Yasuhisa-KOKI Co., Ltd. (Ota City)
“A small factory in Ota City significantly contributing to Japan’s research and development for artificial hearts”—Yasuhisa KOKI has this kind of unique presence even in the City dense with globally known small- to medium-sized high-tech firms. Raising a slogan “Creating what never existed,” it has brought out a variety of products ranging from medical devices led by artificial hearts to writing tools for visually impaired people. Why has the company had good track records in such a variety of fields? We interviewed President Takashi Tanaka of the company.
Photo: Takashi Tanaka, President of Yasuhisa-KOKI Co., Ltd. He received a doctoral degree from Waseda University Graduate School in 2011 for his artificial heart researches and now works as a visiting researcher at its Comprehensive Research Center for Science and Engineering.
A “mechanical blood circulation simulator” developed with repeated improvements over two generations of his father Fumio and himself. Thanks to the equipment, the number of animal studies has been sig
Yasuhisa-KOKI was started in 1969 by Tanaka’s farther, the late Fumio, after he moved to Tokyo from his home town Yasuhisacho, Miyakonojo City, Miyazaki Pref. and worked at a small factory in Ota City. Fumio joined a development project for artificial hearts asked by the late Kiichi Tsuchiya who later became a professor at Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering, after acquainted with Tsuchiya prior to the Fumio’s start-up of own business. This is the origin of President Tanaka’s R&D for artificial organs.
“I used to engage in developing mainly artificial hearts when I was an assistant researcher at National Cardiovascular Center Research Institute after finishing his master course at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Graduate School of Engineering. Thereafter in 1986 I joined Yasuhisa-KOKI and have been since involved in developing medical-type equipment and devices collaborating with Tokyo Women’s Medical College and Waseda University.
President Tanaka has been engaging in designing and developing medical devices for more than 30 years after graduating from the graduate school. It is the firm’s “Oz Sizer, a valve cusp size measuring device used for aortic valvuloplasty,” completed in 2011 that condensed its technology cultivated over time.
Photo: President Tanaka explaining the mechanism of “Oz Sizer, a valve cusp size measuring device used for aortic valvuloplasty”
“This equipment measures the size of aortic valve cusps which varies among patients in a surgery forming aortic valves by using patient’s own pericardial. We started to design and make a prototype in 2007 with advice from professor Shigeyuki Ozaki, the inventor of the operative method, at the Cardiovascular Surgery Department of Toho University Medical Center Ohashi Hospital.
The “aortic valvuloplasty using own pericardial” added a new progress to the history of cardiac surgeries as it brought biological compatibility, is more economical, and above all, enabled to form ideal valves best suited to patient’s body, unlike artificial valves used in the past. With these advantages highly evaluated, Oz Sizer won the Award for Excellence of the 23rd Ota City SME New Products/Technologies Competition.
The best part of Yasuhisa-KOKI is that it proactively tries to make products not only for the medical but for other fields where it has been achieved big results also.
One of the examples is foldable color cone PataCorn born in 1995. We started researches after my younger brother and sales manager Tsutomu Tanaka heard police complaints they couldn’t carry as many corns as needed by one vehicle because of the bulky nature of conventional circular cones. With 5-year long efforts in development, we developed a cone structure with a triangular pyramid shape which unfolds by springs for use and folds flatly when not in use. We applied for patents and received the Commissioner General Director-General Award at Police Equipment Development/Improvement Competition in 1997. It is a hit product with accumulated sales of more than 40,000 units.
Photo: Lapico, a writing tool for visually impaired people. Workshops are held nationwide for its diffusion, taking the company time out from busy schedule.
A writing tool Lapico for the visually impaired people also represents Yasuhisa-KOKI’s high technology and spirit of Monozukuri (manufacturing). How it was born started with a mail contact from teacher Akinobu Kurita of Kagawa Prefectural School for Visually Impaired Persons who wished if there were a brush-pencil that visually impaired people can easily use and sent the same mails to SMEs possibly able to materialize it. One of the mail recipients was a company in Ota City that was familiar with Yasuhisa-KOKI, and it asked if Yasuhisa could make it.
Moved by teacher Kurita’s passion, Tanaka spent 8 years on the development with trial and error. He finally succeeded in inventing a structure in which beeswax ink seeps through a built-in valve when the pen tip, made of shape- memory metal, is pressed. Beeswax becomes rigid in about 15 seconds and swells up so that visually impaired people can read by their fingertips.
“Potentials of the pen are actually expanding as it has been used by artists and batik-print designers wishing to enrich their expressions through its unique texture and sensitive touch. With these also evaluated, we received a letter of appreciation as a “Contributor for Building Welfare Community” from Governor of Tokyo.”
Photo: The place full of lathes and parts having been used since father’s days, a source of Yasuhisa-KOKI’s Monozukuri
Supporting Yasuhisa-KOKI’s Monozukuri in a variety of fields are not only President Tanaka’s innovative ideas and know-how, but an indispensable network of more than 50 SMEs in the company’s base of Ota City. We outsource parts processing to friend companies co-working since father’s days and do final-assembling by ourselves. We are a “coordinator-type company” in this sense.
Tokyo, or more specifically, Ota City dense with globally known high-tech SMEs offers indispensable environment enabling us to sustain manufacturing. My father, when alive, always said “companies working with us are our treasure”. I firmly believe Yasuhisa-KOKI is present today as I have been succeeding his thoughts. We will be striving for Monozukuri, turning the impossible into the possible in various fields