Nikkol group Nikkol Group News Letter


Behind “Safe and Reliable”:

The Path of Nihon Surfactant

Approximately 100 km north of Tokyo,
Nihon Surfactant Kogyo K.K. is located in Utsunomiya City (Tochigi Prefecture). Nihon Surfactant is the core manufacturing company of NIKKOL GROUP, producing thousands of ingredients for personal care and cosmetics.
    Many first-time visitors are surprised by the cleanliness of the factory, which looks very different from their image of a typical chemical plant.
    “Systematization, order, cleanliness, neatness, discipline” – Mr. Yoshizawa, who has been enforcing these five qualities in this company since 1993, gave us a factory tour.

■It is not a garbage dump. It is a waste inventory.
    Scrapped metal parts are orderly piled on top of each other. First we went to the area where emptied drum cans are stored.
    “One visitor asked me once: Why do you pile up your trash so neatly?” – Yoshizawa-san told us with a smile.
    “What we have here is not trash,” he continued. “As a whole company, we engage in GCS+E activity.* This means that most things will be recycled; in other words, trash will become a source for the next product. If it is seen as ‘trash,’ then it will be perceived as ‘something that will be thrown away.’ However, if it is seen as ‘recyclable waste,’ then it can be perceived as ‘something that is stored.’”
    Awareness is completely changed following the change of viewpoint.

■Colorful pipes, arrows and signs.

    When we entered the factory itself, we were expecting to see a gloomy industrial interior with gray walls and monotonous pipelines, but this company was different. Pink, orange, yellow, green… Colorful pipes run across the whole place. Arrows and “North - South” signs. It was as if we were in a brick maze decorated for the carnival.

    Yoshizawa-san explained:
    “The reason the piping is colorful is that we wanted to distance ourselves from the factories that tend to be unorganized and make it more fun. No, not really, but in fact, it is to make it easier to see what is actually inside the pipes. Pipes with steam, water or solvent all have different colors. Arrows on the pipes obviously show the direction of flow inside them. The ‘North – South’ signs are much better than ‘move the right lever’ or ‘move the left lever,’ because individuals tend to confuse right and left. If people are instructed ‘push the North lever,’ they understand it much better and make fewer mistakes.”

    At Nihon Surfactant one can observe many modifications to create a “safe” and “secure” manufacturing environment. Coloring the pipes, pasting arrow stickers on them, making sure the signs are facing the right direction every day... All these efforts are time consuming. At first glance, they may even look unnecessary. However, there is a phenomenal effect behind these procedures. If an individual does make a mistake, the losses are immeasurable. Not only time is lost. More importantly, one risks losing the trust of customers. Therefore, at Nihon Surfactant nobody will hesitate if asked about the necessity and efficiency of these efforts. This policy is truly in the heart of the whole company.

■Clean means safe.

    Yoshizawa-san showed us the quality control section of the factory.
    “It may be a rare case to see ‘raw material’ or ‘chemical’ producing factories that go this far in hygiene control. Some may think that since they are not producing the final product, they do not need to be so thorough. We do not have that way of thinking. Our philosophy is to maintain perfect cleanliness even in places that are unseen. This is how we know our product is never contaminated and we can ship it to the customer with confidence.”

■Nihon Surfactant keeps developing.

    Employees and management here are never satisfied with the status quo. Our daily agenda includes GMP and ISO9001: 2008, participation in Eco Action 21 activities, risk prediction program and involvement in the local Utsunomiya Zero Accident movement. We will continue to challenge ourselves in the future in order to deliver "safe and secure" materials for customers in Japan and worldwide.

*: GCS+E Activity: Green, Clean, Sustainable + Economy
We aim to reduce energy emission and waste generation by using environmentally-friendly raw materials in the manufacturing of sustainable, economical, high-quality products.