Pat Whiteman tells how SMC Corporation of America — with more than 9,100 basic products, 580,000 variations and 100 new products introduced annually — is the premier provider and innovator of pneumatic components serving the manufacturing and technology sector and beyond.
SMC Corporation is the world’s largest manufacturer of pneumatic and electrical automation products. Since its beginnings, the company has devoted itself to harnessing the latest technology to produce world-class products. Its technological expertise, coupled with its experienced personnel, has helped SMC provide solutions for the most complex manufacturing processes. SMC’s current product line offers a complete resource for directional-control valves, cylinders, actuators, air preparation equipment, vacuum and serial interface technology. In addition, it has launched new product lines – including high-purity liquid valves and fittings, high-vacuum slit and angle valves, electric actuators and chillers – to meet the specific needs of its target industries.
Birth of a Leader
SMC traces its roots back to 1959, with the founding of Shoketso Kinzoku Kogyo Co., Ltd., (Sintered Metal Company) in Japan. Beginning as a manufacturer of sintered metal filters, the corporation expanded soon after into pneumatic instrumentation equipment and a small variety of other pneumatic products, including filter regulators, FRLs, auto-drain valves, hand valves, switches and relays. From 1975 to 1984, the company added a wide variety of new products to its growing line, including fittings, new lubricators and positioners, low-profile cylinders, miniature solenoid valves, cylinder controllers, speed controllers, electropneumatic proportional valves, pin cylinders, modular-type FRLs and a slide-unit, direct-mount miniature auto switch.
The corporation’s rapid growth eventually extended to overseas locations in Australia and Singapore. SMC Pneumatics, Inc., a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, was established in 1977 and located on the west side of Indianapolis, Ind. This fledgling subsidiary’s primary concentration was managing the sales and distribution of the parent company’s products through a developing distribution network.
In 1985, SMC Pneumatics moved its 65 employees from its west-side Indianapolis office to a new location on the city’s east side. This 120,000 square-foot facility allowed SMC Pneumatics to expand its operation to include manufacturing, engineering and distribution, as well as providing office space for all administrative functions.
By 1986, SMC had begun cylinder manufacturing at the new facility. Sales continued to grow and by 1988, it had opened its first two domestic sales branches in New Jersey and Los Angeles.
Room to Grow
Continued rapid growth had SMC bursting at its seams in 1994, and a major expansion/renovation program was planned to allow SMC to continue to meet its customers’ needs. The program, begun in 1995, would eventually double the size of SMC’s headquarters by providing an additional 89,000 square feet of manufacturing/warehouse space and 32,000 square feet of office space. At the same time, the Los Angeles facility was moved to a new location where its manufacturing capabilities could be dramatically increased. On Jan. 24, 1996, SMC Pneumatics reached another major milestone by achieving $100 million in sales.
At the start of the New Year 2001, SMC Pneumatics became SMC Corporation of America to reflect the diversification of the product offering. Today, SMC has 241,000 square feet in Indiana and 110,000 square feet in Los Angeles. Both locations house manufacturing, engineering, distribution, warehouse, sales and administrative functions.
“We are in pursuit of customer satisfaction with excellent products, and will dominate the market in that area,” says Tony Hutchinson, marketing manager for SMC. “We’re always making capital investments. We’ve had extensive reorganizations at both facilities to improve our production efficiency. We’re also rapidly expanding our engineering resources. This company is continually applying world-class design to pneumatic component and power control technology to develop advanced products with higher levels of performance. We take the time to understand a customer’s application by learning their business and working closely with them to configure the right solution. It’s all about converting customer ideas to product.”
In order to reach customers, SMC has one of the most extensive sales and technical support networks in the industry today. In the United States alone, it has established a sales network of more than 450 sales associates, more than 130 engineers, 29 sales branches and more than 100 distributors nationwide. Each facility offers sales support, order processing, local inventory, technical assistance and project integration. All locations worldwide operate on the same flexible, customer-oriented principles to better serve their customers’ diversified needs.
“We do approximately $5 million of work in product modifications every month. If you think about that and how many engineering and sales associates that are involved in such a process, it’s outstanding and I don’t think anyone in the industry even comes close to providing this type of service,” says Yoshiki Takada, senior vice president for SMC.
Takada adds, “Right now, our driving force is how to make it easier for our customers to do business with us. We have a vast product range, and it’s not always easy for a customer to select what’s best for them. That’s why we’re leveraging technology and the Internet to make selection of our products easier. We developed E Tech, which allows our customers to go on the Web, ask questions, plug their information into the system and receive recommendations for appropriate products including CAD models and drawings.”
Whether it’s tapping the potential of the Web, or a foray into a new market, there seems to be no stopping SMC. “Ultimately, we’ve succeeded because we continually challenge our own innovations,” says Takada. “Our mantra is: If we don’t have it, we’ll make it.” SMC will be participants in the Semicon Trade Show, July 16 to July 20 in San Francisco at the Moscone Center and in San Jose at the Convention Center.