Th 257613

A vision through people

Aug. 1, 2007
ecently, I interviewed two people with exciting visions for the company with which they work - Tadahiko Kumaki, president and COO, GC America Inc.

by Joe Blaes

Recently, I interviewed two people with exciting visions for the company with which they work - Tadahiko Kumaki, president and COO, GC America Inc., and Makoto Nakao, chairman and CEO, GC Corporation, Tokyo, Japan. Let me share their thoughts with you ...

Dr. Blaes: Congratulations on being the first Japanese president of GC America Inc. What is your view of dentistry in the United States, and how does it differ from dentistry in Japan and elsewhere?

Tadahiko Kumaki
President & COO
GC America Inc.
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Tadahiko Kumaki: Thank you. I am certainly honored to be the first Japanese president of GC America Inc. Over my entire career, I have had the opportunity to travel to the United States and work extensively with many people here. The United States is not only the largest dental market in the world, but it is also the epicenter for many leading technologies. At the forefront is cosmetic dentistry. Americans understand and are more passionate about looking and feeling good dentally, more than anywhere else in the world. That being said, it is only natural that cosmetic treatments like whitening, direct composites, and ceramic veneers are extremely popular here. Americans like bigger, whiter teeth! On the other hand, cosmetic dentistry in Japan is only a recent phenomenon. The Japanese market is more oriented toward minimal intervention, with glass ionomers leading the way. It is the philosophy of prevention rather than treatment ... that of “less is more.”

Dr. Blaes: What is your vision for GC America?

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GC America is in a unique position - it is a truly international American company with a strong Japanese research and development culture. The strength of our R&D gives us an advantage in manufacturing and innovation - the ability to introduce quality innovative dental products at a rapid rate. We would need to expand and strengthen our sales and marketing functions to keep up with R&D. My vision is to build on GC America’s strong foundation and make it a top dental company in America by joining the best of American and Japanese corporate values.

Dr. Blaes: There have been many consolidations and acquisitions among dental manufacturers in recent years. Do you see the future growth of GC America to be more organic or through acquisitions?

Tadahiko Kumaki:GC America has been one of the fastest growing dental companies, organically. I see the future growth to continue very strongly due to the strength of its R&D. That being said, we are always looking at opportunities to acquire, but it would have to be a fit with the values and culture of GC.

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Dr. Blaes: It’s often said that it is not easy for foreign companies to be successful in the U.S. market. What makes GC America successful?

Tadahiko Kumaki: I certainly agree with that. Many foreign companies do find it hard in the U.S. market. GC America’s success has not happened overnight nor by chance. It’s about persistence and perseverance, but above all, a well-thought-out, strategic plan. We are a global company but in the United States, we act local. The cliché “think global - act local” couldn’t be more true.

Dr. Blaes: GC recently celebrated its 86th anniversary. Can you share with us this special milestone and what it means for GC Corporation?

Makoto Nakao
Chairman & CEO
GC Corporation
Tokyo, Japan
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Makoto Nakao: As we emphasized on the occasion of the 85th anniversary last year, we have been aggressively pursuing Vision Management. And again on this happy occasion of our 86th anniversary, I strongly believe in the importance of both Vision Management and the vision of each GC associate. (From the day of establishment in 1921, we at GC have called our staff “nakama” or “associate,” and do not consider them as just employees.) Each GC associate should be an indispensable member of a family, society, and company. And as a full member of a company, each GC associate is expected to spend some parts of his or her life for work. So it is quite meaningful of them to realize their own dreams at work. I am convinced that realization of their dreams through their responsibility will ultimately promise the realization of our corporate vision. Therefore, on the occasion of the 86th anniversary, I gave a message that, ideally, self-fulfillment of each GC associate will bring realization of our corporate vision and emphasize the importance of establishing the concept of “my vision/my mission” for each GC associate.

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Dr. Blaes: GC is a world leader in numerous dental technologies including glass ionomers, impressions, and minimal intervention dentistry. How does GC maintain its leading role in new product development?

