Kenji Hayashi is currently on assignment in Moscow, where the temperature in winter is 50 degrees colder than the summer temperature in his previous post of Saudi Arabia. But that doesn't bother Hayashi. "It is cold," he admits, "but it doesn't snow that often, and Moscow is a modern, comfortable city."
As General Director of MC Logistics CIS, the Russian arm of Mitsubishi Corporation LT, Inc. (MCLOGI), Hayashi has almost 50 employees under his charge. Their mission is simple: to provide customers with management solutions through efficient logistics.
In tire shipments, for example, there are two opportunities to do business each year: when vehicles switch from winter to summer tires, and then again when they switch back. In keeping with the season, huge volumes of product need to be delivered in a short period of time. But how should they be delivered? What routes will be most efficient? Have all wasteful or redundant operations been eliminated? Every day, Hayashi has to put himself in the customer's shoes and address these questions.
MCLOGI set up its subsidiary in Russia in 2001. Initially, the subsidiary's main work was to deliver products to Japanese manufacturers and ensure that those products cleared import customs; but over time, it proactively grew its operations to meet the demands of its customers. "Russia has made progress in its legislation and IT infrastructure in recent years," says Hayashi. "It's a very liberal business environment now, almost on a par with western countries." Needs are diversifying in Russian society, where consumers have flexible attitudes towards new products and ideas and a healthy appetite for spending. The question for Hayashi and his team is how to meet those needs, and the answers are always changing.
"As long as we can make good use of AI and IoT, there's still room for us to improve our logistics," he says. "We can't afford to cling to old practices if we hope to make a global impact. Success in international logistics demands that you be thinking and innovating all the time." But what exactly needs to be done to generate new value in this industry? What is it that customers need and value the most? When Hayashi and his Russian colleagues get together, their determination to find the best solutions can lead to heated debates, whether at the office or over drinks at a local establishment.
Hayashi has helped to launch new logistics businesses in Japan, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. Values differ from one country to the next, and customer needs differ from one product to the next. But Hayashi's philosophy, which he embraced during a lengthy overseas business trip earlier in his career, is appliable just about anywhere. "You must always look at things from your customer's perspective, no matter who that customer may be. If you play fair, you will be treated fairly in return, and even when you fail, new challenges will present themselves. Having said that, I am always trying to better myself so that I don't fail." As a student, Hayashi used to play American football and work as a lifeguard, and those experiences tempered him both in mind and body. No doubt he will continue to play fair, regardless of what the future holds in store for him.
This article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's "GLOBE" feature of December 3, 2017.