Best known for its mainstay sushi robots, Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. (Suzumo), founded in 1955, manufactures a range of equipment that automatically processes cooked rice into various shapes or dispenses it in exact portions. Its main customers are restaurants, food retailers, and food product manufacturers.
In 1977, company founder Kisaku Suzuki, perturbed by the Japanese government’s move to reduce land for growing rice, began developing a cooked rice processing machine to increase rice consumption. As sushi was a luxury item then, Suzuki thought of automating part of the preparation process to lower costs and make sushi more affordable to the general public. In 1981, Suzumo launched Japan’s first automated machine to produce sharidama (sushi rice balls) in large quantities. These machines and their derivatives, which came to be known as sushi robots, have henceforth been installed at nearly all major kaiten (conveyor-belt-format) sushi chains, and are credited with opening the door for the expansion of these restaurants. The company also moved on to strengthen its product lineup with additional machinery (e.g. rice ball and rice burger bun makers and systems). In FY03/21, the company recorded sales of JPY9.5bn. It reports in a single segment: Cooked Rice Processing Equipment. Over the past five years, operating profit margin ranged from 8.5% to 15.0%. By region, 77% of the company’s sales were domestic and 23% overseas.
Suzumo cultivates demand by marketing in-house developed/upgraded machinery to restaurants and food retailers facing labor shortages. Its products are designed and assembled in-house, but their parts are mostly procured from outside suppliers with the exception of a few key items. The company’s sales and marketing efforts range from one-on-one sales to hosting special product exhibitions (featuring live demonstrations) that provide important opportunities for new customer development. These product exhibitions, which are called Suzumo Fairs, are held four to five times a year in Japan’s major cities. The company stands out for its product design that focuses on replicating the same delicious taste of cooked rice dishes prepared by hand. Further, Suzumo—as the inventor of sushi robots—has accumulated a wealth of knowledge, which enables it to essentially develop products together with the customers. The company looks to strengthen its relationships with long-standing customers and use this as a base for continued business growth.
The Japanese market for cooked rice processing equipment is worth between JPY20bn and JPY30bn a year, according to company estimates, and is largely split between Suzumo and Fuji Seiki Co., Ltd. (an unlisted company based in Fukuoka Prefecture). In contrast to Fuji Seiki, which specializes in factory-scale equipment, Suzumo’s strength is in compact equipment for use in restaurants and retail outlets. Mainstay products include sushi robots and Fuwarica rice-serving machines, both coming under the category of proprietary sushi robots.
The company’s sushi robots—developed after careful study of the techniques used by sushi chefs—can automatically produce up to 80 pieces of sharidama per minute, replicating the shape and texture of those prepared by a chef. Main users are kaiten sushi chains, sushi takeout/delivery chains, supermarkets, and lodging facilities. At a list price of JPY1,370,000, the sushi robots have a useful life of nearly ten years but are usually replaced every six years. A kaiten sushi restaurant typically has from four to seven of the company’s products on premise, including a sushi robot, a sushi roll maker, and an automatic sushi roll cutter. With roughly an 80% market share, Suzumo dominates the Japanese domestic market for this type of equipment. Overseas competitors make similar machines, but the company does not view them as a threat as the end products differ.
The Fuwarica rice-serving machine serves rice automatically into bowls and other receptacles. The company’s patented technology loosens rice by adding sufficient air between the rice grains, then weighs the rice in exact portions and serves it while maintaining the fluffy texture. Main users are donburi (rice bowl dish) and teishoku (set meal) chains that utilize the machine in their kitchens. At a list price of JPY1,240,000, the product has a useful life of nearly ten years. As opposed to small equipment, factory-scale machinery is used by rice ball and boxed lunch manufacturers, whose main concern is durability, rapid production rates, and low production costs. In this market, Fuji Seiki has over 80% market share (Fuji Seiki estimate).
The company’s Tokyo Factory (based in Saitama Prefecture) is the main site for its assembly operations. Production is based on order estimates and latest information from the company’s sales team. While the company is capable of high-volume production using an assembly line, it chooses to produce a variety of products in small lots. Suzumo's strength lies in its ability to design mechanisms that can replicate food processing tasks otherwise done by hand. Deliveries and maintenance services to domestic customers are handled by the company’s sales offices, while overseas they are handled by the distributors. Resident maintenance teams at its service bases give the company an edge over the competition.
