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Creating New Encounters, Discovering New Possibilities of Precision Technology

Known as "the Switzerland of the East", the Suwa region focused mainly on the development of watches and cameras after the war. We plan to adopt change in order to cater to the rise in demand of high precision industrial machines and automobile related parts in recent years, and to pass on the ultra fine processing technology attained from manufacturing precision equipment and the "DNA of manufacturing" to future generations.

The Suwa Design Project was launched with plans to rebrand the Suwa region as the "village of technology" to attract foreign companies and talents on an ongoing basis.

Taking on the role of planning and management of the Suwa Design Project, Loftwork Inc. is responsible for the setting up of the project team made up of creative talents and for supporting the businesses based in Suwa region.

Our first step is to make the technology in Suwa region known as "Japan Minute in Suwa City" based on the three themes of "bend", "polish" and "shine". In addition, we will also develop means to spread word of the technological capabilities of the region.

Project Overview

  • Contents
    Formulation of project implementation plan
    Implementation of open bid for businesses / support to achieve objective / business promotion
  • Approach
    Discovery of regional resources and selection of companies
    Visit the sites and companies with external experts. Discover potential companies. Hold open bids for companies in the city and select three main companies for this project.

    Business production by project team
    Form a project team and explore possibilities on new ways to utilize technology, products, as well as intermediary products and materials with the three companies.

    Holding of events to draw out the strengths of the Suwa brand
    Invite creators and engineers to hold events. Gather ideas for new products and services based on the technology and products of companies in Suwa city.

    Sharing of information via the website
    Share information using channels such as the website and SNS, and conduct real-time broadcast of project progress on event information and activities of the three companies.
  • Related Services
    - Formulation of online strategy
    - Open bid/contest
  • Organization
    - Client: Suwa City Economic Department Promotion Office for Industrial Cooperation
    - Terashima Kazuo, Iwanami Keiichirou
    - Project Manager: Suwa Mitsuhiro
    - Producer: Kashiwagi Tetsuya
    - Project Manager/Creative Director: Akimoto Tomohiko
    - Creative Director: Kanazashi Ryo
    - Assistant Director: Yamada Reon, Matsuda Eri
  • Partners
    Battanation Co., Ltd.
    CEO Interior Designer Iwasawa Hitoshi

    Coelacanth Shokudou. LLC
    Representative Designer Kobayashi Shinya

Project Process

Discovery of Regional Resources and Selection of Businesses

Project members visited Suwa city in order to understand its cultural history and industry background, and also to rediscover its appeal from an external viewpoint. They visited the factories of companies in the precision industry as well as historical and cultural facilities, and investigated resources like "items" and "technology" that ought to be utilized in this project. Members with specialized talents were then assigned to their specific areas such as branding and design.

The application guidelines were then announced to companies in Suwa city, and items and technology that matched the project requirements were selected. The selection was carried out by the project team that participated in the field visit, and three companies were decided based on the themes of "bend", "polish" and "shine".

Production of Regional Companies

The type of deployment that should be done was verified according to the technology and services offered by the three companies selected from the open bid. The project team worked together with the companies to create PR tools, and improved and developed products.

Different projects for each of the three companies were deployed.

Iwasawa Hitoshi (left) from Battanation Co., Ltd., Kojima Takuya (right) from MICRO SPRING CO.,Ltd.

Company Name: MICRO SPRING CO.,Ltd. "Bend SUWA"

Project organized by Mr. Iwasawa Hitoshi of Battanation Co., Ltd. that specializes in video production as well as the design of various spaces and fixtures, together with MICRO SPRING CO.,Ltd. that specializes in processing "minute springs" such as the world's smallest spring (with outer diameter of 0.072mm), based on the theme of "communication design that showcases the client's ideas and work content with the use of creativity". The objective of this project is to further spread the use of existing technologies and products, and also to develop products that require promotional activities.

In order to introduce an extremely small spring in an impressive manner, "Just a Spring" was completed as a prototype documenting the entire process, from having the idea of artworks that show the manufacturing process of the spring at the start, to the final product where the ultra minute springs are used in stationery. Usage trials have already begun amidst business negotiations.

Akimoto Tomohiko (left) from Loftwork Inc., Kasuga Norihiro (right) from Nittoh Inc.

Company Name: Nittoh Inc. "Shine SUWA"

Project aiming to explore new possibilities of the LED luminous plate "Lightface" that shines uniformly across the entire surface and is frameless, light and thin by leveraging on the creator network of Loftwork Inc. "Lightface" was developed jointly by optical manufacturer Nittoh Inc. and the global creator Toda Masato. The person in charge of this project aiming to fuse regional industry with creatives and acquire both domestic and international market share is Akimoto from Loftwork Inc. who is responsible for administrative, community and space related work.

