Suwada (Company)

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Suwada (Company)
Native name
Suwada Open Factory
Private
IndustryPersonal care
Founded1926; 95 years ago (1926)
FounderShukusaburo Kobayashi
HeadquartersSanjō, Niigata,
Japan
Area served
Japan and Europe
Key people
Tomoyuki Kobayashi (CEO)
Products
  • Nail care
  • Home goods
Websitesuwada.co.jp

Suwada is a Japanese nail care and home goods company based in Sanjō, Niigata. It is also known as Suwada Open Factory. The company specializes in nail nipper, accessories and home goods manufacturing. Founded in 1926 by blacksmith Shukusaburo Kobayashi, the company's name pays tribute to a local Shinto shrine.

In recent years Suwada has been active attending showrooms across Japan and Europe showcasing mainly their nail nippers and cutlery. They have won design awards, including Good Design Award (Japan), IDS Design Competition and various other awards from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion. Since 2010 it is part of the best 300 small and medium sized companies Agency, founded by METI (the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry).

The current CEO, Tomoyuki Kobayashi has been very involved in bringing young people in the industry, bringing Suwada's average age down to 33 as of 2020. There are about 60 people working in Suwada as of 2020 with about 50% of the staff being women.

In 2011 Suwada opened up for visitors to see how products are made inside a factory. It was then renamed Suwada Open Factory. In July 2020 a new plant was built next to the existing buildings. The New Open Factory is the first factory designed to put the emphasis on visitors and the well being of the craftspeople first.


History

It was founded in 1926 by Shukusaburo Kobayashi to make pliers, known as kuikiri. The pliers were mostly used by the construction industry to cut off the heads on nails or wire. The manufacturing of these products continued until 1948, when the company decided to change markets and focus on the beauty industry. This was not uncommon as the area was best known for beauty and kitchen tools. After the switch the main product became the nail nipper.

In 1950 Suwada introduced a new design of a nail nipper. It was very similar to a pair of pliers, but smaller. The new product was good and the company was once again a success.

The production of their gardening and bonsai edged tools started in 1956.

After the Pacific War, Japanese companies were very interested in creating good designs for everyday products, and the government encouraged them to do so. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry created in 1957 the Good Design Award (Japan) which outlined how a product is to be judged for its design. Suwada decided to follow through by focusing on design as well as sharpness and product lifespan.

In 1973 the company moved to a new location, still within Sanjo, Niigata. The next year it was officially incorporated as Suwada Blacksmith Works Inc. and the first son of Shukusaburo Kobayashi, Kiichi Kobayashi, assumed the position of president.

During five years, between 1989 and 1994, three buildings were added around the existing one to serve as head office, forging area and main production.

In 1997 Tomoyuki Kobayashi succeeded his father in the position of Representative Director.

In 2011 Suwada reopened as Suwada Open Factory. Offices were also established in London, UK and Hong Kong, China.

In 2020 Suwada's New Open Factory plant went into operation.

Awards

1995: Chestnut Peeler won a Good Design Award from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

1996: Nail Nipper won a Good Design Award from MITI (now METI) [1].

1997: Mirror-finish Hanaeda-basami garden shears won a Good Design Award from MITI.[2]

1998: Suwada Nail Nipper Lady won a Good Design Award from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP)[3].

2002: Suwada Nail Nipper Soft and Nail Pusher Duo, both won a Good Design Award from the JDP[4] [5].

2005: Good Design Award for ALSTICK, a walking stick for the elderly [6].

2006: Good Design Award for Nail Nippers [7]

2007: New Nail Nipper received Jury’s Special Mention at IDS Design Competition. Design Excellent Company Award from the JDP. Named one of 300 Active Small/Medium Manufacturers by METI’s Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Agency. Good Design Award in Health care and beauty care products by small and medium enterprises for Nail nippers [8]

2009: Cuticle Nipper won a Good Design Award from the JDP.[9]

2010: Suwada Nail Nipper won a Design for Asia Award[10].

2011: Damascus Cufflinks given a Jury’s Award at the IDS Design Competition. Cuticle Nipper Toki won a Bronze Award at the Design for Asia Awards[11].

