- Corporate profile
Chapter 1The Start: An Accidental Success That Got the Engineers Thinking
A result no one had expected led us to think we might have the potential for creating a world-first product.
Development began when a business partner asked Masashi Tamura, the sales technology contact person for automakers "Don't you have an accessory belt that can somehow help lower fuel consumption?" He proposed using one of Mitsuboshi Belting's standard-specification products, a ribbed belt with a rubberized back. Although it was common for Japanese manufacturers to use accessory belts with cloth backs, before joining the Sales Technology Department, for many years Mr. Tamura had been working as an engineer in belt design, and he believed that rubber would provide good flexibility, and that flexure would help reduce energy loss. However, he notes that "Truthfully, my expectations were not high." Although a focus for parts on the engine itself, considering fuel efficiency improvements involving belts for generators, air conditioners and other peripheral equipment was just something not normally considered at that time.
But testing produced unexpected results. The belt succeeded in reducing fuel consumption by around 0.2%. The person in charge of design at the manufacturer was also surprised that a belt could have such an effect on lowering fuel consumption. The savings was less than 1%, but for the automotive industry, focused as it was on technologies for lowering fuel consumption, even such a small savings was meaningful. Unfortunately, the proposed belt was rejected as being too noisy, but this was now a different problem. If we were only able to eliminate the noise issue, we could provide a groundbreaking product that was technically superior to that offered by our competitors. Mr. Tamura was suddenly convinced that this development was worth a try.
Embodying the corporate culture of "just give it a go," we put together a development team of members from various departments and set out to create a world-first product.
The team went right to work sounding out various technology departments about rubber compounding, belt design, analysis and other topics and asking them to contribute members to the development team. Looking back, upon hearing Mr. Tamura's thoughts, materials technology veteran Yorifumi Hineno recalls thinking "This is certainly an idea we haven't considered before, but surely it will be difficult to create a compound rubber that achieves both low fuel consumption and noise generation resistance. Typically, these are incompatible goals."
Mr. Hineno was not alone. Masayoshi Nakajima, the managing director who headed the Technology Department, and many others thought this was a wild goose chase. Still, they kept faith with Mitsuboshi Belting's forward-looking manufacturing traditions of "just give it a go." Nobody opposed giving the idea a try.
A development team was formed. Hisato Ishiguro, Mr. Hineno's subordinate in the functional development department, was in charge of rubber compounding. Hiroki Imai, from the product technology department, was to handle the production of belts for evaluation and conducting physical property evaluations. Takayuki Shige from the testing department was selected to evaluate friction loss measurements, and Masashi Tamura was assigned to provide overall development direction. Hisato Ishiguro and Hiroki Imai had only recently joined the Company, and Mr. Shige had just been relocated to another department, but they were also called upon to take part in this challenge to develop a world-first product.