Olympus Corporation : Accelerating Growth as a Global Med-tech Company

We held an interview at “Olympus Corporation (hereinafter referred to as Olympus).”
In this interview, we discussed the project that Olympus is collaborating on with Vision Consulting(hereinafter referred to as VC), combining digital technology with traditional craftsmanship to achieve innovative manufacturing.
Please feel free to read the interview until the end.


To innovate in manufacturing through digital technology


—Public Relations Department (PR): Could you please tell us about the background of this project?


Mr. Tokunaga from Olympus Corporation (hereinafter referred to as Tok):Olympus’ gastrointestinal endoscopy holds approximately 70% of the global market share, with the Japan region alone accounting for 80% of production. We play a crucial role as a leading company in the medical device industry. However, in the Japan region, the mechanisms for managing design and manufacturing data such as E-BOM (*1), M-BOM (*2), and BOP (*3) are not sufficiently established. Production preparation and modification management rely on manual labor, resulting in significant efforts being required for these tasks. Additionally, the competitive nature of the medical device market is intensifying, and there is a need to fundamentally improve traditional manufacturing methods and respond quickly to increasing market demands.

From this background, relying solely on traditional manufacturing processes that depend on “people” has reached its limits. Integrating digital technology into traditional manufacturing is necessary to achieve innovative manufacturing. Therefore, we have decided to undertake a PLM (*4) implementation project to ensure the solid coordination of the engineering chain as a global medtech company and enable global centralized management.


(*1) E-BOM (Engineering Bill of Materials): Contains information such as parts composition and quantity needed during the design and development stage.
(*2) M-BOM (Manufacturing Bill of Materials): Includes part information as well as schedules, instructions, and manufacturing process details needed for production.
(*3) BOP (Bill of Process): Contains information necessary for manufacturing, such as work procedures, manufacturing processes, equipment, and work instructions.
(*4) PLM (Product Lifecycle Management): The practice of managing and sharing information related to a product’s lifecycle, from planning to disposal, within an organization to improve operational efficiency, increase profits, and reduce development costs.


(Photo: From left, Mr. Tokunaga from Olympus Corporation, Mr. Tsubaki from VC)


Challenges in Coordination with Stakeholders for DX Promotion


PR: Could you please tell us about the challenges you faced when you approached us for assistance?


Tok:Within Olympus, various departments had their own challenges, and when implementing PLM, aligning the direction and approach globally was a challenge. Furthermore, there was a shortage of experienced PMO personnel specializing in PLM. As a result, seamless coordination and alignment between different teams were difficult, leading to delays in the project schedule. Also, due to the shortage of personnel, it was challenging to allocate the appropriate resources for WBS management and document creation, posing issues in project management and achieving consensus with stakeholders.



—PR: Could you tell us about the specific tasks you assigned to VC?


Tok:To address these challenges, we introduced Mr. Tsubaki as the lead in our “Business Process Improvement Team” and requested two main tasks to advance the project together:

The first task was supporting explanations of the digital strategy to the Global Executive Committee. Smooth communication with the Global Executive Committee was essential for the success of the project, and Mr. Tsubaki provided support. For example, to ensure that the Global Executive Committee understands the significance of the project, we needed to create clear and understandable materials, so we entrusted Mr. Tsubaki with various document creation tasks.

The second task was coordination with various stakeholders.

In this project, the global introduction of PLM, a design and manufacturing collaboration system essential to the manufacturing industry, required stakeholders from various functions and regions, both domestically and internationally, to understand and approve the necessity of PLM implementation. Therefore, we requested Mr. Tsubaki to lead the task, along with other VC members, to ensure alignment with other functions and regions, allowing the project to proceed without delays.


—PR: What prompted you to seek assistance from VC, and what were the reasons?


