NGK Insulators Ltd.

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NGK Insulators Ltd.

2-56 Sudacho, Mizuho-ku
+81 528727171
+81 528727690
Web site:

Public Company
Employees: 3,556
Sales: ¥251.32 billion ($2.37 billion) (2004)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Nagoya Osaka Sapporo
NAIC: 335932 Noncurrent-Carrying Wiring Device Manufacturing; 333298 All Other Industrial Machinery Manufacturing; 335312 Motor and Generator Manufacturing

Based in Nagoya, Japan, NGK Insulators Ltd. is one of the world's leading producers of electrical insulators and industrial ceramics components, as well as a range of other power distribution, ceramics, and electronics products. The company's Insulator division specializes in the manufacturing of large-scale insulators for electricity transmission cablessuch as its 11.5-meter-long ultrahigh voltage bushing shell, which can reach a diameter of 1.6 meters, making it the world's largest object crafted from porcelain. The company also produces related products, such as line arresters and insulator washing equipment. Other products in this division include power distribution products and components and sodium sulfur batteries. NGK's Ceramics division produces the Honeyceram line of ceramics-based automotive exhaust purification components, as well as ceramic membrane filters for the chemicals industries, and refractories for the industrial heating market. NGK's Engineering division leverages its insulator technologies for use in plant engineering designs and projects such as sewage and water treatment systems. NGK's Electronics business produces ceramics-based components for the electronics and semiconductor industries. Last, the company's Specialty Metals and Precision Casting & Molds divisions makes components based on beryllium-copper alloys. Founded in 1919, NGK operates subsidiaries and affiliate companies in 57 countries. Manufacturing of crucial technologies remains concentrated in Japan, which also accounts for some 80 percent of the company's sales. NGK also operates manufacturing facilities in the United States, China, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Thailand. The company is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Sales in its 2004 fiscal year topped ¥251 billion ($2.3 billion).

Insulator Offshoot in the 1920s

NGK Insulators stemmed from an import-export business established by Baron Ichizaemon Morimura in 1876. Initially, Morimura focused on shipments of porcelain china, which were distributed through a wholesale and retail shop the company opened in New York City. The rise in demand for Japanese china encouraged Morimura-kumi, as the company was called, to establish its own porcelain production operation in order to ensure the high quality of its products. That company, called Nippon Toki Gomei Kaisha, began production in the village of Noritake in 1904. The company's china products adopted the Noritake name, and their popularity later led Nippon Toki (also known as Nihon Touki) to change its name to Noritake as well.

The Noritake company soon began investigating developing technologies to extend the uses of its ceramics production. The growing use of electricity and electrical products had produced the demand for new components, such as insulators for high-voltage transmission lines. In 1906, Nippon Toki began researching means of adapting ceramics as insulators. By 1909, the company had completed its first generation of ceramics insulators.

Over the next decade, Nippon Toki continued to develop its ceramics technologies, improving the performance of its insulators. At the same time, the market for its insulators grew strongly, as demand for electrical power surged in Japan. This development led Nippon Toki to create a dedicated company for its insulator division in 1919. The new company took the name of NGK Insulators Ltd.

Over the next decade, NGK developed ceramics technology capable of providing insulation support for the new class of 1000 kV ultra-high voltage transmission systems. As part of that effort, the company built a testing facility for the new range of insulators in 1929. In this way, NGK was able to develop methods of increasing the scale of its ceramic insulators, culminating in the fabrication of a world-leading 11.5-meter transmission bushing in 1995.

NGK also began developing other markets for its ceramics technologies. The company began producing ceramics-based corrosion-resistant components and equipment in the early 1930s. NGK also launched the production of components for sewage treatment and filtration systems. The company became a supplier to the automotive industry early on as well, in particular through its production of ceramic spark plugs. That operation grew sufficiently to be spun off as a separate company in 1936, as NGK Spark Plug Co. The importance of the company's products during the war years led NGK to build a second factory, in Handa, in Aichi in 1942.

International Expansion in the 1960s

NGK diversified its business somewhat in the 1950s, launching the production of beryllium-copper alloy-based components. Nonetheless, insulators remained the company's core business. In the decades following World War II, NGK emerged as a world-leading producer of electrical insulators. The development was helped by the construction of a new factory in Komaki in 1962, and the opening of a new High Voltage Laboratory the following year.

