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From Japan to Ireland

Blog post   •   Aug 15, 2017 14:38 GMT

From Japan to Ireland

As a global business, Brother currently operates across 44 countries in the world. However, it has not always been that way. Founded in Japan in 1908, Brother moved into Europe in 1958 after recognising huge potential in the continent.

Nearly 60 years on, our company continues to enjoy a robust pan-European profile, with a workforce of almost 2,000 and sales offices or sales representatives in 29 countries.

Today’s strong brand presence in Europe stems back to somewhat humble beginnings in Ireland, with many challenges overcome in order to solidify our market position.

But let’s go back to the beginning. Our story began in Japan, where brothers Masayoshi and Jitsuichi Yasui set up the business and enjoyed a successful start manufacturing their ‘trademark’ industrial sewing machines in Nagoya. Recognising that their business couldn’t flourish on the Japanese market alone, Masayoshi and Jitsuichi made the decision to export their HA1 sewing machines to Europe after identifying the wider business opportunity.

Selecting Ireland’s capital city of Dublin as their location of choice, Brother overcame many obstacles to create a successful foundation in Europe.

One of the first challenges involved gaining clearance for Industrial Combine from British Imperial Preference. The company had to prove that 60% of the products were made in Ireland to ensure regulations regarding Japanese exports to Europe were not breached.

A one man per machine process

When Brother first arrived in Europe, production involved one man working on each sewing machine. It was a simplistic process of the parts arriving, being assembled and then sewing machines exported.

But to meet burgeoning demand for the product, facilities had to be transformed and a team of expert engineers travelled from Japan to ensure supply could meet demand.

Production line in former biscuit factory

In January 1959, two engineers Okubo and Ozawa were posted in Dublin. In February, they moved production to the former Famor biscuit factory and created a production line. Brother then secured a German contract to deliver 10,000 sewing machines a month as the popularity of domestic goods in Europe soared.

In stark contrast to our manufacturing and R&D facilities evident today, an old church hall was acquired to provide more space for final assembly and packing. Employees were working around the clock to ensure orders were met. To meet demand, it was clear that at least four production lines had to be installed and be operational all at the same time, signalling the need for further change.

Just ten days later, a team of 22 Japanese engineers were flown to Dublin. The journey took an achingly-long 72 hours in an old German-owned DC3 plane, with many stops including Bangkok, Calcutta and Bahrain. The brief once they arrived - to train a local workforce who would make a million sewing machines.

The language barrier made the transition a challenge, however, Japanese engineers made a positive business impact. They quickly set up the required four production lines and fully trained the team of employees on how to man them.

In February 1961, only eight months after the engineers arrived, production hit 125 units per line per day, a staggering 10,000 units a month.

Strong threads through time

The early success in Dublin cemented a solid foundation for our brand in Europe, creating strong threads through timethat have seen Brother evolve from a Japanese sewing machine manufacturer into a global print and technology pioneer.

With Japanese R&D still at its heart today, Brother continues to lead the way with innovative products, embracing emerging technologies and pushing boundaries to ensure our market position remains as strong today as it was in our yesteryears.

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