In electronics, inventing small parts almost always mean big money. Murata, a Japan-based leader in capacitor production, has announced that it had developed the world’s first smallest capacitor, a high-potential source of profit for the company.
Electronics-speak, capacitors are components used in almost every electronic device that world know today ranging from a dumbphone to the most popular iPhones, laptops, tablets, PCs, hybrid cars, etc. A capacitor is basically an electrical energy storage component inside a device. Every gadget can have dozens or hundreds of capacitors inside and a smaller size of such component means more innovations and improvements for the electronics industry.
Measuring a mere 0.25 mm x 0.125 mm, this newest capacitor is barely visible to a naked eye–it’s as big as the period in this statement.
For the past few years, Japanese firms have been struggling to keep up with the competition especially from South Korea, Taiwan, China, and some other Asian neighbors that have cheaper labor. Additionally, Japanese companies are also fighting the effects of a stronger yen. A bigger value yen means the value of the companies’ earnings from exports are diminished.
Murata became more known for its invention of a robot boy riding a bicycle a few years back. However, the company is also a leading producer of delicate sensor technology. Yukio Hamaji, the company’s Executive Vice-President, said that creating such a tiny capacitor is certainly a very challenging endeavor that needs precision in the preparation of materials and in the actual baking process.
Murata is currently the number one producer of ceramic capacitors in the world. Controlling about 35 percent of the market share, it is followed by South Korea’s Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co. at 20 percent.
Hamaji acknowledged that the company’s South Korean rival is the biggest threat Murata is facing right now. Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co., a component unit of Samsung is known for its being nimble when it comes to dealing with its competitors and Hamaji emphasized that he’s trying to learn something from his competitor.
Several once-industry-leading companies from Japan have been reeling from the negative effects from competitors.
Sony Corp. posted last March the company’s biggest loss in it’s 66-year history. It was the company’s biggest tally in terms of loss in 4 years. Sony became a worldwide sensation when its Walkman portable players and colored TVs became hits for consumer electronics around the world.
One of Sony’s biggest competitors, Panasonic Corp., is not doing well either. Panasonic, known for its quality TV sets recorded an even bigger loss last March, highlighting it as the biggest loss in its 94-year history. The said loss was also the biggest annual loss for a Japanese company ever.
While trying to survive, Sharp Corp. is even in a more shakier shape as the company desperately looks for a possible source of cash from Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Indeed, Japanese manufacturers specializing in consumer electronics have been hit so hard that some of them have started shifting their business focus to other industries. Hitachi Ltd. And Toshiba Corp are now channeling their resources in nuclear power plants and high-speed trains.
Experts attribute Japan’s failure to lead in the consumer products industry is the companies’ lack of ability to anticipate the market’s changing need.
Murata’s story though is different as the company continues to grow. It currently employs 37,000 workers, and about 90 percent of its earnings of $7.5 billion come from abroad.
The company’s latest invention is not making money at this time as devices that can use the new capacitor are yet to be designed. However, Murata stresses innovation as a key trait to keep its current reputation as the world’s number one maker of capacitors.