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In the business world, Kawasaki is not just a brand name on a motorcycle like many retail consumers might assume—it is a global leader in heavy industry producing numerous types of transportation equipment. With headquarters in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan, the sheer size of the company better known as Kawasaki Heavy Industries Group (KHI) is massive, with 29, 211 employees and consisting of a group of 100 companies in Japan and around the world.[1]

Showcasing the Kawasaki's dynamic background is the breadth of products the company manufactures. Broken down into eight distinctive divisions, these comprise aerospace, rolling stock (locomotives and trains), shipbuilding, energy plants and facilities, industrial equipment, environment and recycling, infrastructure and motorcycles, jet skis, and ATVs.

Under its Infrastructure product division, Kawasaki operates a Construction Machinery Division and the Kawasaki Construction Machinery Corp. of America. In construction equipment manufacturing, Kawasaki's specialty is the wheel loader, such as the ultra large wheel loader 1325V. However, some of the other construction and industrial equipment the company manufactures includes rollers (vibratory and tire), purpose-specific loaders (logging), tunnel machines, and snowplows


[edit] History

Kawasaki's rise as a global leader in heavy industry coincides directly with Japan's industrialization at the turn of the century. The company's early beginnings were marked in 1876 when founder Shozo Kawasaki established the Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard in Tokyo. Born to a kimono merchant, Shozo became a merchant himself at just 17 years old. Prior to opening the Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard, he had attempted to open a shipping business in Osaka. The business failed after the sinking of a cargo ship during a storm. Kawasaki was however successful with his second attempt and 18 years later in 1896, Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard was incorporated as Kawasaki Dockyard Co. Ltd.[2]

[edit] Success in Shipbuilding

Between 1886 to 1896 Kawasaki built over 80 ships, six of which were made with steel. Because of the Sino-Japanese war, Japan's shipbuilding industry flourished, quickly igniting Japan's path to industrialization. In 1897 the company now operating as Kawasaki Dockyard Co. Ltd. built its first full-fledged cargo-passenger ship, Iyomaru.[3]

By the time the company went public, Kawasaki was approaching 60 years of age. Having no sons of his own to pass the business on to, he selected Kojiro Matsukata, the third son of a former business benefactor, to take over. Matsukata became the company's first president in 1896 and held his presidency of the company until 1932. Matsuka played a pivotal role in steering the company to pursue opportunities in new markets such as rolling stock and aircraft. In addition, he expanded the company's shipping business and implemented Japan's first eight-hour work day system.[4]

[edit] Product Advancements

Rolling Stock In 1892 steam locomotives from the U.K. were running on Japan's first railway line. Kawasaki established a new company, Hyogo Works, to produce rolling stock such as locomotives, freight and passenger cars, and bridge girders as early as 1907. In 1911, the company completed its first steam locomotive for the Ministry of Railways in Japan. The reception of the new locomotive was very positive. According to the Ministry, Kawasaki's locomotive out performed locomotives made by its foreign counterparts. The company ended up producing a total of 3,237 locomotives up until 1971.[5]

[edit] Submarines

In 1904 the Japanese Navy was also interested in building submarines. It commissioned Kawasaki, with a strong foundation in shipbuilding, to produce two submarines at its dry dock. After conquering many difficulties, Kawasaki delivered the submarines to the Navy in 1906.[6]

[edit] Aircraft

In 1918 Kawasaki added an Aircraft Division at Hyogo Works. In 1922, the production of aircrafts as well as constructing an aircraft manufacturing plant in Sohara Village was underway. Kawasaki also became the first company within Japan to build a complete metal aircraft. The aircraft was a hit with the Japanese Army who conducted test flights and attested to the plane's excellence. They went on to adopt the plane as Japan's first military plane and Kawasaki produced over 300 units up until 1927.[7]