Tok:We were introduced to VC, and after hearing your company introduction and proposal, we decided to seek assistance. While there were many consulting firms in Japan, VC stood out for its extensive knowledge and expertise in DX promotion. We were attracted to the fact that VC had access to talented and suitable individuals who could work with Olympus to drive the project forward.





Initiatives for Enhanced Global Collaboration


—PR: Could you please tell us what has been achieved by working with VC?


TokWith VC’s support, we were able to make proposals to the Global Executive Committee, helping them understand the importance of this project.

On the other hand, we participated in a project to harmonize the digital strategies of the Manufacturing, Repair, Procurement, and Supply Chain functions under CMSO (*5) and consolidate them into a single digital strategy, showcasing the vision of CMSO. We delved into detail about the current challenges and their root causes within each function, summarizing them into eight programs for resolution, each with clear priorities and return on investment. This PLM implementation project was positioned as the highest-priority program and was explained to the company’s top management by the Global Executive Committee.

During this process, the materials prepared by Mr. Tsubaki were very clear and effectively illustrated the challenges of standardization and the interconnectedness of various areas. This allowed the top executives to quickly grasp the importance of the project.

Furthermore, we were able to coordinate with various stakeholders. In this project, diverse stakeholders were involved, including a Steering Committee composed of executives, sounding boards consisting of VP-level individuals from various organizations, project leaders, PMOs, and function-specific members selected from different regions domestically and internationally. Naturally, each stakeholder, who is from different functions or regions, had different perspectives and levels of understanding. By facilitating coordination with each stakeholder and resolving conflicts, we helped them understand the importance of the project and the need for a foundation to achieve what they wanted. This prepared us for the full-scale implementation phase.


Tsubaki(hereinafter referred to as Tsu):Because there were many stakeholders, it was challenging to make everyone understand everything in a single presentation. Therefore, we initially didn’t plan this, but we deliberately created small projects to provide a platform for sharing and understanding the challenges and demands of each stakeholder. We adapted our approach, made detailed adjustments, and replanned as needed, which allowed us to advance the project.


(*5) CMSO (Chief Manufacturing and Supply Officer)



—PR: Can you tell us what you are currently working on?


Tok:Currently, based on the results we’ve achieved so far, we are preparing for the implementation of PLM. We are conducting detailed assessments, such as determining how far we should prioritize each aspect of the challenges and what kind of impact and value we can achieve with each action. This project is of massive scale and requires appropriate strategies to ensure smooth implementation. We are currently in the critical phase of conducting discussions to obtain reapproval from the Global Executive Committee.



—PR: What were the expectations from Olympus towards Mr. Tsubaki?


Tsu:Olympus expected me to leverage my experience and knowledge in PLM and manufacturing along with my background as a strategy consultant who can understand the overall strategy, and my role was to align and drive the entire project. I was also expected to provide appropriate advice and support for standardizing processes and data.


—PR: Can you share what you are focusing on to meet these expectations?


Tsu:My primary focus is to deeply understand Olympus’ internal dynamics and the on-site situation. Specifically, Olympus is characterized by the fact that each person at the grassroots level takes ownership of the project. Therefore, I believe it’s essential to understand the on-site reality and provide comprehensive support from upstream to downstream, rather than just presenting idealistic theories from a higher level.

Furthermore, while it’s important to draw insights from other companies’ case studies and experiences, I also prioritize understanding Olympus’ unique situation. To achieve this, I engage in conversations and document creation to ensure that the insights are easily understood by a wide range of stakeholders.




Benefits of Consulting VC


—PR: Could you please tell us what the advantages were of consulting VC?


Tok:The consultants at VC have extremely high levels of experience and have a good understanding of the on-site situation, which was very beneficial for driving the project forward. In Mr. Tsubaki’s case, he had experience with the implementation of foundational systems like PLM and was able to lead the project effectively while ensuring alignment among various functions and regions, both domestically and internationally. Particularly, his ability to collect opinions from different perspectives and propose a plan that everyone could agree on was extremely helpful. Moreover, he consistently provided timely, visual materials that captured the essence of the project. In a large and complex project like this one, we have received valuable support from Mr. Tsubaki in various aspects.

