The business relationships in Japan go back more than ten years: before 2007, Stephen Chan and Tony Cheng of BITZER’s Hong Kong site looked after customers in Japan. The initiative to found a subsidiary came from Chief Sales and Marketing Officer (CSMO) Gianni Parlanti, who at that time was Managing Director North and Southeast Asia. The deciding factors were primarily the establishment of direct contacts with the big Japanese corporations and the need to understand how to play a leading role in the at that time second biggest economy in the world. Although large-scale Japanese system manufacturers in particular produced the compressors used in their own factories, BITZER recognised the potential in technologically demanding applications. As a result, the company was able to expand its image in the market and benefit from Japan’s networking with the highly dynamic economic region of Asia. The local presence has also provided deeper insight into the desires and needs of Japanese users, which has proven to be very helpful when it comes to designing the next generation of compressors and condensing units.
Focus on reciprocating compressors
The positive developments over the past ten years demonstrate that the decision to found the subsidiary was the right one. Reciprocating compressors account for most of BITZER’s sales in Japan, and range from the open drive compressors of the past to innovative series for CO2 applications. ‘We hope to gain momentum for the sale of scroll compressors with the new concept of the ELV series. We also see growth potential for screw compressors, though it’s not comparable with other markets,’ says Ferdinand Spannan. The Managing Director has ambitious goals and, by 2020, would like to increase annual sales by 60 per cent to around €3.7 million. And over the long term, the Japanese BITZER subsidiary will take on the lion’s share of a market which is only just developing and still in the initial phase: reciprocating compressors for CO2 compound systems.
Ferdinand Spannan regards as major challenges both the high demands on the benefit–cost ratio, in particular in marine and transport applications, and the recruitment of trained and experienced personnel for products in the refrigeration and air-conditioning industry. A lively exchange with the application consultants in Rottenburg, Germany, and the Sales department promoted transparency and the exchange of information necessary to ensure project success. In addition to the often inadequate foreign language skills of Japanese employees, it’s also the cultural differences that represent a major challenge in understanding – both internally and externally. ‘Miscommunication and misunderstandings, including those resulting from incorrect and unwanted interpretation of what has been said or written, are an obstacle to business operations for BITZER and many other import companies in Japan. But we ultimately managed to achieve satisfactory results for the most part,’ reveals the Managing Director.
‘We hope to gain momentum for the sale of scroll compressors with the new concept of the ELV series. We also see growth potential for screw compressors, though it’s not comparable with other markets.’
Moving to Osaka
When the subsidiary was founded, the headquarters were located in Tokyo. BITZER relocated them to Osaka in 2012 and opened a sales office in Tokyo in 2015. Ferdinand Spannan has been responsible for the subsidiary since 2014, but since 2005 has been living with his family ‘in a country full of inconsistencies and contradictions between modernity and history, with cultural wealth and enormous technological and economic potential,’ as he puts it. To compensate for the somewhat confined lifestyle in the Japanese city of Osaka, he enjoys engaging in outdoor sports activities with his Japanese wife and their three sons between the ages of four and twelve.
Bitzer Japan aims at an annual turnover of
Million Euros until 2020 and hence an increase by 60 percent