Industry Insights

Q&A With Oowa San

Isuzu Motors Limited’s (Japan) head office liaisons help bridge the gap between the parent company and its extensive global network.

Sending representatives all over the world, Isuzu Motors Ltd (Japan) creates a mutual benefit for both head office and its international subsidiaries, where head office staff are sent abroad, and the respective subsidiary is given the support and expertise of head office in their own office.

We spoke with the Parts Department’s first ever Japanese liaison, Mr Atsunori Oowa, who walked us through his experience in Australia and shared his thoughts and plans for the future of parts distribution in Australia and the rest of the world.

Tell us about your work history with Isuzu Motors Japan?
I started at Isuzu in Tokyo after graduating university. During that time, I was put in charge of parts sales for the South American market. From there, I transferred to the parts business planning team where I took over the Australian (Oceania) Market in 2016.

And how did the opportunity to come to Australia come about?
With the expansion of parts business in Australia, NZ, and the South Pacific, the importance of the market was recognized by Isuzu Japan and a new post for parts representative was established. It was a great honor for me to be selected.

My superiors called me into a meeting one day in March 2017 and said, ‘Oowa san, we would like you to help coordinate the parts dept in Australia for three years. Will you?’ I said yes immediately and arrived here in July 2017.

What does a parts liaison do?
Australia has never had a parts liaison before, making me the first. There are Japanese liaisons for other sections of IAL but not for parts.

When I arrived, Isuzu Japan had a need to further understand the Isuzu Parts environment of IAL because Australia is a very important market for Isuzu globally. The role is essential to assist in coordinating movements and communication between Japan and Australia as well as supporting operations at a local level too.

A big part of the role is communication. Many people in the Japanese head office have very good English and can read English emails, but sometimes aspects of the message got lost in translation. Messages from National Parts Manager, John Plunkett, as well as other IAL managers, were sometimes misunderstood. So, in order to help Japan completely understand 100 per cent of what Australia wants, I became the point of contact.

From Japan’s point of view, Australia and the USA are the best performing regions for the parts market and aftersales strategies, so I am here to make sure the success continues and grows.

Can you run us through a typical day here at IAL?
I’m the Parts Coordinator, meaning I manage the parts flow between Australia and Japan.

Right now, we’re focusing on product development. IAL have the desire to increase the Best Value Parts (BVP) range for their customers with older model trucks here, so I am summarising and analysing the current program to identify the next move and build on that. This approach has the potential to be a global solution for Isuzu and I want to continue to push aggressively for that.

BVP? Is that because Australian truck owners want better quality products?
Exactly. In developing countries, quality is not the main focus, it is a very price competitive market, so that’s where their focus is.

Of course, pricing is an important tool, but the parts business should be thinking about quality, availability and productivity of service as well.

Australians have a strong demand for high quality products, so we must match that demand with even more quality products and of course, good pricing.

Isuzu Parts in Australia is at a very high standard, and I want to make the Australian standard the standard for the rest of the Isuzu Parts operations – worldwide.

How have the past two years been for you here in Melbourne?
It’s been a very good experience for me. In Japan I only knew as much about Australia as one could learn without being in the country. After arriving here, the IAL parts personnel, especially John and Southern Zone Manager, Kevin Brown, have given me a lot of exposure to the market, the customer base, the dealers and the way they approach parts business.

I settled in Williamstown (bayside Melbourne) and have made friends outside of work as well. Baseball is a massive sport in Japan, and I’ve joined a Japanese baseball team named United, which has been a lot of fun.

I’ve also had the opportunity to travel all around Australia, including Tasmania, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide and last month I got to go to New Zealand, allowing me to continually expand on my knowledge of the Oceania region.

Something that I’ve learnt and can’t be appreciated from a map in Japan is just how big Australia is, and that changes the whole approach to parts distribution and parts business.

What have you enjoyed the most about working at IAL?
The people. The parts staff are very kind to me and have made me feel welcomed. They call me Matt, which they developed from my first name Atsunori.
and everyone checks up on me every morning, saying ‘Hey ‘Matt’, what’s going on? Everything all good?’

All the people at IAL have been great. Australia is a very friendly country; the first-time people met me they immediately say, ‘G’day mate! How’s it going?’

Anything to add Oowa San?
As the first parts representative, I am met with high expectations and pressure from Japan. Under the circumstance, my goal is to learn about the parts business of IAL and to convey the specific needs and wants from the market precisely to Japan so that we can increase customers’ satisfaction and the maximization of Isuzu’s success.

I also want to say that I am very thankful for the people of Australia and IAL because of the warm acceptance they have shown me. I have learnt and continue to learn many things about the culture, the market and the people and I am implementing all of that into my work at IAL now to make Isuzu Parts the best it can be. I look forward to sharing my experiences in Australia and incorporating my new insights when I am back in Japan.