2012: Company won a Special Award of the Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare in a competition to promote the employment of senior citizens. Suwada Nail Nipper New Soft model won a Good Design Award from the JDP[12]. A new design of Suwada Cuticle Nippers won another Good Design Award [13]

2014: Suwada Bookmarker won an IDS Award at the IDS Design Competition.

2015: Design Award from METI. Selected for the WONDER 500 Japanese products of the year.

2016: The nail nipper Soft Slim won the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Good Design Award[14] . Suwada also received a "Regional Brand Award".

2017: Suwada's Classic Nipper won the Gold Prize in the Crafts Section of the East Japan Rail Souvenir Grand Prix. Selected by the METI as the 2017 Regional Future Leader.

2018: Damascus Folding Knife won the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Good Design Award.[15]

2019: Two Good Design Awards (Best100 and Good Focus on Technique and Tradition) and an IDS Niigata Award for the new design of a nail clipper[16][17]. One more Good Design Award for Suwada's Classic Nail Nipper[18].

Products

All of Suwada's products are forged and hand polished. The company uses two kinds of Japanese steel, traditional high carbon and stainless high carbon, both used by the local kitchen knife industry.

Nail nippers

As of 2020, Suwada offers various kinds, sizes and surfaces in its nail nipper range. Each name is usually given to a nipper type according to how it looks [19].

  • Classic: Satin finish, S and L sizes, made of stainless steel
  • Mirror: Mirror surface, S and L sizes, made of stainless steel
  • Black: Rough black coated surface, S and L sizes, made of high carbon steel
  • Soft: Handle made of an elastomer resin, normal and slim versions, made of stainless steel

There are some models made for specific uses and they take their names from the design of the head of the nipper.

  • Classic Foot: Satin finish, it features a straight pair of blades to better accommodate toe nails. Made of stainless steel.
  • Round: a classic nipper without a tip to avoid harming the skin around the nail. Normal and baby size.
  • Pet: a nipper designed to accommodate cat and dog nail care.

Suwada also offers special nipper designs that they claim to make very few of because of their difficulty to produce.

  • Masterpiece: It is a classic nipper, satin finish, made of stainless steel and a handle that is part wood and part metal.
  • Damascus: The Damascus Layered model is produced using high-pressure forging of layers of different steels each with each own stiffness.

Nail clipper

Suwada is producing only one kind of nail clipper that they claim to be the first one that can be resharpened to last longer, contributing to some degree in the reduction of waste in Japan. Made entirely of stainless steel, it also contributes to the idea that small products don't need plastic. The design won 3 awards.

Production

Production happens in one site, in the Open Factory, in Sanjo, Niigata. The factory has 5 teams in the production line, and a visitor can see all of them one by one. There are about 60 steps of production for each product and a visitor can see them all through a glass wall while walking down a corridor.

According to Suwada's CEO, "the main idea is that there is full transparency and the customer is sure that the product is fully handmade and that the employees are treated nicely. The factory is no longer a black box".

Forging team

The forging team is responsible for the forging of the raw materials, which are metal rods. They use a 400 ton press and various types of furnaces to heat up and forge the metal. A view over this area can be enjoyed from the second floor in the new open factory. the team members are usually mechanics and engineers.

Parts assembly team

Once the nippers have been through all the forging steps, the parts assembly team takes over to put the two sides of the nipper together.

Polishing team

This is the team that granted Suwada a lot of its awards. By relying only on their hands, they grind and polish the metal products all the way to a mirror finish without the use of coating.

Edge fitting team

The work in this team is less artistic and more about accuracy. They made sure the two blades of a nipper fit together to make a perfect cut. In this way the nipper will clearly cut a nail instead of smashing it.

Quality control

The only team to have a female majority, they receive products from the production line to check and pack.

Ethics and philosophy

The one core idea of Suwada is happiness. Happiness for the customer, for the employees, for the community.

Suwada prides itself of being a hard but fun company to work with, as well as great at customer service. Craftsmanship is at the heart of what they do and they pour most of their profits into modernizing product designs and the workers environment [20]. They mostly refrain from use of plastic although this is not yet at 100%.

All products have a certain lifespan and to expand this, Suwada offers maintenance services for their nail nippers and clipper [21].

In the media

           

References

External links

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