In FY03/22, sales were JPY11.6bn (+21.9% YoY), operating profit was JPY1.5bn (+65.1% YoY), recurring profit was JPY1.5bn (+67.7% YoY), and net income attributable to owners of the parent was JPY1.1bn (+56.6% YoY). In the domestic market, demand for eating out remained sluggish because of the government-driven state of emergency and priority measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, demand for take-out and delivery services continued to grow, and labor-saving efforts gained momentum at restaurants and stores. By client company industry, demand from major kaiten sushi chains increased for sushi robots earmarked for use in new stores and for take-out services. In addition, growing awareness for hygiene and food loss issues on the part of businesses and end users bolstered demand for the Fuwarica rice-service machine among new client segments including hotels, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), and company cafeterias. Japan System Project Co., Ltd., which joined the Suzumo group in October 2021, also contributed to overall sales. In the overseas markets, demand for Suzumo's products rose due to further heightening of mechanization and labor-saving needs on the back of serious labor shortages in the restaurant and food retail industries, prompted by the resumption of economic activities. By region, demand for sushi robots increased among restaurant operators and supermarkets in North America and Europe.
The company forecast for FY03/23 calls for sales of JPY13.0bn (+12.4% YoY), operating profit of JPY1.8bn (+18.6% YoY), recurring profit of JPY1.8bn (+16.6% YoY), and net income attributable to owners of the parent of JPY1.3bn (+22.9% YoY). Suzumo thinks demand for its products will remain high, but also anticipates prolonged impact of shortages in semiconductor and parts supplies. Therefore, it plans to mitigate this impact to the bare minimum by, for instance, flexibly adjusting its product designs to enable the use of alternative parts. In the domestic market, the company will step up efforts in takeout-use sushi robots to capture the labor-saving demand. In view of the rising awareness on hygiene and food loss issues, it will also seek new markets for the Fuwarica rice-serving machines among hotels, ryokans, company cafeterias, and hospitals. Overseas, Suzumo plans to respond to the expanding cooked rice market spurred by further push toward mechanization among restaurant operators and food retailers due to labor shortages and by a rise in the number of Japanese companies operating abroad.
The company unveiled a medium-term business plan along with its 1H FY03/20 results. In FY03/25, the last year of the plan, Suzumo targets sales of JPY15.0bn, operating profit of JPY2.3bn, OPM of 15.0%, and ROE of 10.0%.
While the company is in the process of putting together a medium-term business plan, we see its growth drivers broadly breaking down as follows: in Japan, expansion of Fuwarica rice-serving machine sales to lodging facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes, and a move further into the factory-scale equipment market (i.e., systems for making rice balls and packing rice into lunchboxes) where its competitor excels; and overseas, increased sales of compact equipment to growth markets including Asia, North America, and Europe. Global strategies also call for more collaboration with third-party organizations. Projects on this front include a partnership with ZEN-NOH International (discussed later) to help promote rice-based Japanese-style foods overseas. The company has also established a foothold in the Middle East with the help of a private equity fund (equity commitment from investors such as the Cool Japan Fund). With a new management team in place, the company is also making progress with business reforms, nurturing a consensus-based management approach and putting together a medium-term business plan.
