Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited

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Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Limited

5-11 Doshomachi 3-chome
Chuo-ku, Osaka
Fax: (06) 222-3319

Public Company
Incorporated: 1918 as America Japan Sheet Glass Company
Employees: 3,500
Sales: ¥240.57 billion (US$1.67 billion)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Nagoya Luxembourg

Nippon Sheet Glass Company (NSG) is one of the largest glass-manufacturing companies in Japan, with a wide range of products, used mainly in the automotive and construction industries. In 1980s NSG developed high-technology products, including components for computers, communication systems, and electronic devices. The company has operations throughout Japan and overseas offices in Brussels and Somerset, New Jersey.

NSG was founded in 1918, when the Sumitomo Group, a large Japanese conglomerate, in partnership with Libbey-Owens-Ford Company (LOF), a U.S. automotive glass manufacturer, formed a flat-glass subsidiary, America Japan Sheet Glass. LOF provided the technology for making the flat glass. In 1920 America Japan Sheet Glass built Japans first sheet-glass factory, in Wakamatsu, Japan.

The company struggled in its early years. Not only was it difficult to locate materials, but the company had not yet perfected its manufacturing technique, and the product was of low quality. The company, nonetheless, gradually grew and began to diversify.

In 1927 America Japan Sheet Glass formed a subsidiary, Isolite Insulating Products Company, to manufacture and sell thermal insulation and related products, such as combustion equipment and furnaces. In 1931, because its ties to the Sumitomo Group had become exclusive, America Japan Sheet Glass changed its name to Nippon Sheet Glass Company, Nippon being a common company name within the Sumitomo Group.

During the 1930s, a militarist regime assumed power in Japan. The regime strove to make Japan the supreme economic power in Asia, with the aims of redistributing wealth and nationalizing conglomerates like the Sumitomo group. NSGs management, consequently, faced severe difficulties, and at the same time the demand for sheet glass slid considerably. The company diversified of necessity.

In 1934, following the introduction to Japan of the mechanical means to manufacture hollow glassware, NSG formed Kagami Crystal Works, to produce and sell crystal glassware and glass handicrafts. The new technology greatly reduced cost, and it consequently expanded the market. In 1937 NSG formed another subsidiary, Nippon Glass Fiber Company, to produce and sell glass-fiber products, with uses in textiles, plastics, and insulation. In 1939, NSG founded Tsutsunaka Plastic Industry Company for the production and sale of resin plates, used mainly to fortify glass and plastics, and the production and sales of polycarbonates, used in making molded products.

When Japan went to war with China in 1937, the export of glass products declined considerably. Production of glass products similarly declined. By 1940 the glass industry was severely affected by World War II. Because of the shortages of iron, steel, and other raw materials during the war, restrictions were placed on the construction of new buildings, reducing the demand for window and plate glass. The industry concentrated on producing glass wool for insulating material and photographic plates, both of which had military applications. Overall the industrys production decreased substantially during the war; NSGs decreased 50%.

By 1945, much of Japans industrial capacity had been destroyed. Many flat-glass manufacturers suffered damage to expensive, large-scale equipment. The Allied occupation authorities saw the glass industry as an important means for economic rehabilitation for Japan, because Japanese glass companies had the necessary technology and raw materials for successful peacetime production. NSGs relationship to the Sumitomo Group, however, was severed, as the Allies instituted an anti-monopoly law that required large zaibatsu, or conglomerates, to disband into separate, smaller companies. NSG was forced to loosen its ties to other Sumitomo companies and to function more autonomously. Fumio Nakamura became the first president of NSG in 1945. He led the company not only into its economic recovery but also into its significant growth over the next two decades.

In 1950 NSG established a new subsidiary, Nippon Funtai Kogyo Company, to produce and sell elements used in the manufacture of glass products. Two years later, a new factory was built in Maizuru.

In later postwar years, commercial restrictions on industries were gradually relaxed, and by 1952, Nippon was able to resume less formal relations with other Sumitomo companies. While NSG retained its independent status, Sumitomo companies again were allowed to invest in one anothers stock.

As Japans economy strengthened, NSGs business grew. By 1962 NSG had become the second-largest sheet glass company in Japan. That year Isuro Watanabe became president. In 1964, NSG built another factory, in Chiba, and in 1965 NSG became the first producer of float glass in Japan. Watanabe imported the float glass production techniqueinvolving the pouring of molten glass onto flat metal and allowing the glass to cool slowlyfrom Pilkington of England. Unlike other forms of sheet glass, float glass does not need to be ground mechanically. The result is a clear, uniform surface without distortions.

In 1966, Seihachiro Takimoto became president of the company. Takimoto brought NSG into a major period of diversification. In 1967, NSG formed Nippon Silica Kogyo Company, to produce and sell silica, an important material used in glassmaking. One year later, NSG organized its central research laboratory, a significant move, as much of NSGs growth came to depend on research and development. In 1968, NSG and NEC Corporation jointly developed the first glass fiber that provided accurate transmission of optical signals and images. SELFOC, one such optical fiber product, became especially important for devices that combined optics and electronics, such as copiers, and medical endoscopes. In the same year NSG formed Hi-Mirror Company, to manufacture and sell mirrors. During the 1960s NSG focused on exporting products, and in 1969 the company established a U.S. subsidiary, Orient Glass, in Los Angeles, to act as a distributor of NSG products in the United States.

