It’s not often that a company makes the leap from buying a product to acquiring the company that makes that product, but Nidec is no ordinary company.
Nidec has carved itself quite the reputation of being a world leader for “everything that spins and moves,” which is what drove the company to acquire Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Machine Tool Division earlier this year.
Now that Mitsubishi is under the Nidec umbrella, it only continues to solidify the company’s desire to offer the best products to the gear manufacturing industry, according to Scott Knoy, vice president of sales for Nidec Machine Tool America, LLC, formerly Mitsubishi Machine Tool Division — MHIA.
“Nidec was a customer,” he said. “They were making gearboxes, traction motors, and e-axles, and they want to be an e-drive transmission manufacturer. So, they bought us to add to their existing know-how in making gears and to grow in the machine tool market.”
Major industry player
With Nidec’s commitment to the machine tool industry, the company is also a major player in both metal removal and metal additive manufacturing, according to Knoy.
“We are their first volley into metal removal machines; with the acquisition also came advanced metal additive manufacturing because our machine tool division includes 3D printing technology,” he said. “But we’re their machine tool venture.”
For the gear industry, Nidec is involved in making products that include right-angle gearboxes, bevel gear drives, parallel axis or inline gearboxes, harmonic gear units, indexing gear heads, worm gearboxes, and traction drives, according to Knoy.
“They are a major player,” he said. “Overall, Mitsubishi was about a $500 billion organization, while Nidec is approximately a $15 billion organization — not nearly as large as Mitsubishi, but certainly a major corporation. The interesting thing about Nidec is that 80 percent of the world market in motor drives in laptops and computers are Nidec components, and unless you’ve taken a laptop or a computer apart, you’d never see it.”
Becoming a global market leader
The simple fact is that Nidec is an aggressive company that wants to be the global market leader in every industry it competes in by providing top quality products at fair prices while providing excellent service, according to Knoy.
“Nidec’s goal is always to be No. 1,” he said. “Their slogan is: ‘Everything that spins and moves.’ They’re interested in being in that market, and as Nidec was a Mitsubishi customer already, they had the confidence in our equipment, and they used it in many of their manufacturing facilities, which gave them full confidence to purchase us.”
And that means taking gear manufacturing to the next level, wherever that may lead, according to Knoy.
“Everybody’s going electric a million miles an hour, and no one really knows where it’s leading to,” he said. “If you look at an e-drive transmission right now, it’s basically one or two helical gear sets, but planetary designs are coming. Recently we have heard discussions about multiple planetary sets in an e-drive transmission. So, this will propel the gearing market forward if they can do this. The planetary gear technology is well known, but OEMs need to find the right applications, and they’re working hard on it. The transmission that Tesla’s making is a helical gear set that includes four types of gears, but as the planetary idea takes hold, we will see many more gears in the e-drive transmissions. The technology will bring manufacturers back to the gearing market.”
Whereas some acquisitions can be messy, Nidec’s acquisition of Mitsubishi Machine Tool was a smooth process from top to bottom, according to Knoy.
“The customer shouldn’t notice any difference,” he said. “The only thing that’s changed is the name on the building and the color of our logo. We’re green and white instead of black and red. All the people are the same. The machine tool division was bought lock, stock, and barrel, and they retained everybody. When the agreement was initially only a handshake and a wink, no one was allowed to jump ship to other divisions. Everybody’s the same. We have a general manager and engineering support here from Japan, and they are all Nidec, and they were all multiple-year seniority Mitsubishi people, so they were probably a bit more nervous about the sale than anybody.”
With Nidec’s aggressive roots, Knoy said that philosophy helps guide how his division tackles his customers’ challenges.
“In this office, we attack a challenge head-on; we have to jump right on it; we can’t ignore it,” he said. “And we have to provide a solution and have an aggressive follow-up plan. That’s the only way we’re going to win today, and that’s the mentality that I work with.”
Knoy is quick to mention a recent job he oversaw for a major marine outboard motor manufacturer.
“They came to us, and they said, ‘Look, we need a machine, and we need the machine to do this,’” he said. “We didn’t have the machine to do it. Mitsubishi was, and Nidec — as we are now — is known as kind of a Mazak of the gear world. We stock machines, and have standard offerings. No one in the gear equipment world does that but us. Additionally, we offer fully engineered solutions. Our large engineering staff in Japan was able to quickly re-engineer a machine model, add the desired content, and meet their
“A week later, we had a solution; it was drawn up on AutoCAD, and the price was set, which I thought was reasonable, and the delivery was still within the goalposts,” he said. “In this market, we want a bigger presence, and, as I said, to be No. 1 in every market, and that means geographic market as well as product market.”
That drive to be No. 1 began almost 50 years ago when four people in Kyoto, Japan, started a brushless motor manufacture in 1973.
The company, led by Shigenobu Nagamori, was quickly established as Nidec America in 1976. The company was later publicly traded on the Tokyo Exchange in 1988.
The company’s organic growth continued with many mergers and acquisitions, and in 2010, Nidec purchased the motors and control business of Emerson Electric Company, which included U.S. Electric Motors, a household name in the U.S., according to Knoy.
In 2012, Nidec bought Minster Press, which is probably the most prominent name in presses in the U.S. With that purchase, Nidec added six additional press-related companies globally.
Now, with Nidec’s commitment to the machine tool industry, Knoy expects the results to mirror what Nidec did with the press industry.
“Our expectation is that it’s going to be similar to what happened to Minster; who they will buy and in what areas we don’t know; they haven’t included us in any of that yet,” he said. “But we anticipate aggressive, organic growth and an aggressive posture in M&A.”
Eyes on automotive
With that in mind, Knoy expects Nidec to become an even larger supplier to the automotive and commercial truck market, at least as far as axles are concerned.
“Right now, they’re supplying a fair number of motors for people to use on their e-drive units,” he said. “And our belief, although we haven’t been told this, is they’re actually going to become an OEM for those products. Our thought is they’re going to push our technology since they’re going to be using our machines and tools to manufacture their products. We’re looking forward to that. With Nidec as our parent company I think we are front and center.”
A large part of what drives Knoy’s division is a slogan that it uses in all of its marketing: “Our standard is legendary reliability.”
“That’s something that we use in North America, put it in print, and we own it out of this gear center, so we’re able to keep it,” Knoy said. “We’re going to move on with our standard of legendary reliability in the market. I spoke to customers when I started in the industry in the early ’90s, and Mitsubishi was seen as a discount name. But over time, the brand has evolved into a very robust, reliable machine, and no company can match our ‘legendary reliability.’ Our machines run every day, and they make parts every day. We never have a complaint about that.”