Sushi robots’ dominant 80% share of domestic market underpinned by the company’s strong commitment to taste
Mechanical technology that brings out the delicious taste of cooked rice
Specialization in equipment that helps the food industry overcome structural shortages in labor
Lack of measures to address price-conscious customers
Limited track record in factory-scale equipment
Lack of another ground-breaking product to follow in the footsteps of its sushi robots
|Gross profit margin||43.3%||46.3%||47.5%||47.6%||47.3%||47.8%||47.9%||47.5%||46.3%||49.1%|
|Operating profit margin||13.4%||15.6%||15.0%||15.2%||15.0%||13.6%||8.5%||8.6%||9.7%||13.1%||13.8%|
|Recurring profit margin||13.6%||15.8%||15.1%||15.3%||15.0%||13.6%||8.5%||7.9%||9.7%||13.3%||13.8%|
|Per-share data (JPY)|
|Shares issued('000 shares)||5,952||6,053||6,060||6,060||6,060||6,480||6,480||6,480||6,480||6,480|
|EPS (fully diluted)||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Dividend per share||15.0||15.0||15.0||15.0||15.0||15.0||20.0||20.0||20.0||40.0||62.0|
|Book value per share||1,119.5||1,215.6||1,318.9||1,432.5||1,555.2||1,735.2||1,772.8||1,800.3||1,890.6||2,051.6|
|Balance sheet (JPYmn)|
|Cash and cash equivalents||2,831||2,957||3,480||3,840||4,773||6,610||6,503||6,604||7,343||8,277|
|Total current assets||5,045||5,366||5,942||6,545||7,898||9,447||9,593||9,754||10,569||12,086|
|Tangible fixed assets||2,326||2,952||2,867||2,898||2,817||2,724||2,699||2,801||2,906||2,782|
|Investments and other assets||667||640||677||854||733||868||989||1,067||1,015||1,223|
|Total current liabilities||932||1,121||1,016||1,181||1,431||1,127||940||1,110||1,382||1,775|
|Total fixed liabilities||472||504||516||549||731||755||1,009||1,065||1,115||1,387|
|Total net assets||6,663||7,356||7,990||8,678||9,420||11,239||11,483||11,655||12,198||13,254|
|Total liabilities and net assets||8,067||8,981||9,521||10,408||11,582||13,121||13,431||13,830||14,695||16,416|
|Total interest-bearing debt||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||239|
|Cash flow statement(JPYmn)|
|Cash flows from operating activities||670||853||740||993||1,073||1,006||211||661||1,246||1,341|
|Cash flows from investing activities||-49||-736||-120||-529||-20||-121||-193||-356||-344||-268|
|Cash flows from financing activities||-119||-17||-113||-117||-120||959||-119||-276||-184||-195|
In FY03/14, the company spent roughly JPY660mn to build a distribution center on the grounds of the Tokyo Factory.
|(JPYmn)||Q1||Q1–Q2||Q1–Q3||Q1–Q4||Q1||Q1–Q2||Q1–Q3||Q1–Q4||Q1||Q1–Q2||Q1–Q3||Q1–Q4||% of Est.||FY Est.|
|Gross profit margin||47.2%||47.2%||48.1%||47.5%||45.1%||44.8%||45.9%||46.3%||48.5%||49.3%||49.1%||49.1%|
|Operating profit margin||8.0%||9.1%||10.3%||8.6%||2.4%||4.2%||9.1%||9.7%||13.3%||12.2%||15.5%||13.1%||14.4%|
|Recurring profit margin||8.0%||9.1%||9.3%||7.9%||2.4%||4.2%||9.1%||9.7%||13.7%||12.5%||15.7%||13.3%||14.5%|
|Gross profit margin||47.2%||47.1%||49.9%||45.7%||45.1%||44.6%||47.7%||47.4%||48.5%||50.1%||48.9%||49.3%|
|Operating profit margin||8.0%||10.2%||12.8%||2.6%||2.4%||5.7%||17.1%||11.2%||13.3%||11.0%||20.4%||5.6%|
|Recurring profit margin||8.0%||10.2%||9.7%||2.9%||2.4%||5.6%||17.1%||11.3%||13.7%||11.2%||20.4%||6.1%|
Sales breakdown by quarter
Operating profit breakdown by quarter
Full-year FY03/22 (April 2021–March 2022) results
The manufacturing industry saw an increase in overseas demand, particularly from developed countries where economic activities have been normalizing from the spread of COVID-19. In terms of the future outlook, however, risks facing the economy are abound including restrictions surrounding semiconductor and parts supplies, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the resulting increase in natural resource and commodity prices. Note: the company has changed its segmentation scheme in FY03/20 and now has only one reportable segment, so it no longer discloses information by segment.
In the domestic market, although demand for eating out remained sluggish due the government-driven state of emergency and priority measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, demand for takeout and delivery services continued to grow, along with progress in the shift toward labor-saving operations at restaurants. By client company industry, demand from major kaiten sushi chains increased for sushi robots earmarked for use at new stores and for takeout services. Demand for Fuwarica rice-serving machine from new customer segments such as hotels, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and company cafeterias is expanding due to the increased awareness of hygiene and food wastage among businesses and end users. The addition of Japan System Project Co., Ltd. to the Suzumo group in October 2021 also contributed to sales growth. As a result, domestic sales reached JPY7.7bn (+6.4% YoY).