In order to verify further possibilities of the Suwa brand, a hackathon was held with the aim to attract engineers, creators and corporate personnel in Tokyo. Using a changing art piece "Shining Painting" made with various materials, we are trying to introduce a brand new appeal of "Lightface" by shaping the idea generated into an actual form that can be seen, touched and felt. The process and results will be shared from the official website.

Kobayashi Shinya (left) from Coelacanth Shokudou. LLC, Matsuzawa Masaaki (right) from MATSUICHI co.,Ltd.

Company Name: MATSUICHI co.,Ltd. "Polish SUWA"

Challenge of new project using the "polish" technology by MATSUICHI co.,Ltd. with their high capabilities in fine cutting and polishing, and product designer and brand producer Kobayashi Shinya. The value of technology and products were redefined, and the before-and-after stories behind these technology and products were shared with the creation of information dissemination tools.

The case examples of the company cannot be disclosed in order to focus on the subcontracting of major companies and OEM work. The project that developed the product prototype started from the inspection of the factory and research institute of MATSUICHI co.,Ltd. in response to this issue. The prototype of the "adherence cube" idea was also created using the hint obtained that "mirror-finished surfaces stick together" after doing a research tour in the graduate school that Matsuzawa attended and after meeting a knife artisan in Ono City, Hyogo Prefecture where Kobayashi hailed from.

Holding of Events to Draw Out the Strengths of the Suwa Brand

Besides the LightFace hackathon held in Tokyo, the completed prototype was also exhibited in JAPAN BRAND FESTIVAL Exhibition-Touch- (refer to note 1) held in Shibuya Hikarie to verify the possibilities of the Suwa brand. In addition, the initiatives of JAPAN MINUTE in Suwa City were introduced on top of the MORETHAN PROJECT (refer to note 2) jointly participated by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Loftwork Inc.


Note 1. Hands-on event opened to the general public to carry on the Japan brand. Exhibition-Touch- was held from 1 March 2017 (Wed) - 5 Match 2017 (Sun).JAPAN BRAND FESTIVAL

Note 2. Project aiming to appeal the current Japan to the world and penetrate global markets with the capabilities of SMEs x producer team More Than Project

Sharing of Information via the Website

Plan and develop a website that will share information on the project progress. Information on events held and the charm of Suwa will also be shared from an original perspective on top of the project progress report.

The processes were recorded and information was archived upon opening for every project.

Comments & Achievements of Project Members

Bend SUWA

MICRO SPRING CO.,Ltd.
Kojima Takuya

Since we come from an industrial background, we are constantly thinking about how we can show others the technology behind the making of every spring. But Mr. Iwasawa is more focused on how he can make the spring look interesting, so we ended up with ideas like springs springing up on their own and springs that are shaped differently.

Since the ideas were completely different, I had to wrack a different part of my brain during the meetings. It was a really fun experience!

Shine SUWA

Nittoh Inc.
Kasuga Norihiro

I was inspired by the free ideas that the creators came up with. On top of that, as a manufacturer, I am very touched to know that there are people who were willing to work through the night to draw out new possibilities of Lightface.

Polish SUWA

MATSUICHI co.,Ltd.
Matsuzawa Masaaki

I started off the work with Mr. Kobayashi by thinking about the fundamental part of what might be missing in MATSUICHI co.,Ltd. I felt like we could come up with something good after rounds of discussions, particularly with Mr. Kobayashi's sensibility, informaton and design.

It was a really fun and satisfying experience as we were both involved in the entire creation process starting from the brainstorming, and I learnt a lot from it. I feel like I can look back fondly at this experience in future.

Battanation Co., Ltd. CEO
Iwasawa Hitoshi

At the start, MICRO SPRING CO.,Ltd. and I had differing views on what we considered interesting. It was tough, but I had fun conveying what I found interesting. We managed to eliminate our differences and succeeded in establishing a common ground gradually by taking the prototype and got sketches done on the site itself.

I was really happy at the moment when both of us managed to find the same thing interesting. I thought it was exactly because of this project that different ideas could be generated from various interesting perspectives.

Loftwork Inc.
Akimoto Tomohiko

Even though Lightface has already been completed, attention was being paid to how we could show it off and make good use of it instead of how we could change the product.

From this point of view, I feel that it was the right decision to choose to host a hackthon.

It would be nice to change some details such as the participants and location since I would like to see a different development.

Coelacanth Shokudou. LLC
Kobayashi Shinya

I always place much emphasis on considering "what is missing?" from the core of issues on top of the superficial aspect when I work.

I have been thinking of getting MATSUICHI co.,Ltd. to assist me in realizing products that I planned personally and selling them by double name after the joint initiatives are completed.

Achievements

Bend SUWA
Production of new product "Just a Spring".

Shine SUWA
Hosting of hackathon. We are in the midst of discussions to move towards commercialization with the winning team of the hackathon.

Polish SUWA
Creation of new product "Cube"
Collaboration with companies in other prefectures

Voice of Customer

Suwa city Economic Department Promotion Office for Industrial Cooperation
Kazuo Terashima

I hoped to create a chemical reaction through the meeting of Suwa's manufacturing team and creativity teams.

