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Executive Interview with Shoichi Nakagawa

January 1, 2010
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After graduating from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Shoichi Nakagawa joined the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation Semiconductor Group’s Osaka branch, working on domestic sales for MCU and Memories. He then held various positions at the Semiconductor Group’s headquarters in Tokyo before advancing to Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V. He joined the Semiconductor Division in Ratingen, Germany as division manager for semiconductors with responsibility for high frequency, opto components, power semiconductors and TFT-LCD modules.

MWJ: Since it was founded in 1921 the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation has progressed from developing electric fans, elevators, power generation equipment and white goods to become a household name for electronic equipment. To give some perspective of the current scale of the company how many countries does it operate in, how many people does it employ and what is its annual turnover?

SN: Mitsubishi Electric has operations in 35 countries with over 100 sales offices in total and eight research and development centres. Figures for March 2009 show the company generating a turnover of $37.4 billion (for the period from April 2008 to March 2009) and employing more than 106,000 people worldwide.

MWJ: What are Mitsubishi Electric’s main activities with respect to the RF and microwave sector?

SN: Our main activities in the microwave sector are power amplifiers for 3G cellular phones, low noise HEMTs for DBS and automotive applications, as well as discrete and internally matched GaAs FETs for communication systems, radar and industrial applications. We also supply space qualified GaAs transistors for satellite applications. Furthermore, microwave transistors are the key technology for several other Mitsubishi Electric products in the field of communication systems, defence, space and automotive.

MWJ: Geographically are there specific regions that the company is targeting to establish/increase its market share of RF and microwave products?

SM: Traditionally Mitsubishi has been very strong in the domestic market but in order to sustain continued growth the company recognises the increasing importance of addressing global markets. For example, originally we developed 3G handset PAs for the Japanese market as it was the dominant country in the early days of 3G. However, as other markets have evolved this has changed, so we now promote such products globally. For all other microwave products we are active in all geographical markets.

MWJ: The economic downturn has been accepted as being global but from the perspective of a Japanese company how has Mitsubishi Electric been affected?

SN: Along with most other divisions in the company the semiconductor business unit has been hit by the worldwide economic crisis but fortunately Mitsubishi Electric has a broad product portfolio that enables it to be able to balance the pluses and minuses between divisions.

MWJ: Has it changed how the company conducts its business and plans for the future?

SN: We have endeavoured to intensify expansion in global markets by using the company’s worldwide networks and have strengthened the internal supply chain between business divisions. Also, Mitsubishi Electric has made steady progress by implementing company-wide management improvement measures, along with a growth strategy and diverse structural reforms.

MWJ: What are the company’s strategies for future growth?

SN: We are employing various corporate growth strategies including the “Victory” Strategy, which aims to make strong businesses even stronger; the “Advance” Strategy, which is designed to reinforce customer solutions centred on strong businesses; and the Global Strategy.

MWJ: Green issues have come to the fore in recent years but Mitsubishi Electric adopted environmentally conscious manufacturing techniques in the early 1960s? How easy was it to instigate environmental initiatives in those early days?

SN: Back in 1960 the company began implementing manufacturing processes that consciously strived to reduce waste. Over subsequent decades Mitsubishi Electric developed purification and recycling technologies that we not only use ourselves, but also make available to other manufacturers. Since 1993, the Mitsubishi Electric Group has set out environmental plans every three years, specifically indicating its mid-term action targets and roadmaps, aimed at strengthening the company's environmental management system.

MWJ: How have attitudes changed and what are the company’s current environmental goals and objectives?

SN: The Group is committed to the realization of a sustainable society as one of its most important management principles. In October 2007 we established the Mitsubishi Electric Group’s Environmental Vision 2021. With the objectives of preventing global warming, creating a recycling-based society and fostering environmental awareness, this vision set specific targets as a clear, long-term direction of environmental management for the entire Group.

After formulating this vision our first initiative was the 6th Environmental Plan, which came into effect in April 2009 (fiscal year 2010). It set out three objectives: setting targets and action plans for environmental performance to realize Environmental Vision 2021; responding to social changes and imperatives pertaining to environmental issues; and contributing to the creation of a sustainable society through the expansion of environment-related business.

MWJ: Mitsubishi Electric’s corporate statement is: ‘Changes for the Better’. What structures are in place to achieve this aim?

SN: The ‘Changes for the Better’ statement signifies the goal and stance of the Mitsubishi Electric Group to continually innovate for the better. It demonstrates a commitment to our customers that each and every employee will endeavour to be the ‘best’ that he or she can be; will strive to improve technologies, services and creativity, as stated in the company’s Corporate Mission; and will work towards a better tomorrow.

MWJ: How does the company identify and develop breakthrough technologies?

SN: Mitsubishi Electric has research centres in Japan and overseas. When it comes to the new technologies that will meet future needs, it is our research centres that are continually looking ahead and fully supporting the company's R&D and business activities.

We are also participating actively in national (Japanese) and industry/academia cooperative projects in our bid to develop the world's highest-class technological capabilities. The Information Technology R&D Centre is actively creating new business through basic research and development in the fields of information, telecommunications, multimedia and microwave technology. Specifically for microwave technologies the Advanced Technology R&D Centre plays a key role in developing new transistor technologies.

MWJ: In the RF and microwave sector what new technologies are currently being developed?

SN: Mitsubishi Electric first developed GaN HEMT for internal Mitsubishi projects. Now we are in the process of expanding the product portfolio and promoting GaN HEMT for space, avionics and industrial applications. Another technology of high importance is the BiFET technology (FET and HBT combined on one die), which is used for cellular PAs. For the low cost DBS market we have developed new HEMT structures with a very low noise figure and high gain.

MWJ: Mitsubishi Electric has grown considerably since 1921. How does the company intend to sustain such growth and what do you see as the challenges facing the company in 2010?

SN: Mitsubishi Electric has a wide portfolio of products and we see growing demand in environmental friendly technologies. In the semiconductor field the challenges that we are facing are strong price pressures and a reduced demand in the consumer markets, due to the economic crisis. However, for power semiconductors signs of recovery were confirmed during the PCIM in May 2009 and we are confident that other semiconductor market segments will also recover soon.

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