In overseas markets, demand for Suzumo's products rose due to further heightening of mechanization and labor-saving needs on the back of serious labor shortages in the restaurant and food retail industries, spurred by the resumption of economic activities. Sales of sushi robots showed strong growth among restaurant operators and supermarkets in North America and Europe. Although products for Europe were recently affected by logistics disruption caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, overseas sales in FY03/22 grew 72.7% YoY to JPY3.8bn.
Gross profit came to JPY5.7bn (+29.3% YoY). The gross profit margin was 49.1% (+2.8pp YoY). In addition to strong sales in the domestic market, the recovery in overseas markets contributed to the increase in overall sales. Operating profit increased 65.1% YoY to JPY1.5bn.
|(JPYmn)||1H Act.||2H Act.||FY Act.||1H Act.||2H Act.||FY Act.||FY Est.|
|Cost of sales||2,364||2,728||5,092||2,640||3,242||5,882|
|Gross profit margin||44.8%||47.6%||46.3%||49.3%||49.1%||49.1%|
|Operating profit margin||4.2%||14.2%||9.7%||12.2%||13.9%||13.1%||13.8%|
|Recurring profit margin||4.2%||14.3%||9.7%||12.5%||14.0%||13.3%||13.8%|
The company expects further changes in consumer lifestyles to impact restaurant operators and food retailers, which are its core customers. It also thinks demand associated with labor-saving and mechanization, and demand for self-service machines will grow further in these customer segments as the full-scale resumption of economic activities leads to serious labor shortages.
The company thinks demand for its products will remain high, but also anticipates prolonged impact of shortages in semiconductor and parts supplies. Therefore, it plans to mitigate this impact to the bare minimum by, for instance, flexibly adjusting its product designs to enable the use of alternative parts. In the domestic market, the company will step up efforts in takeout-use sushi robots to capture the labor-saving demand. In view of the rising awareness on hygiene and food loss issues, it will also seek new markets for the Fuwarica rice-serving machines among hotels, ryokans, company cafeterias, and hospitals. Overseas, Suzumo plans to respond to the expanding cooked rice market spurred by further push toward mechanization among restaurant operators and food retailers due to labor shortages and by a rise in the number of Japanese companies operating abroad.
In new businesses, Suzumo will work toward providing "total solutions for restaurants" jointly with Japan System Project Co., Ltd. (added to the group in October 2021) by offering products and services that help save labor and raise efficiency not only in restaurant kitchens but also in the dining areas. The company also announced a change in its shareholder return policy from FY03/23, setting the total return ratio at 30% and introducing interim dividends that would bring dividend payments to twice a year.
The company announced a medium-term business plan when it released 1H FY03/20 results. Dubbed Growth 2025, the five-year plan covers FY03/21 through FY03/25.
In FY03/21, the first year of the plan, the company added as key initiatives the strengthening of corporate governance and the collaboration with external partners such as R.T. Corporation Co., Ltd. (unlisted) and THK Co., Ltd. (TSE1: 6481).
New vision: Delivering the delicious taste and warmth of food to people the world over
1) Grow and penetrate further in existing markets.
2) Develop new growth areas/businesses.
3) Proactively invest and collaborate to support business growth.
4) Maximize corporate value through business growth and enhanced social value.
Growth strategy: Focus on expansion of existing markets and creation of new markets. Promote existing products in the domestic and overseas markets. Further, in the overseas markets where there is room for growth, strengthen sales, enter business tie-ups for business expansion, and develop and invest in new products. Pursue business strategies by region as follows:
Domestic strategy: Expand scope of cooked rice processing market and strengthen new product development.
Expand market for Fuwarica rice-serving machines (hotels, family restaurants, boxed lunch shops, hospitals/care facilities)
Establish industry-leading products in factory-scale equipment for food factories.
Enhance product development outside cooked rice area.
Spread awareness of SUZUMO brand among consumers (implement self-service machines and where possible have the company’s products in front of the public eye so that cooked rice processing machines will come to be recognized as indispensable everyday products that produce delicious food in a safe and fun way.)
Overseas strategy: Make further inroads in three key markets (North America/Asia/Europe) and create a fourth (Middle East).
North America: Japanese food is already well established. In order to deepen relationships with existing customers and approach potential customers, collaborate with outside parties including potential business alliances, expand sales and service locations, and propose new cooked rice products.