NGK turned to the international market for the next phase in its growth. In 1965, the company launched its first foreign subsidiary, founding NGK Insulators of America. This was followed by the creation of a Canadian subsidiary, NGK Insulators of Canada, in 1968. In 1973, the company teamed up with General Electric to form U.S.-based Locke Insulators Inc. NGK next turned to Europe, forming subsidiaries in Germany in 1976 and Belgium in 1978. These subsidiaries were merged the following year.

During this time, NGK also had begun developing new products. In 1971, the company created a new subsidiary for the production of ceramics-based electronics components. The company also extended its ceramics technology to the automotive industry again, developing its Honeyceram filtration catalyst. Launched in 1976, Honeyceramwhich was patterned after honeycombsquickly set a standard in the emerging market for catalytic converters.

The wide adoption of the Honeyceram catalyst led NGK to establish a dedicated manufacturing facility in Europe as well, with the creation of NGK Ceramics Europe, in Belgium, in 1985. The following year, the company extended its beryllium-copper operations to North America, with the purchase of Cabot Corp. in the United States. That business then became known as NGK Metals Corporation.

The widespread adoption of catalytic converters in the U.S. market in the 1980s encouraged NGK to set up a dedicated manufacturing presence in that market as well, and in 1988 the company launched a new subsidiary, NGK Ceramics USA, in order to produce the Honeyceram system for the U.S. market.

In another international move, NGK founded the PT Wika-NGK Insulators joint venture to begin producing insulators in Indonesia in 1987. Another joint venture that year, with ASEA Brown Boveri AG, created Nastech Corp. in Japan, dedicated to the development and production of sodium sulfur (NAS) batteries. The company began testing its first prototype NAS battery in 1992.

World Leader in Insulators in the New Century

NGK's expansion continued throughout the 1990s and into the next century. In 1990, the company created a new subsidiary, NGK Okhotsk, in order to produce ferrite components for magnetic heads. Another new subsidiary was NGK Filtech, launched in 1991 in order to develop and manufacture filtering membrane components. In 1993, NGK traveled to Australia, setting up the NGK Stanger joint venture, which began manufacturing power distribution automation components and systems. Closer to its core business, the company opened a new U.S. subsidiary, NGK-Locke Polymer Insulators, extending its insulators business.

By the mid-1990s, NGK's Honeyceram was a world-leading catalytic converter element, with sales of more than 200 million pieces. In 1996, the company extended the manufacturing network for that product with a new subsidiary in Indonesia. That year, as well, NGK launched production of insulators at a new manufacturing plant in China. The company added another Indonesian subsidiary in 1997, with the creation of Siam NGK Technocera, dedicated to the production of kiln furniture for NGK's and others' ceramics manufacturing operations.

Company Perspectives:

In the rapidly changing business world of the 21st century, only a limited number of outstanding companies will survive. We are entering this age of changing business structures with value creation as a driving force in new untapped markets.

We have set new action guidelines which focus on four principal concepts: "Speedy," referring to speedy management, "Timely," meaning concentration on development, "Lean," aiming at highly-efficient management, and "Green," green management (consideration for our environment). By incorporating these principles, we strive to make NGK a company of excellence based on global standards.

Profile: Despite a surge in the severity of competition on the global stage, NGK, in line with its commitment to being a company of excellence based on global standards, is steadily evolving to fulfill its corporate mission to constantly provide value to clients, shareholders, employees and society as a whole. Firmly grounded in distinctive ceramics technology, NGK continues to make its presence felt across the "Triple-E" business domains of Energy, Ecology and Electronics.

A new foreign extension for the company came in 2000, when NGK launched Honeyceram production in South Africa. The following year, NGK formed a cooperation agreement with France's De Dietrich in order to produce glass-lined insulation systems. Also that year, NGK formed two new subsidiaries in China's Suzhou, one for the production of Honeyceram catalysts, and the other to expand its kiln furniture business. By then, sales of Honeyceram had topped 500 million units worldwide.

