new opportunities for older people and employees with disabilities. The factory tours offered by Imao are just as popular as its trade fair activities. Live demonstrations show visitors how an ergonomic work bench system makes assembly processes easier to carry out.
A tradition to live up to
Imao was founded in 1961 and is one of Japan’s leading distributors of machine parts including clamping tools and aluminium profiles – both its own and those of numerous international partners. The company has always aimed to improve its customers’ productivity and boost their added value. Its logo – which is made up of a Japanese cinnamon tree and a globe – deserves special mention. Known in Japanese as “kusunoki”, this type of tree is closely associated with the town of Kusunoki-cho, where Imao was founded. The cinnamon tree in Imao’s logo stands for youth, growth and permanence. What’s more, this very tree is found in a large number of parks in Japan and therefore symbolises leisure and recreation. In this sense, Imao is also underlining its role as a green company.