Asia: The market for Japanese food is growing rapidly, along with economic development. Help grow emerging Japanese food markets by supporting inroads by Japanese companies and consult for local companies in areas of product development and quality,
Europe: While Japanese food is becoming more popular, availability of Japanese-style rice dishes remains limited among businesses and consumers. Establish new offices, restructure the sales network, and collaborate with major local businesses to grow the market.
Middle East: Create a Japanese food value chain and develop the market for cooked rice by collaborating across traditional business boundaries with local and Japanese companies, as well as companies handling ingredients and kitchens. In November 2019, the company invested in and entered a tie-up with Bluefin Trading LLC, which develops takeout shops for supermarkets in the Middle East.
|Region||Japanese food market||Description|
|North America||Becoming widespread||Japanese food is taking root as one of a variety of food cultures. Demand is increasing for machines that help produce delicious food efficiently.|
|Asia||Expansion catching up with frontrunner markets||The market is undergoing dramatic expansion as economic growth in China and the ASEAN countries spurs business growth of local operators and also entices Japanese businesses to enter the market in earnest.|
|Europe||Spread is fragmentary and limited to certain regions||Consumption of Japanese food is expanding, but the number and types of business are limited and initiatives need to be taken to create and spread the market for cooked rice before demand for machines becomes significant|
|Middle East, other||High consumer recognition, but a limited market||Japanese food is well known in the Middle East, India, and Africa, but is often expensive and has room for improvement in terms of quality (market creation from a long-term perspective is necessary).|
|Region||Theme||Market trends, observation||Strategy||Actual initiatives|
|North America||Develop existing customers and increase contact with potential customers||-Supermarkets (food prepared in store) and
restaurants already provide Japanese food|
-Japanese food is expected to enter the menus of cafeterias (colleges and hospitals) and public schools
|-Expand sales and service bases and develop the
existing business format through new proposals for cooked rice processing
-Expand consumption and unearth latent demand for machinery by adopting new business formats
|-Expand sales and service bases (establish new
locations through US subsidiary Suzumo International Corporation and tie-ups
with retailers) |
-New proposals for cooked rice processing (branch out from sushi to onigiri rice balls and donburi rice bowls)
|Asia||Develop the popularity of the nascent Japanese food market||-Japanese food has made a successful entry into
areas such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong|
-Japanese food is expected to spread in a similar manner in China and the ASEAN countries
|-Build a structure that allows the company to provide high-quality total solutions services including competent sales representatives and timely after sales service||-Employ cooperation between regional subsidiaries,
the parent’s overseas division, and the parent’s domestic sales
-Build partnerships with regional retailers
-Collaborate with external companies to source kitchen machinery, food supplies, and other materials
|Europe||Improve the quality of cooked rice products and expand the number of consumers and businesses||-The European market is an amalgamation of
diverse traditional food cultures and cooked rice has spread across the
region in an irregular manner|
-Many businesses prioritize the taste (freshness) of cooked rice products more than efficiency (industrial production)
|-Improve the quality of cooked rice products and expand the number of consumers and businesses||-Restructure the company’s network of
-Establish a sales and service base to act as a European hub
|Middle East, other||Create a market for cooked rice and build a new business model||-Japanese cooked rice products are just starting to be introduced||-Increase awareness of Japanese cooked rice products through information campaigns to expand the number of consumers||-Collaborate with regional businesses|
Creating new businesses: The three themes here are customer value, labor savings, and market creation. Create new products and businesses outside traditional frameworks via co-creation with external parties, leveraging acquisitions and alliances.
Strengthening development: Step up hiring of development personnel and reorganize/strengthen the research, development, and marketing teams to develop completely new products that enrich society. Promote open innovation utilizing the company’s external network.