In challenging projects like this one, it’s often difficult to achieve the ideal result exactly as planned. This is because various issues arise, such as trade-off dilemmas on-site. Therefore, understanding each challenge at the grassroots level, and considering its impact and pros and cons in detail, is essential; otherwise, it can end up being a theoretical exercise.

In cases like this, it’s especially challenging to work with consulting firms that provide idealistic answers. While they may paint a beautiful picture, they often don’t delve into the difficult aspects, or they might not consider the messy details. It’s essential to have a clear vision of the ideal state but also ground the activities in reality. VC has shown a deep understanding of the on-site situation and has worked hand in hand with us to overcome challenges, and we are satisfied that we asked VC for help.



—PR: Mr. Tsubaki, Can you share what you found appealing about this project?


Tsu:In a context where many clients rely on major international consulting firms as third-party advisors, what I found most appealing about this project was the position of being both a “substitute employee” and a “consultant.” Working alongside Olympus employees who share the same goal and vision, and collectively tackling the project, was fascinating.

Furthermore, Olympus employees have a clear sense of ownership and vision for this project. The opportunity to work on challenging issues with such individuals is incredibly fulfilling.



Future Outlook

Becoming a Global Medtech Company

—PR: Could you please share what Olympus aims to achieve?


Tok:One of Olympus’s fundamental missions is to “Making people’s lives healthier, safer and more fulfilling” We aim to achieve this by delivering high-quality and innovative medical devices, including endoscopy equipment, to healthcare facilities around the world. We want to make a positive impact on the health and quality of life (QOL) of people globally.

Furthermore, Olympus is accelerating its growth as a global Medtech company and seeks to contribute to the overall improvement of healthcare standards with its unique products and solutions. To accomplish this, we intend to pursue digitalization in our manufacturing processes in line with the strategy we have developed in this project.

Specifically, we want to achieve three key objectives:

1. Implementing centralized management and effective utilization of design and manufacturing data which are the backbone of the manufacturing industry through the PLM Fast Track, to significantly streamline engineering processes and ensure higher levels of quality assurance, including traceability.

2. Implementing the latest manufacturing ERP and utilizing the design and manufacturing data mentioned before to establish a system that can coordinate the entire value chain, thereby achieving higher levels of production management.

3. Establishing a system for digitizing the entire production activities across the value chain based on an IoT platform, allowing real-time representation in the form of a digital twin of the physical factory. This integration with the IT infrastructure enables us to detect and respond to issues proactively, aiming for Industry 4.0 optimization.

While preserving the craftsmanship that Japan is known for in manufacturing, we want to leverage the power of digitalization and data to drive a significant transformation on a global scale. We aim to revitalize Japan’s manufacturing industry, make it more prevalent globally, and contribute to both Japan and the world’s manufacturing sector.




—PR: What are your expectations for VC in the future?


Tok:In the future, we hope that VC will continue to understand the on-site situation, including the nitty-gritty aspects, and work with us toward the same goals. This is indeed a crucial period of transformation. By working together to drive this important transformation, we want to progress step by step. We sincerely appreciate your ongoing support.


—PR: Finally, could you please share your enthusiasm and commitment, Mr. Tsubaki?


Tsu:As a consultant, my goal is to contribute to improving and reforming businesses with high societal significance, especially in revitalizing Japan’s manufacturing industry. I believe that the decline of Japanese manufacturing due to delays in digitalization is a significant challenge. This project, which addresses the challenges facing Japan’s manufacturing industry head-on and combines the craftsmanship of manufacturing with the power of digitalization, is an initiative of great societal significance.

As a member of this project, I am committed to contributing to the realization of this transformation.



(Note) The information provided in this article, including the details of services, is based on information available at the time of the interview and may be subject to change without notice.

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