Makoto Nakao: Recently, the purpose of technologies has been much further specialized and segmented. We have never experienced such wide range of specialization and segmentation as now. I believe that this trend will continue for some time in the near future. Technologies and techniques of dentistry can be divided into categories. The first one includes casting, denture base, amalgam filling, etc., all of which have been used with stability and trust from users for more than 50 years. The second one includes composite filling and endodontics, which have been established during the past 20 years. The third one includes implants, all-ceramic restorations created from CAD/CAM technology, etc. And we have had heated discussions on regeneration and diagnosis. Now, dentistry is heavily dependent on state-of-the-art technologies of other medical specialties and other industries. As a leading dental company, we strongly feel the need to act as a bridge builder between dentistry and other medical specialties as well as our industry, and properly transfer their technologies into custom-made technologies useful for the further improvement of oral health of people throughout the world. Therefore, we must have a wide range of interests and big visions.

Dr. Blaes: GC recently celebrated the opening of Phase 1 of its new R&D center. What is the concept behind the design of this uniquely breathtaking R&D center?

Makoto Nakao: In developing this new space, we had three ideas. Based on the concept of “communication loop” by Mr. Yoneda, chief design director of Kajima Corporation, the construction company of our new R&D building, this new space was realized. I would like to explain the three ideas one by one.

First was the prestigious laboratory of Dr. Ernest Rutherford, which has produced as many as 12 Nobel Prize winners so far. This laboratory allowed researchers to walk freely and exchange opinions with each other without any waste of time. This is considered to be their greatest strength.

Secondly, as you may often experience, many good ideas occur to you during a conversation. This is based on the concept of gene mutation. As in the case of the thinking of Dr. Rachel Louise Carson, environmentalist and exponent/researcher of “the chain logic” theory, it can be said a kind of gene mutation occurs through communication.

Thirdly is the logic of “BA” (source of dynamism of the company), advocated by Prof. Hiroyuki Itami (corporate management), of the Hitotsubashi University. If sharing of information increases in a “BA” and causes resonance of psychological energy, it will ultimately lead to sharing of inspiration and emotions.

On this happy occasion of the opening of the new R&D Building, I selected and located the Gigeiten, Buddha of Technologies and Fine Arts, in the new R&D building. In this age of advanced technologies, locating a Buddha statue in the new R&D building may be the antithesis of what you expect and a great surprise to you. However, I strongly believe that in the advancing uncertainty of our chaotic society, the importance of personal criteria has been increasing. It is no exaggeration to say that dental materials and equipment are developed as a result of combining state-of-the-art technologies. We can say that each product is designed with technologies. An engineer is expected to select and judge the potential of a technology, and design it for clinical use. And the success is dependent on his abilities, to a large extent. Therefore, in an effort to make the best use of superior criteria of each GC associate involved in R&D, and letting him or her recognize its importance, we selected the Gigeiten as the symbol of the new R&D building.

Dr. Blaes: What is your long-term vision for GC?

Makoto Nakao: As I have already mentioned, each GC associate cherishes his or her own dream pertaining to work. I am convinced that capability and strong skills of each GC associate should be maximized through work. And I really hope that the accumulation of these capabilities and strong skills will realize GC’s corporate vision. I strongly believe that the constant efforts of each GC associate will contribute to the further development of the oral health of the people throughout the world.

Dr. Blaes: What other dental markets do you see GC entering?

Makoto Nakao:As you know, every one of us involved in dentistry holds a very important responsibility. This is because dentistry plays a very important role in the daily lives of people throughout the world. With the aid of dental equipment and materials, vital functions of a human being can normally work or be restored. Secondly, dental equipment and materials can ensure optimal bite and complete mastication, and help people throughout the world realize healthy, long lives. Thirdly, dental equipment and materials enable us to maintain and restore oral functions, which ensure energy intake for a vigorous life and verbal communication, one of the great attributes of human beings. Based on these facts, it can be said that every one of us involved in dentistry has enormous possibilities. And the further increase of recognition of these facts by people throughout the world holds the key to open enormous possibilities. All of us involved in dentistry must correctly send information and further increase people’s recognition. I am convinced that this is GC’s endeavor.

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