Capital/financial strategy: Aggressively invest in new products, new businesses, capex, and intangible assets to grow the business and maximize corporate value. Basic stance on shareholder returns is to maintain stable dividends. The company aims to conduct proactive investor relations activities for institutional and individual investors and enhance disclosure in Japan and overseas.
|New products and businesses||- M&A and alliances, actively seeking co-creation with external parties|
- Molds for new product development
- Production capacity and marketing capability to accommodate sales expansion
- IT systems for productivity improvements
|Intangible assets||- Human resources, brand, and R&D activities to enhance business competitiveness|
Suzumo manufactures and sells equipment that automatically processes cooked rice into various shapes or dispenses measured amounts of cooked rice into bowls and other containers. Its customers are mainly restaurants, food retailers, and food products manufacturers. Suzumo studies the production stages of a dish and proposes how to automate the steps that involve processing cooked rice so that the finished product has the same quality as that prepared by hand. It also develops and proposes rice dish menus designed to increase rice consumption. Suzumo adds value to its business through such proposal-based approach along with its inventions of new equipment that helps client companies increase employee productivity.
The Suzumo group comprises the parent company Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd., domestic subsidiaries Hokkaido Suzumo Sales Co., Ltd. and SEH Japan Co., Ltd., and overseas subsidiaries Suzumo International Corporation (in the US) and Suzumo Singapore Corporation Pte. Ltd. (a joint venture). In addition, the company also has numerous local distributors in countries and regions around the world.
Parent company operations include its Tokyo Factory and 11 domestic sales bases. Not shown in the figure below is SEH Japan, a group company responsible for OEM sales of disinfectants and other hygiene products.
The company offers a range of equipment used to process cooked rice, but its mainstay is the sushi robot, which automates the preparation of sushi rice balls or “sharidama,” turning out up to 80 pieces a minute. Sharidama—traditionally prepared by a dedicated sushi chef—are bite-size rice balls made of cooked rice flavored with vinegar. Major buyers of sushi robot, which sells for a list price of JPY1,370,000 per unit, include kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi chains and supermarkets. In addition, the company also sells robots for making sushi rolls (sushi rice and other ingredients such as seafood or vegetables wrapped in dried seaweed).
Suzumo’s major domestic customers include sushi restaurant chains, donburi and teishoku restaurant chains, supermarkets, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), and hotels. Major customers overseas are the local outlets of the same restaurant chains that buy from the company in Japan as well as Japanese restaurants operated by local restauranteurs.
Restaurants offering rice in their Japanese food menu value not only the presentation of the serving but the ability to serve predetermined portions of cooked rice with high precision and speed. This is important in the production of sharidama (sushi rice balls), but also in the case of rice served in bowls or on plates. At the same time, however, the restaurant industry in Japan suffers from a chronic shortage of workers, and restaurants often hire many foreign workers who are not familiar with Japanese food traditions. This has given rise to strong demand for the standardization of various processes within the restaurant business, including everything from customer reception to food preparation. Suzumo is doing its part to meet this demand with its lineup of compact commercial products, such as its sushi robots and Fuwarica rice-serving machines designed to fit into the kitchen areas of restaurants.
To promote domestic sales, the company regularly holds events for potential buyers where it runs live demonstrations featuring the newest cooked rice processing models. Known as Suzumo Fairs, these events are conducted four to five times a year in areas covered by Suzumo’s six main sales offices across the country. In some cases, the company may additionally hold seminars, inviting food industry experts to speak. Throughout FY03/21, the company canceled the fairs or reduced the number of attendees upon implementing strict measures against the infection for these events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Main products put on display at the Suzumo Fairs include the small sushi robots used by a range of restaurants and retail shops selling ready-to-eat foods, along with the patented lineup of robots for other types of cooked rice processing. To attract visitors, the company posts the event schedules on its website and uses the sales people in its sales and local offices nationwide to directly approach customers within their sales territories.
In addition to its regular Suzumo Fairs, every year the company also participates in about five major trade shows for food processing equipment. The company’s salesforce also conducts conventional sales activities, making an appointment and visiting companies individually. In the case of new customers, however, the company says most are not acquired by direct contacts by sales people but rather were first attracted by one of its Suzumo Fairs or its booth at an industry trade show.
For sales overseas, Suzumo works through its network of local distributors.
The group has one sales office in Singapore and two in North America. The company also has contracts with local distributors around the world that give it a presence in most of the world’s major cities.
In Japan, Suzumo has built a service network that covers the entire country through its sales offices in major cities and local offices in other areas. The company also has contracts with distributors across Japan. Many of Suzumo’s bases carry a sales team responsible for customers in that area as well as resident service personnel that can handle after-sale maintenance and trouble-shooting.