For that reason, I believed it to be necessary to collaborate with a company that has both domestic and overseas creative networks, and hence paid Loftwork Inc. a visit. Who knew that the name of the CEO would also be Suwa? I thought that was a really fateful encounter. We managed to get Suwa Design Project started together after overcoming several hurdles to achieve a public-private partnership.

In order to properly understand the charm of Suwa city on top of its sophisticated manufacturing technology, we experienced it fully from exploring its sightseeing spots down to eating the local snacks. Through these experiences, we managed to come up with new ideas and developed trust with the local companies. I was looking forward to working on this exciting project.

Suwa city Economic Department Promotion Office for Industrial Cooperation
Keiichiro Iwanami

If we talk about nature, it would be Lake Suwa and Kirigamine. If we talk about culture, it would be Suwa Shrine and our brewing culture. And if we talk about our major industry, it would be our manufacturing aspect known to others as "the Switzerland of the East". We may have a number of selling points administratively, but unfortunately have nothing distinct to boast of.

"Fineness and precision" are the two symbols of Suwa's manufacturing industry. This would resonate strongly with
people that understand, but I think most people would have difficulties understanding that. This is the reason why there were many discoveries on how we can communicate the company's technologies to the other party and how the other party can benefit from the values we provide with "the redefinition of technology".

This project does not merely create new products, brochures and web pages with the designers. What is important is the process. I believe that everyone will be able to feel a new connection by considering the different kinds of thoughts the other party may have with that in mind. I wonder what kind of exciting discoveries we can make this year?
Let's work hard together to find out!

Project Team

Cotact Us


Tomohiko Akimoto

Position
Joined the project as Project Manager. In charge of overall project design, progress management, budget management, and communications with client (Suwa City). Formulated plan with Nittoh Inc. as Creator.

Comments
In any case, this was a project with ongoing trial and errors. The first baton passed was a product development aimed for promotion to to B. However, I wonder if it is possible to convey the charm of Suwa city by just manufacturing things alone without considering the delivery method? The very first hurdle we faced was when the direction of discussion moved towards specializing in PR based on nothing in particular even though the manufacturing of items was the major premise over here. We eventually managed to steer the direction back to the manufacturing aspect, and I am grateful to the two persons-in-charge of Suwa city for that. I feel that the result would have been very much different if we did not get past that.

I tried to leave it up to the creators and companies as much as possible during the operation period, but it got hard for me to determine when I ought to interfere or let them do it themselves. I was also constantly worried about being away from the project as I was unable to match their schedules and also had to leave Japan for a long duration at the start. As a result, I do have some regrets that the result could have been better even though we did move in a good direction eventually.

One concrete achievement would be that everyone participated in the project with a smile. There were various things that happened along the way but it all turned out well. I was really worried until the very end about whether this was a good idea, but was finally put at ease when everyone told me that they would like to share their experiences in the project next year.

However, there is still a lot more left to do and I plan on working on those with the input of team members regarding the direction on where we ought to improve. With the overlap of other projects such as MORE THAN last year, we managed to expand the area covered but I hope to continue to work to increase the scale by collaborating with concerned parties in regions, particularly in Suwa city.

Creative director
Ryo Kanazashi

Position
Joined the project as Project Manager. In charge of overall project design, progress management, budget management, and communications with client (Suwa City). Formulated plan with Nittoh Inc. as Creator.

Comments
I was caught in a mixture of excitement and anxiety since this is the first year the project is carried out. The project members had to explore all possibilities to eventually achieve success in this project, and had to go back and forth among the three companies due to the various differences on top of that. However, all of us had the same goal, and I feel that we have come a long way with the various technologies, products and approaches of the three companies.

We were able to successfully implement the hackathon based on Lightface from Nittoh Inc. thanks to the partnership with Loftwork Inc., as well as the assistance from management staff, person in charge and engineers from Nittoh Inc., participants, and all concerned parties of Suwa city. I was particularly touched when Mr. Shinohara from Nittoh Inc. came by FabCafe MTRL late at night the day before the hackathon presentation to support the participants. Mr. Shinohara even told me "he feels so touched he felt like crying" when he saw the hackathon take place on the actual day. In addition, all seven engineers in charge of LightFace from Nittoh Inc. came to listen to the presentations and took notes fervently. The relationships between participating creators and Nittoh Inc. have also continued even after the hackathon event. Even though it was intentionally designed be such, most of the success was actually created by the "energy" of the concerned parties. I was really happy to be able to be part of the event, and thoroughly enjoyed the preparation process despite how hectic it was.

I think there is still room for improvement with regards to content creation and information dissemination of the website. We may have started off with nothing, and the project progress has reached a point where it can be visualized. It would be a challenge in the next year to come up with plans and enticement to get more people interested in reading the contents.