[edit] Robotics

With commitment to producing labor-saving machines and systems, Kawasaki became a pioneer in the industrial field of robotic design and manufacturing. In 1968, Kawasaki entered into a technical agreement with a U.S.- based robotics firm Unimation Inc. and by 1969, had built the Kawasaki-Unimate 2000, the first robot of its kind produced in Japan.[8]

[edit] Motorcycles

In 1972 Kawasaki launched the Kawasaki Z1, the largest motorcycle of its kind in Japan at the time. Nicknamed "New York Steak", the company's first motorcycle was overwhelmingly popular upon its introduction to the market, becoming a long-standing bestseller. Kawasaki was also the first Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to enter the U.S. market.[9]

[edit] Helicopters

In 1977 Kawasaki built and manufactured Japan's first ever multi-purpose, two-engine helicopter, the BK117, with German-based MBB.[10]

[edit] LNG Carriers

In addition to building very large crude oil carriers and other types of oil tankers, Kawasaki has extensively conducted research and development in the construction of high-value added carriers typically referred to as LNGs (liquefied natural gas). In an agreement with Moss Rosenberg, Verft A.S. of Norway, Kawaski sped up the development of these carriers on Japanese soil and in 1981 delivered the Golar Spirit—the first LNG carrier built in Japan.

[edit] Tunnel Boring Machines

In 1991 Kawasaki built two monstrous tunnel-boring machines nicknamed "Europe" and "Catherine" for the construction of the Eurotunnels, two tunnels connecting the coast of Sangatte, France to the British coastline. The two machines had a boring speed of 3,937 feet (1,200 m) per month and excavated between 1,969 and 2,297 feet (600 and 700 m) per month even in the rough strata. Because of Kawasaki's expertise in constructing tunnel boring machines, the two machines established new records in the tunnel construction history. The tunnel was completed eight months ahead of anticipated schedule and within two and half years of breaking ground on the project.[11]

[edit] Company Spin Offs

From 1919 to 1950 Kawasaki initiated a number of spin offs in order to streamline and divest its multifaceted and fast-growing operations. Within this timeframe, each division played a role in post-war reconstruction as well as contributed to the company's economic expansion.

In 1919 the Marine Freight Department was spun off and incorporated as Kawasaki Kisen Kaiya Line.

In 1928 Hyogo Works was spun off and incorporated as Kawasaki Rolling Stock Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

In 1937 the Aircraft division was spun off and incorporated as Kawasaki Aircraft Co. Ltd.

In 1950 the Steelmaking division was spun off and incorporated as Kawasaki Steel Corp.

By 1969 Kawasaki made a significant strategic move merging Kawasaki Dockyard, Kawasaki Rolling Stock Manufacturing Co. Ltd., and Kawasaki Aircraft to form the foundation of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, strengthening it's position as a global systems engineering enterprise. With the advance of new technological discoveries and an internal, vast body of engineering expertise drawn from numerous product areas, Kawasaki became involved in large-scale project worldwide.

From 2002 to 2006 a number of companies within Kawasaki Heavy Industries were established as wholly owned subsidiaries: Kawaski Shipbuilding Corp., Kawasaki Precision Machinery Ltd., Kawasaki Plant Systems Ltd., Kawasaki Environmental Engineering. In 2007, Kawasaki Environmental Engineering was absorbed by Kawasaki Plant Systems, Ltd.[12]

[edit] The Company Today

In 2007, Kawasaki Heavy Industries made the Fortune 500 list for being one of the World's Most Admired Companies.[13] In the industrial and farm equipment sector the company ranked 10th with primary competitors noted as Caterpillar, John Deere, and Komatsu. According to the company's website, KHI reported net sales of 1, 418, 619 million yen as of March 31, 2007.[14] The company's current president is Tadaharu Ohashi.

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] References

  1. Overview. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  2. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  3. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  4. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  5. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  6. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  7. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  8. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  9. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  10. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  11. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  12. History. KHI. 2008-09-23.
  13. Fortune 500. CNN Money. 2008-09-23.
  14. History. KHI> 2008-09-23.

[edit] External Links