The network is set up in such a way that when there is a need to install new equipment, conduct periodic maintenance, or handle equipment malfunctions, the company can send out a sales person or maintenance worker from the sales office nearest to the customer or the customer’s site of operation. The company noted it was essential to have a nationwide service network because Suzumo’s biggest clients are major sushi, donburi, and teishoku chains that have outlets around the country.
The company’s overseas service and maintenance network mirrors the domestic setup. In addition to the local subsidiaries in the US and Singapore, local distributors in various countries and regions, with whom Suzumo has distribution contracts, handle after-sale services (e.g., equipment installation and trouble-shooting) and maintenance work.
The company used to break down its businesses into two segments: Cooked Rice Processing Equipment and Hygiene Supplies. This segmentation scheme continued through FY03/19, but starting in FY03/20, the company combined these two segments into one reportable segment. Suzumo explained that its Hygiene Supplies segment was small in terms of sales and earnings, and judging from the group’s current business operations as well as the management and internal reporting structure, the rational decision was to combine the businesses under a single segment. The figure below shows segment sales and operating profit for past years under the old segmentation scheme.
|Segment sales and profit||FY03/11||FY03/12||FY03/13||FY03/14||FY03/15||FY03/16||FY03/17||FY03/18||FY03/19|
|Cooked Rice Processing Equipment||5,600||5,771||6,567||6,963||7,100||7,726||8,734||8,415||7,432|
|% of total||91.9%||91.4%||91.8%||92.0%||91.9%||92.2%||92.8%||92.3%||90.8%|
|% of total||8.1%||8.6%||8.2%||8.0%||8.1%||7.8%||7.2%||7.7%||9.2%|
|Operating profit margin||9.9%||11.3%||13.4%||15.6%||15.0%||15.2%||15.0%||13.6%||8.5%|
|Cooked Rice Processing Equipment||649||742||933||1,158||1,129||1,247||1,389||1,219||660|
|Operating profit margin||11.6%||12.9%||14.2%||16.6%||15.9%||16.1%||15.9%||14.5%||8.9%|
|Operating profit margin||-8.2%||-4.3%||5.7%||4.1%||4.9%||3.9%||3.2%||2.8%||4.4%|
For the purpose of discussions in this report, we use the sales breakdown the company uses in its supplementary materials to the official financial reports, such as its quarterly results briefing materials. This breakdown divides company sales into three categories: proprietary sushi robots; third-party rice cooking-related equipment; and maintenance, other. Comparing this to the old segmentation scheme used through FY03/19, we note that sales under the Cooked Rice Processing Equipment segment would be spread out among all three of these new categories (proprietary sushi robots, third-party rice cooking-related equipment; and maintenance, other), while sales under the Hygiene Supplies segment would come under the third-party equipment category. (Note: the company does not disclose operating profit for the three business categories.)
The company’s best-known products are its sushi robots for making sharidama (sushi rice balls) and sushi rolls, and its Fuwarica rice-serving machines used to dispense precise portions of rice for dishes served in bowls or on plates.
Suzumo’s first sushi robot that came out in 1981 was called the “automatic Edo-style sushi machine.” In a traditional sushi restaurant, the professional sushi chef hand-presses the sushi rice into a sharidama and puts the fish or other topping on it in front of the customer. By inventing a machine that could replicate the gripping and forming techniques of a master sushi chef, the company had hoped to bring down the price of sushi and make it more affordable.
The list price of the company’s sushi robots is JPY1,370,000.
The number of units an average customer buys varies greatly depending on the nature of the customer’s business, but the company notes that domestic kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi chains buy anywhere from one to four sharidama robots per restaurant. In addition to a sharidama robot, a typical kaiten sushi restaurant installs four other kinds of processing equipment: a sushi roll robot, gunkanmaki (warship roll) robot, automatic sushi roll cutters, and a cooked rice mixer that automatically mixes vinegar with cooked rice to makes sushi rice. According to Suzumo, busy restaurants buy one extra sharidama robot (as this machine always receives the heaviest use) and one extra sushi roll robot. This means some sushi chains install around four to seven of its equipment per restaurant. In cases where kaiten sushi restaurants serve rice-based dishes other than sushi, such as curry rice, they may also buy the company’s Fuwarica rice-serving machines (described in more detail later), which would bring the total number to eight.
Sushi robot (compact sharidama robot; Model SSN-JLA)