Japanese manager optimistic about Wuhan's future | 日企总经理，看好武汉无限未来
It has been 12 years since Satoru Ooba came to Wuhan from Japan. He has devoted most of his time to working, during which he experienced the growth of MEIKO Electronics (Wuhan) Co., Ltd. (MEIKO Wuhan for short hereafter) and witnessed the increasingly mature business environment of Wuhan.
Ooba playing golf Photo provided by Ooba
Admiring Wuhan speed
Satoru Ooba was shocked by the speed of growth in Wuhan since he first arrived in the city in 2010. He saw rows of high rises shooting up from the ground and various underground commercial entities extending downward. "It would take 50 years to complete similar large-scale projects in Japan, but in Wuhan, they have been built in a very short period of time, which is very impressive," said Ooba.
The speed of Wuhan's growth can also be seen in the development of MEIKO Wuhan. In 2005, its first factory in Wuhan was put into operation; five years later, the second factory joined the team. MEIKO Wuhan has turned out to be not only the largest wholly foreign-owned enterprise in Hubei province but also the subsidiary with the largest sales of the MEIKO Electronics group.
Ooba believes that one reason the Wuhan speed of growth is achieved is due to the stability of employees; most of the employees at Wuhan factories are local people, and this stable personnel pool can guarantee the growth of technology and production. An other factor, which is more important, is automated production. "Every year, our labor cost will increase by 7%, so to improve per capita productivity, we have introduced much advanced automated equipment," stated Ooba.
大场哲认为，这一“速度”，一方面得益于员工的稳定性——武汉工厂绝大部分员工是本地人，人员稳定，技术和生产就能得到保障；另一方面，更重要的是工厂生产自动化。“每一年，我们的人工成本都会有 7% 的增长。为了提高人均生产力，我们引入了很多先进的自动化设备。”
Ooba working at his office Photo by Zou Yan
Praising Wuhan's business environment
MEIKO Wuhan places much value on the cultivation of its employees. Many of them have become key members. In 2010, the company had 50 Japanese employees. Today, there are only seven of them, engaged in quality assurance and technology research and development, while the Chinese staff now holds up the bulk of production.
At the beginning of 2020, MEIKO Wuhan, like most enterprises, encountered many difficulties due to the sudden epidemic, and its sales fell that year by 30% compared to 2019.
In April of the same year, Ooba took up the challenge and became the general managing director of MEIKO Wuhan. He and his colleagues, through persistence and effort, were able to make good on the deficit and finally, in 2021, they returned to pre-pandemic sales.
Ooba believes that in addition to the joint efforts of the employees, the rapid recovery of the enterprise was inseparable from the safeguard measures in the Wuhan Economic & Technological Development Zone (WEDZ), which greatly supported the enterprise not only with financial subsidies but also with tax benefits. The government also provided a large number of emergency supplies and actively assisted in solving problems such as transportation permits during the lockdown.
"The Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of enterprises. When we encounter difficulties, as long as we communicate with the WEDZ government, they were always ready to help us," said Ooba who maintains that with the support of the government, the enterprise will have a promising future.
Expecting new friendship
Though work is the theme of his life in Wuhan, Ooba can always find something pleasant. A bowl of hot and dry noodles with sufficient coriander is always a satisfactory way to start his vibrant day. Playing golf in a course across the street from his office while appreciating the view of Taizi Lake satisfies the "workaholic." At his home in Wuhan, Ooba keeps a ginger cat named "Chahu" (meaning Tea Tiger). Speaking of his little pet companion, Ooba smiled gently: "It is so clingy that it even sleeps with me."
In August 2021, closed-off management was implemented in the Zhuankou sub-street where MEIKO Wuhan locates. However, Ooba experienced unexpected warmth and beauty: he got the opportunity to eat and live together with more than 3,000 employees in the factory, washing up in the staff dormitory for the first time in his life, and playing table tennis and badminton with them. "We lived together as a family and it was a very precious experience for me," he said.
Ooba's hometown is in Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan, which is an important rice-producing region in the country. After learning that Oita, Japan, the first international sister city of Wuhan, has carried out various forms of exchange activities with Wuhan, he expressed his hope that his hometown can also develop a close relationship with Wuhan in the future. He is looking forward to a new chapter of friendship between the two sides.
(Edited by Ye Shiyu)