Emphasized having a sense of ownership and research & development
“The factory bathroom was made to the level of Hotel Silla.”
These are the words of Young-Gwan Lee, President of Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. In a lecture titled “Success Story of Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc.” held at POSTECH in Pohang, Gyeongbuk Province on 13th, President Lee said, “When I built the Gumi factory in the 1990s, I directed the restroom to be at the level of Hotel Shilla.” Although 7.5 million won, which was the five times of the cost needed for constructing one pyeong (3.3㎡) of the factory, was necessary to build one pyeong of the restroom, he did not change the decision. It was because he wanted to provide the employees with a “sense of ownership”.
When the restroom was decorated to the level of a hotel, amazing changes appeared. There were no more messy or dirty places in the company. President Lee said, “At that time, the toilets were dirty everywhere. However, since the restrooms were clean, the staff members organized other things habitually.” He also recalled, “The quality of the products improved and there were no defects.” Its customers said, “If we weave clothes with the yarn of-of another company, it will be cut off when it reaches about 700m. But with the yarn from Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc., it won’t break even if it gets to 1000m.” Despite the product of Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. was 5 to 10 percent more expensive than the competitors, it sold better. This is because of the quality.
Research and development (R&D) is in Toray’s DNA. Founded in 1926, Japan’s Toray has nine technology laboratories. There are 4000 people working on R&D and its annual R&D investment is 800 billion won. Thanks to this, Toray has 21 of the world’s top businesses. Polyester film, polyester woven fabric, and carbon fiber composite material are the representative examples. There are seven other businesses that only Toray conducts like polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) films. Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. established two research centers in Seoul and Gumi. In November of this year, the company will build a 3200 pyeong R&D center in Magok, Seoul.
Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. expanded its business with R&D expansion. At the time of its establishment in 1999, it only made polyester film fabrics. But in the mid-2000s, it entered the film processing market. This was because the film processing market was expected to grow as the TV display changed from CRT to flat panel display. From 2005 to 2013, President Lee successfully expanded the production line by adding nine production lines and succeeded in winning the market with prompt actions. The market share of multilayer ceramic capacitor (MLCC) release film and the polarized release film of the company is 70% and 60%, respectively.
Currently, the company’s business portfolio includes carbon fiber, filter, resin chemicals, and new businesses. President Lee emphasized, “At the beginning of the company’s establishment, it was a chemical fiber company that made only films and fibers, but now it is a high-tech material company.” In the same period, the company’s profits and losses also changed from 38 billion won (1999) in red to 171 billion won (2017) in black. The revenue in 2017 was 2.3 trillion won.
Korea Toray Group that includes Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. and other six materials companies set a goal of achieving 5 trillion won in sales by investing 1 trillion won between 2017-2020 in key projects such as the carbon fiber composite material business. After joining the Samsung Group’s Jeil Synthetic Fiber in 1973, he continued to work at the same place. Only the company name changed from Samsung to Saehan, then to Toray. After becoming the president of Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. in 1999, he has continued to be the CEO for 20 years through this year.