The early 2000s marked a difficult period for NGK. The company's exposure to the electronics and information technology market left it vulnerable to the sector's collapse. The company, which despite its international scope, continued to generate some 80 percent of its revenues in Japan, also was hurt by the country's slow economic growth. Nonetheless, as it approached the mid-decade, NGK appeared to be on its way to regaining its momentum. NGK also began preparing for further expansion, launching plans to open new manufacturing sites in Poland, China, and the United States. With nearly 100 years of ceramics technology behind it, NGK expected to remain a world leader in the ceramics insulator market in the 21st century.

Principal Subsidiaries

Akechi Insulators Co., Ltd.; Chubu Energys Corporation; FM Industries, Inc.; Kansai Energys Corporation; Koshin Electronics Co., Ltd.; Kyusyu Energys Corporation; Locke Insulators, Inc.; M-Elec Company; NGK Adrec Co., Ltd.; NGK Berylco France; NGK Berylco U.K. Ltd.; NGK Building Service, Ltd.; NGK Ceramics Europe S.A.; NGK Ceramics Polska Sp. z.o.o.; NGK Ceramics South Africa (Pty) Ltd.; NGK Ceramics Suzhou Co., Ltd. (China); NGK Chem-Tech, Ltd.; NGK Deutsche Berylco GmbH; NGK Europe GmbH; NGK Europe S.A.; NGK Expert Co., Ltd.; NGK Filtech, Ltd.; NGK Insulators of Canada, Ltd.; NGK Insulators Tangshan Co., Ltd.; NGK Kilntech Corporation; NGK Life Co., Ltd.; NGK Logistics, Ltd.; NGK Mettex Corporation; NGK North America, Inc.; NGK Okhotsk, Ltd.; NGK Optoceramics Co., Ltd.; NGK Printer Ceramics Co., Ltd.; NGK Sports Planning Co., Ltd.; NGK Technica, Ltd.; NGK Technocera Suzhou Co., Ltd. (China); NGK-E Solution, Ltd.; North America; P.T. NGK Ceramics (Indonesia); PT WIKA-NGK (Malaysia); Siam NGK Technocera Co., Ltd. (Thailand); Soritsu Electronics Co., Ltd.; Soshin Electronics (HK) Ltd. (Hong Kong); Soshin Electronics of America Inc.; Sosyo Sales Co., Ltd.; Tajimi Country Club Co., Ltd.; Tohoku Energys Corporation; Tokai Energys Corporation.

Principal Competitors

Shanghai Nanyang Sunlight Cable Co.; AREVA Group; Adolf Wurth GmbH und Company KG; Philips France; NetVersant Solutions Inc.; Harbin Cable Factory; Fuji Electric Co., Ltd.; Kubota Corporation; Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd.; Zhengzhou Cable Group Company Ltd.; Aberdare Cables Proprietary Ltd.; Rittal Corporation; LEONI AG.

Key Dates:


Nippon Touki Gomei Kaisha (later Noritake) begins development of ceramics-based insulators.


The first ceramic insulators are launched.


The dedicated ceramic insulators business, NGK Insulators Ltd., is created.


NGK begins production of beryllium-copper alloy components.


NGK opens its first foreign subsidiary in the United States.


A Canadian subsidiary is established.


A European subsidiary in Germany is created; the Honeyceram catalyst for catalytic converters is launched.


A Honeyceram production subsidiary is created in Belgium.


Honeyceram production is launched in the United States.


The NGK Stanger joint venture in Australia is created.


NGK builds the world's largest ceramics-based bushing at 11.5 meters.


Production begins in China.


A Honeyceram production subsidiary is founded in South Africa.


The company begins a glass-lined insulation partnership with De Deitrich in France.


NGK announces plans to build new production sites in China, Poland, and the United States.

Further Reading

"Final US Ruling Says Japanese Firm NGK Is Dumping Its Insulators," Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, December 3, 2003.

"NGK Insulators to Produce Insulators in China," Asian Economic News, August 31, 1998.

"NGK Insulators to Set Up 2 Subsidiaries in China," Asian Economic News, December 24, 2001.

Oba, Tokiko, "NGK Insulators Poised for Fast Recovery," Yomiuri Shimbun, January 5, 2004.

M.L. Cohen