After the chance encounter in 2012,
NIPPON DICS became deeply involved in the development of Comuoon.
As a result of having the company's president, Mr. Yamakawa,
look back on the situation at the time of development,
we heard many stories including memorable episodes from that time,
and about his feelings regarding Comuoon.
Accidental, Fateful Encounter
It was when I stopped by an event called the Industrial Exchange Exhibition in November 2012. I happened to be passing the booth of Universal Sound Design ("USD"), which was exhibiting there. It was a small booth with several speakers arrayed inside but it casually caught my eye, partly because we handled audio-related parts as well. It's curious, now that I think about it, but I felt something and couldn't help getting into a conversation with the person who was standing there. And, that was Mr. Nakaishi, the president, who had just established USD with his father at the time. Then, he told me about his ideas for various products that he had in mind. He also told me how they were unable to procure the parts required for development of the products and said that they were not in a situation where the parts for their original design could be manufactured since the company was newly founded. So, I asked him: "What do you need?" The answer was unexpected. He said that he wanted to connect an amplifier and a speaker, which would normally be connected with a plug and a jack, using a direct cable. No products with such a function could be found anywhere in the market. I was surprised but he struck me as a man with interesting ideas. I immediately replied: "That's something that we are especially good at. Please, let us help you." Looking back, it was truly a chance encounter. However, it was the beginning of a long journey of collaboration between USD and NIPPON DICS toward completion of Comuoon.
Engineer's Spirit Ignited
In December 2012, about one month after our chance encounter, the first technical meeting between President Nakaishi and our engineers took place. I still remember the reaction of the engineers. It was the same as mine when I first heard Mr. Nakaishi's ideas; namely, "He is a man with revolutionary ideas." Compared to most of our customers, who usually talk about costs and volumes, Mr. Nakaishi's ideas must have sounded fresh to them. I suppose you could say that their 'engineer's spirit' had been ignited. Immediately, technical verification of the connection was initiated. Mr. Nakaishi's ideas were not only creative and interesting but also they made sense. The more particular you are about sound quality, the more you look toward the cable material and its strains, attenuations, and losses. For example, if you turn a faucet to directly run water at full strength, the water will gush out. However, if you connect a long hose, the force will decrease. The principle remains the same, whether it is water, sound, or electricity. That is, the longer the distance, the more various energy losses occur within that distance. Conversely, it means that sound with less deterioration and high reproducibility can be obtained through a more direct connection. Therefore, while Mr. Nakaishi's idea was quite unique, it was completely valid. I think that the engineers were enthusiastic about the development because they perceived this aspect. Development of the connecting part went as smoothly as could be, and connecting an amplifier and a speaker directly was not difficult for them. However, the real challenge was waiting elsewhere.
Extremely Difficult Development Scenario
As the specific design of Comuoon progressed, not only the connecting part initially required but also various other parts became necessary. With Comuoon, which was a totally unique product, parts such as the plastic external casing (called a molded part), power source-related components, microphone stand, and switches for the control dock had to be procured at the same time. Both with the connecting part, which had been technologically resolved, and the various parts that had subsequently become necessary, the main problem was the small production runs. The required number of each item was very small, around 50 to 100, partly because we were only at a trial stage. As a rule, few if any development companies are willing to accept orders for such small quantities because it's not profitable to them. Fortunately, since we had corporate networks that were capable of conducting such trial-related development, overall development support, including the quantity aspect, came into play from that point. Full-scale trial development started around spring of 2013. Various parts were tested and trial production got off to a fast start. However, a major problem had arisen. Initially, we were carrying out development with a plan to move on to mass production, examining the performance and quality with the aim of completing the final trial sometime in summer but Mr. Nakaishi was visualizing a much quicker path to completion; namely, he wanted us to be in a position to start selling the product by the end of the summer. Usually, trials proceed without excessive expenditure, even on various types of equipment. To be honest, I thought it would be very difficult to suddenly make it as far as mass production. At the same time, there were also significant differences in the levels of our goals. The quality benchmarks demanded by Mr. Nakaishi were of a very high level, completely different from the qualities that we normally regarded as acceptable when involved in development of parts for television and audio. The level that we judged as being no problem in our everyday work was, in Mr. Nakaishi's opinion, "No good." It was a battle between the engineers and Mr. Nakaishi. We thought realistically and engaged in countless debates with the mindset of "We will push ourselves, but not too far." Conflicts continued for a while, along the lines of "I understand, but..." and "I hope you can do something." Since we were doing business, there were times when we were discouraged by the rapidly rising development costs and the high expectations, thinking, "Maybe we should quit." But then, Mr. Nakaishi would once again tell us about his passion for the product. That was where we got to in the end. I think we were able to forge on through those several months with the feeling of "no matter what it takes", because we were moved by his passion. Although it was quite an irregular form, we were able to successfully complete the first Comuoon at the end of 2013, with all required qualities satisfied.
Imaging customers beyond Comuoon
Following completion, our efforts to create a system for supplying more stable parts with better quality continued after selling started in December 2013. After some trial-and-error, we successfully established our current mass production system. Looking back, now, it was a very tough road but our motivating forces to overcome the challenges were none other than the presence of Mr. Nakaishi and the smiles of the people who would actually use Comuoon. When we witnessed the test using a trial machine to collect test data, a lady around the age of 40 was saying that she could not listen to the music she enjoys because she was hearing-impaired and, even though she wanted to listen, it would only sound like noise. Then, when she heard her favorite music via a trial Comuoon, she murmured, "I can listen" with a look of joy on her face. After witnessing that reaction, all of our problems seemed to fade away and there is no other way to describe it than that we were simply happy. Our work is mainly business-to-business and we have few opportunities to be engaged with the end users in our business environment. So, the realization and reward of user enjoyment that can be obtained through a product like Comuoon are tremendous. Across the company, our motivation has been naturally heightened by getting involved in this project, and I feel that our engineers are taking even greater pride in their work as a result.
Comuoon Still in the Process of Completion
I regard Comuoon as a product that will continue to evolve. We have just started, and I feel that we must develop a number of variations, going forward, in order to have many more people use this product in a more natural way. As Mr. Nakaishi has a clear roadmap for this in his head, we would like to work on supplying good products in a timely manner in the process that USD will create as a company that plays a part in the development. In addition, as I assume there are many people out there who do not yet know about Comuoon, or people who do but have never tried it, I would definitely like to tell them to try it once. I think that, as more and more people try it, various problems and points for improvement will arise. Through receiving plenty of feedback from users, Comuoon can continue to evolve further. The more such user voices, the more accurate the product will become. We will continue to make efforts in the development of Comuoon whilst listening to everyone's opinions and suggestions with a view to creating and delivering better and more effective products.
NIPPON DICS CO., LTD, President & CEOHiroji Yamakawa
After graduating from university, he joined a trading company. In 1984, he switched careers to work for a company that specializes in electronic parts.
Established NIPPON DICS in 1997; still actively involved with the company