Nidec grows its Motor business

Nidec, based in Kyoto, Japan, has expanded rapidly by acquiring many of the world’s major manufacturers of motors, large and small. Established in 1973 by the current CEO and Chairman Shigenobu Nagamori, now a 71 year old billionaire, and three colleagues, they had the objective of “becoming the World’s No. 1”, and designed small precision motors (fractional HP motors for small fans). In 1979, Nidec became the first company in the world to successfully commercialize a direct drive spindle motor for HDDs that used a brushless DC motor. Nidec subsequently established a position as the world’s biggest maker of precision motors for hard-disk drives, acquiring part of the Seagate Corporation in Thailand, and achieving a claimed market share of around 80%. Based on this success, between 1989 and 2007 Nidec invested in the acquisition of 27 companies, mainly based in Japan. Some of these were on the edge of bankruptcy, including units cast-off by Toshiba and Hitachi. Then there was the financial crisis of 2008, and at the same time the personal computer growth shifted away from disc drives to solid-state storage modules for the new top-selling computer tablets and smartphones.

As a result, Nidec started a new international acquisition strategy in 2010, when their group sales were quoted at $8Bn. One of the largest deals was a major move into the North American market with the purchase of the Commercial and Industrial Motors and Appliance Controls businesses from Emerson Electric: combined these businesses accounted for more than $0.8Bn in sales. This was, in fact, the founding business of the Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company, started by John Wesley Emerson, a Civil War Union veteran, in St Louis in 1890.

Overall, Nidec spent $2.9Bn on acquisitions between 2010 and 2016. In their 2016 FY Nidec Group annual sales were quoted as $10.5Bn, which some analysts consider shows a lack of any organic growth over the six year period, the sales figures being enhanced by the acquisitions. Employees in 2016 were approximately 100,000, apparently 20% lower than two years earlier: this lower number still only results in sales of $105,000 per employee. More recently quoted figures have mentioned 140,000 employees.

Fractional Motors Market

A different, outside view (possibly a European biased view) was provided by IMS Research (now part of IHS) in 2012. In their view, driven by the multiple acquisitions made in the fractional HP motor market by major groups like ABB, Regal Benoit (of the US) and Nidec, Ametek of the USA spent $270m to acquire Dunkermotoren of Germany, a consolidation of two of the top ten manufacturers of such motors in the World, particularly concentrating on factory automation and medical markets: Dunkermotoren had sales of $170m. According to Bryan Turnbough, market research analyst with IMS: “Since the [2008] downturn, larger companies have been finding new areas of growth through acquisitions, while smaller companies are struggling to keep up. This is changing the competitive dynamics of the industrial fractional HP motors market, which has a low growth of between 3 and 4 percent annually”. Ametek and Dunkermotoren were considered amongst the market leaders in fractional HP DC motors, particularly aimed at rotary and linear motion applications, and the combination was seen as a threat to the dominance of the top two suppliers, Maxon and Faulhaber.

Nidec markets in 2016

The Nidec 2016 FY report shows small/fractional HP motors now represent only 38% of their total sales: the rest is automotive motors 23%, appliance and commercial motor markets 24%, plus 14% in instruments, factory automation, robots and switch components. Chairman Nagamori said that Nidec had “expanded our range from small precision to supersized motors of all kinds, and from motor peripherals to application products. These components are widely used not only in IT products but also in a wide range of fields including home appliances, automobiles, office equipment, industrial equipment, and environmental energy equipment. We strive to become the world’s No.1 comprehensive motor manufacturer, based on everything that spins and moves”.

Nagamori is known for his eccentric management style, and has been voted Japan’s best CEO. He is driven by ‘ambition and ego’: plus is always obsessed by cleanliness in the factories and of the workers. To him passion matters, and enthusiasm, and tenacity: “Motivated people can do anything if they work hard”. His style has enabled him to retain the backing of the Japanese banks and investors.