The 1970s were a decade of increased internationalization and diversification. In 1970 NSG acquired Nippon Safety Glass, a manufacturer of tempered and laminated glass for automobiles. NSG also, in 1970, formed Nippon Pelnox Corporation to produce and sell synthetic-resin products for a variety of uses in the construction and automotive industries.

In 1971 Jiro Kawase became president of NSG. NSG, in the same year, joined with several Malaysian investors to establish Malaysian Sheet Glass, the only plate glass manufacturer in Malaysia. The company began producing sheet glass and figured glass two years later.

In 1972 NSG established Nissho Kosan Company to handle its real estate and insurance interests. In 1973 NSG established NSG Foreign Trade, to handle the export of plate glass, and NSG Materials Service Company to handle the sale of construction materials, machinery, and tools. In 1973 NSG began research on glass-fiber-reinforced cement, a form of cement thinner and lighter in weight than ordinary cement, that was later to be used in building houses and as part of soundproofing panels.

When the oil crisis hit Japan in 1974, the economy slowed substantially. Kawase faced many problems, since NSGs production capabilities were crippled. NSG continued, however, to move into foreign markets. In a 1975 joint venture with Libbey-Owens-Ford, NSG formed L-N Safety Glass in Mexico. The company was to supply automotive safety glass for Japanese cars.

In 1976 Toshihiko Tsuganuma took over as president of NSG. He improved the financial condition of the company by introducing crucial energy saving techniques. In 1979, NSG established NSG Materials Engineering Promotion Foundation to promote and assist research on inorganic materials that are used for such things as aircraft, computers and medical services.

In 1982 Nobuo Sasuga became president of NSG. Sasuga helped expand NSGs presence in foreign markets. He was also instrumental in expanding the range of NSG products. In 1983 NSG America, Inc., was established in Somerset, New Jersey, for the manufacture and sales of SELFOC optical fiber products. In 1985 NSG, LOF, and Hankuk Glass Industry Company of South Korea signed an agreement to begin producing automotive glass in Korea and established Hankuk Safety Glass Company. Also in 1985, Japans Transport Ministry introduced a law that forced automakers to use laminates on windshields for safety reasons. NSG doubled its laminates capacity, and sales skyrocketed. In 1986 NSG, Hoya Corporation, and Japan Key Technology Center formed a consortium controlled by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to promote advanced technology, focusing on the use of glass as memory material for computers and computer-related uses. A year later, NSG established NSG Information System Company for the development and sales of business-related software, and in 1987 NSG established another branch of the subsidiary for the development of information systems and communication networks.

In the late 1980s NSG strengthened its presence abroad, especially in the United States. In 1986, along with Ishizaki Honten, another automotive-supply firm, NSG formed Pen-stone, Inc., in Michigan, a manufacturer of hardware for the assembly of automotive glass. In 1987 NSG established an automotive-glass distribution center in Brussels. Also that year, in a joint venture with LOF, NSG formed L-N Glass Company in Kentucky. L-N Glass was to act as a supplier of safety glass to U.S. subsidiaries of Japanese automakers, and it soon became the major supplier to Toyota. In 1988 NSG entered into a joint venture with Pilkington, the parent corporation of Taiwan Auto Glass. In 1989 NSG cemented its connection to LOF, acquiring 20% of LOF capital stock from Pilkington, which had acquired LOF in 1986. The $235 million investment furthered NSGs expansion into the U.S. flat glass market.

In 1988 Tatsuji Nakajima became president of NSG. He was the first president who was an engineer by training, and he helped the company to focus on its advanced technology sector. In the same year NSG began to market its Angle 21 glass, developed by the Sumitomo Chemical Company and NSG. A polymer film applied to glass controls light transmission, making the glass transparent or opaque, depending on the angle from which it was viewed.

In 1989, in a joint venture with SDC Coatings, in California, NSG formed Nippon ARC Company in Tokyo. The new company was to combine the parent companies abrasion-resistant coatings technologies and to market products under the Crystal Coat name, for use in such applications as eyeglass lenses, window glazing, and automotive trim. NSG also acquired a minority interest in Areal Technologies, in California, and acquired the rights to market Areals disc drives in the Far East.

Following NSGs 1986 agreement with Taliq Corporation of the United States concerning rights to Taliqs light-control film, and NSGs subsequent use of the film with glass, NSG and Taliq began a joint-venture company in 1989 called NSG-Taliq. The company was organized to produce and market N-Kap film in Japan and Southeast Asia.

While NSG was expanding its advanced technology businesses in 1988 and 1989, the demand for sheet glass in the construction industry also increased, with an incentive being the rise in housing investment. In addition, increased sales in the automotive industry aided NSG automotive parts sales.

In 1990 NSG planned to increase its efforts in the development of solar-energy-related products and optic-fiber-related products. Although the globalization of the glass industry is expected to increase competition, the market for glass products is expected to grow considerably, as glass is important in many advanced-technology industries.

Prinicpal Subsidiaries

Tsutsunaka Plastic Industry Company, Ltd.; Isolite Insulating Products Company, Ltd.; Nippon Glass Fiber Company, Ltd.; Hi-Mirror Company, Ltd.; Libbey-Owens-Ford Company (U.S.A., 20%).

Further Reading

Company Profile, Osaka, Nippon Sheet Glass Company, 1989.

René Steinke