QMT Features: April 2010
Focus on Nikon
The recent acquisition of Metris by Nikon has created great interest in the world of industrial metrology.  Kenji Yoshikawa, CEO of Nikon Metrology, provides QMT readers with some insights into the acquisition

The world of industrial metrology continues to consolidate, with a major acquisition of Metris last year by Nikon, a globally branded company. The new boss of Nikon Metrology is Mr Yoshikawa - a Nikon man through and through, having been with the company for 30 years.

Kenji YoshikawaHe has been head of Nikon Instruments in the EU and held leading positions with Nikon Instruments in the USA. From 2001 to 2009, he was general managing director of Nikon Instruments Industrial Systems. Mr Yoshikawa is, therefore, familiar with the world of metrology and seems relaxed about the challenges ahead when QMT editor, Brendan Coyne, spoke to him in London recently. 

QMT: Why acquire Metris?
Nikon always followed with great interest the spectacular growth of Metris that built its successes on optical metrology innovations. As such, there is obviously common ground with Nikon, a synonym for premium optics and a leader in optical measuring solutions.

Nikon always was an important market player in metrology. Today we are best in metrology for our 2.5D vision product and microscopes systems, but in the 80’s Nikon offered a full line of coordinate measuring machines. At that time, Nikon changed business strategy and decided to concentrate on the small-scale market segment to become a market leader in microscopy and vision systems. But all along, we kept our long-term strategy to provide a full range of optical measuring solutions in small, medium and large-scale measurement. Due to the worldwide economic crisis, Metris ran into stormy weather. Nikon saw this situation as an excellent business acquisition opportunity to establish a complete portfolio of metrology solutions covering diverse measurement needs. After careful evaluation of the business case, Nikon decided to take this unique opportunity and launched a friendly takeover bid on Metris in June 2009.

QMT: What is the mission and strategy?
At this point in time, we have no plans to divest any part of the business since the Metris portfolio is good. In the short term, we want to consolidate the organization of the Nikon Metrology group and position its brand in the market. In the medium and long term, we want to become the worldwide market leader in our market sector, i.e. non-contact 3D metrology technologies. Overall, we see that the industrial metrology market is fairly stable. In five years time, the top four global metrology companies, will be Mitutoyo, Zeiss, Hexagon and, of course, Nikon Metrology.

QMT: What are the synergies in markets, technologies and organization?
Although Metris and Nikon have a strong background in optical measurement, both companies are complementary to a large extent. The distinct complementariness touches upon market segments, products and organization, resulting in plenty of cross-selling opportunities. The primary focus of Metris was mainly on the medium and large-scale measurement segments in automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, electronics and energy markets.

This is in contrast with Nikon, which offers measuring solutions for small-scale applications in electronics, materials, gears and medical sectors. A major difference in terms of product portfolio is that Nikon systems are used for contour and surface measurements, whereas non-contact Metris solutions digitize the full 3D geometry of specimens. When it comes to optical technologies, Nikon has, historically, a very strong technology background whereas Metris has a strong application knowledge.  This is very important, as application software is critical in determining customer satisfaction. Since the acquisition, we have been putting more emphasis into software development. Combining the strengths of Nikon and Metris will thus enhance customer satisfaction with our products.

QMT: How will the acquisition be absorbed into Nikon?
From a historical perspective, Nikon Instruments has always been very strong in Japan and Asia whereas Metris covered Europe and USA. By merging the two sales teams, we are able to create a very complementary sales and support organization with a worldwide coverage. Nikon Metrology takes responsibility for Europe, USA and Africa, while Nikon Instruments Japan will distribute the complete Nikon Metrology product portfolio in Asia. The Nikon Metrology headquarters are located in Leuven, Belgium. 

QMT: What is the value for the customer?
The perfect match between the two entities in terms of technology and geography will certainly bring value for the customer.

The customer will benefit from an excellent support through Nikon Metrology’s worldwide client-focused organisation. At the same time, we will expand the implementation of Japanese process-based production methods to consistently realize highest product quality standards.

Nikon’s strong company position and long-term commitment guarantees future-proof investments and a growth path for continued product development. Through our new worldwide organization, we will establish a larger network of engineers, competence and infrastructure to strengthen and accelerate product innovation This guarantees that customer investments’ in Nikon Metrology products are fully protected.

QMT: What sets you apart from competition? 
The Japanese philosophy supports a long-term vision rather than short-term accomplishments, and because we offer the most innovative portfolio of optical metrology solutions, we are well prepared for the future. And, of course, very importantly, Nikon Metrology is supported by our very strong Nikon mother company, a large worldwide industrial brand. 

QMT: What's the branding? What will happen to the Metris brand?
Today we are introducing Nikon Metrology, a new sub-brand of Nikon. The products of the Nikon Metrology portfolio cover the former Metris products and the Industrial metrology products of Nikon Instruments. The latter group of products includes automated vision measuring systems, industrial (measuring) microscopes, optical comparators, autocollimators and semiconductor inspection systems and more. We strongly believe that adopting the Nikon Metrology brand for the former Metris product portfolio is an important strategic decision. We want all the Nikon Metrology products to represent the values of the Nikon Brand: innovative and trustworthy products that excel in precision and productivity to exceed customer expectations.

QMT: What will be the new application areas? What new markets?
At this point, the focus of the consolidated Nikon Metrology group is not explicitly on entering new markets. A short-term focus is undoubtedly incorporating the former Industrial Systems team of Nikon Instruments into the Nikon Metrology organization. Obviously, we encourage the former Metris and Nikon Instruments teams to explore new market segments for our metrology products. The most important market segment for Nikon Metrology’s vision and microscopy systems is the small-scale segment, spanning applications in electronics, metal, medical, plastics, etc. Of course, we have a major opportunity to offer our complete portfolio of metrology products to our extended customer base.

QMT: How do you see the market for metrology developing and what are the key influencing factors?
Manufacturing companies implementing a digital development process are more successful in reducing time to market and cutting development costs. Digital inspection is key in this regard, as it is the backbone of today’s design-through-manufacturing process. Optical inspection solutions – including 3D laser scanning, point cloud processing, graphic part-to-CAD verification and virtual part assembly – detect potential flaws earlier and reduce time to market.

Manufacturing economics can be further optimized by tightly integrating geometry inspection into manufacturing. Instead of running quality checks in dedicated inspection facilities, state-of-the-art production lines apply metrology for in-process measurement or even metrology-assisted production. Convincing examples include inline inspection performed at different stages in the car manufacturing process and metrology solutions that allow for first-time-right assembly of aircrafts and cargo ships.

Another tendency in the metrology market is the need for complete measuring solutions on a global scale. Globalization in general and the consolidation of major solution providers urges manufacturers to select metrology suppliers offering a broad solutions portfolio and a worldwide support network.

QMT: What new products are coming up?
Globally, we can state that all our product developments will continue as planned. In the near future, we schedule to release new handheld laser scanning products, new large-scale metrology solutions and continued metrology software upgrades. At the forthcoming Control Show in Germany this May, Nikon Metrology will introduce some of these new products into the market.

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