The Nidec $1.2Bn acquisition

So in 2016 Nagamori negotiated his largest ever acquisition, a $1.2Bn cash deal to buy two further Emerson businesses, Control Techniques of the UK and Leroy Somer of France. Emerson had been looking at the ‘strategic alternatives’ available to them for their motors and drives, and power generation and storage businesses for over a year, and there were several parties interested in the acquisition of the motors and drives companies – from Europe, Asia and elsewhere. Both had been acquired by Emerson in the 1990s, and employed 9500 people, producing combined sales of $1.7Bn in 2016.

Control Techniques manufacture variable speed drives, servo drives and motion controllers, with AC and servo motors, targeted at industrial applications. Similarly Leroy Somer produce alternators for power generation, diesel generators (at the Kato factory in the USA), and higher power motors and drives for industrial markets. Nagamori has visited the two European HQs, to meet and greet the staff following the acquisition: his normal approach is to look for dirt and grime, walls to paint, anything that can be cleaned up – hopefully he did not find any walls to paint. Whether the staff were reassured by his exhortation to “Look at the expansion in the use of robots, electric vehicles and drones” [as new markets for their motors and drives] is not certain. Nagamori had a very successful acquisition of Sankyo Seiki, a robot company in Japan in 2003, turning in a profit of $180m inside 12 months: Nidec also sells drone motors for the Amazon fleet. They were maybe happier with his statement that Nidec “put great emphasis on research and development”.

Time will tell. His latest (scaled down) target is group sales of 2000 Billion Yen by 2020, which equates to $18Bn, or 70% up on the 2016 figures. Consolidating the Emerson acquisition he has already added 16 of the required seventy points. As the company logo says: “Nidec…. All for Dreams”.

This article was first published in my column in the ‘South African Journal of Instrumentation and Control’, June 2017 issue, published by Technews in South Africa.

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UV keeps bottled water safe

Hanovia UV has supplied Cott Beverages UK, based in Derby, with a PureLine intelligent UV system to keep its production process water pure.

PureLine range

In an increasingly regulated and safety-conscious market, legislation such as the EU Directive for Bottled Water 98/88/EC (1998) drives the beverage industry to meet ever more stringent standards of quality. Microbial growth due to contaminated water or ingredients can cause discolouration, off flavours and shortened shelf-life. The threat of contamination is further increased as manufacturers respond to demands for less chemical additives and preservatives. Effective microbial disinfection of the whole process is therefore essential.

To meet this requirement, Cott Beverages has been using Hanovia UV disinfection technology to treat process water used in the production process. The company decided to use UV technology to ensure final product security prior to mixing and bottling and has been very satisfied with the performance of the UV systems.

“The Hanovia UV systems have been easy to integrate, maintain and operate,” said Chris Prentice, site service engineer at Cott Beverages. “They provide us with absolute insurance before bottling by making sure that we are producing and maintaining a high-quality product, which is essential for our brand.”

PureLine UV from Hanovia is an intelligent system that is optimised for the beverage industry to simplify the treatment of water, sugar syrup, brine and even reducing chlorine and ozone. Critically, there are no microorganisms known to be resistant to UV – this includes pathogenic bacteria such as listeria, legionella and cryptosporidium (and its spores, which are resistant to chlorination). Unlike chemical treatment, UV does not introduce toxins or residues into process water and does not alter the chemical composition, taste, odour or pH of the fluid being disinfected.

UV is used for both primary disinfection or as a back-up for other purification methods such as carbon filtration, reverse osmosis or pasteurisation. Because UV has no residual effect, the best position for a treatment system is immediately prior to the point of use. This ensures incoming microbiological contaminants are destroyed and there is a minimal chance of post-treatment contamination.

UV disinfection systems are easy to install, with minimum disruption to the plant. They need very little maintenance, the only requirement being the replacement of the UV lamps every 9-12 months, depending on use. This is a simple operation that takes only a few minutes and can be carried out by trained general maintenance staff. The Hanovia UVCare training programme supports businesses like Cott Beverages to make sure servicing is carried out by certified engineers at all UK production sites.