A family-owned company founded in Kyoto, Japan, in 1893, Ishida started as a food-scales manufacturer and has since expanded to have a portfolio that includes a range of weighing, packing and quality-control equipment for the food manufacturing industries. The current managing director of Ishida Europe, Dave Tiso, spent his early years in the picturesque South Island of New Zealand.

He was educated in the city of Christchurch, where he became a chartered accountant. From there, he gained experience in finance across a range of industries (telecommunications, oil and gas, electricity) and in international locations such as Chile, Brazil and the UK.

Dave Tiso finds the perfect fit at Ishida Europe

Having experienced a wide range of corporate environments – from start-ups to turnaround projects to multinationals – Dave was clear on what he valued when he joined Ishida Europe in 2008. At that time, he knew he wanted his next role to meet three criteria he had in mind.

First, the position had to be a challenge. Second, he wanted a strong relationship with the person in charge. And third, he had a preference for a family-owned business. Ishida Europe ticked all three boxes.

With the directive to drive growth in a region where the economy was suffering a historic downturn, the Ishida role presented exactly the kind of challenge Dave sought. Similarly, the communication skills and positive outlook of the managing director who recruited him satisfied his second criterion.

Dave Tiso Managing Director of Ishida Europe

With Ishida being in its fifth generation of family ownership, it seemed Dave’s fate was sealed. “This last aspect was important to me because, having worked in a variety of other businesses, I understood how family-owned businesses tended to take a longer-term view of circumstances rather than being driven by immediate performance,” explains Dave.

Navigating national and cultural barriers across Europe

After eight years as the EMEA finance director, Dave moved into the managing director role in 2015. He nominates returning the company to a pattern of growth as his proudest achievement in the past two years, though he credits measures that were put in place during the economic downturn for this renewal.

“We had a flat period, but we used that time wisely to invest in processes and systems that made the company better equipped to handle future growth.” Recognising this success, in 2014 Ishida was presented a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category – the UK’s highest accolade for business success.

The greatest challenge has been navigating the national and cultural barriers across Europe and ensuring best practice is implemented across the continent’s very different regions.

“Breaking down those barriers is something we are achieving through determination and communication,” Dave says, adding that there’s no substitute for hard work when tackling such obstacles.

Ishida Europe achieves “three-way harmony“

While other companies floundered during the Eurozone debt crisis, Dave reflects, Ishida Europe benefited from its parent company’s underlying philosophy, which provided a framework and a path forward, even in uncertain economic times.

“We have a concept of three-way harmony. That is the ethos that exists throughout the business, led by our parent company in Japan,” he says. “When three-way harmony is achieved, it’s good for the customer, good for society, and good for ourselves. It’s about having those three elements in balance.“

When three-way harmony is achieved, it’s good for the customer, good for society, good for ourselves. It’s about having those three elements in balance.

Dave further explains that the philosophy is one which sees the company, its customers and the broader community as interdependent. “We start with the customers, we look after them, and help them to grow. Then, as they grow, the customers contribute to society in the products that they can deliver, as well as the taxes that are paid on them. When we also grow in proportion and contribute to society, all three grow in balance.”

Communicate, communicate, communicate

As he leads the company’s European arm into a challenging new era, Dave points to the owner family as his chief inspiration in his role. “I’ve thought about this question long and hard, but it’s the achievements of the Ishida family that I find most inspiring,” he says.

“That may sound like an obvious response, but I’m genuinely inspired by the way they’ve grown this business phenomenally over the years. It’s not just how much they’ve grown the company that I find inspiring; it’s the manner in which they’ve done it.”

Dave Tiso Managing Director of Ishida Europe

A key plank in this philosophy is committing to a long-term view of the business, and Dave says so far patience has proven a virtue for Ishida Europe. “In my experience, a lot of other companies talk about the long-term, but it’s often dismissed when things become uncomfortable. At Ishida, there is the courage in the conviction to ride out short-term difficulties. The family realises that growth needs to be based on enhancing the organisation for the future.”

Dave’s own management philosophy is to have a comprehensive understanding of his own strengths, and to recognise where others in the company have valuable skills he can utilise. When it comes to getting the most out of his team, Dave has complete clarity on what is important. “The key thing we must do is communicate, communicate, communicate. You can’t do enough of that.”

For Ishida Europe, this includes facilitating feedback loops and maintaining an ongoing commitment to identifying areas for improvement. Above all, however, it is communicating directly and with honesty, Dave says. “By doing that, you can gain strength through the whole team.”

Supplier relationships have never been more important

John Priest, Operations Director at Ishida Europe, says that ensuring strong relationships with suppliers is central to achieving ongoing operational excellence. With around 70% of Ishida Europe’s manufacturing work now outsourced to suppliers, these relationships have never been more important.

Maintaining high standards begins with how suppliers are chosen. John says that Ishida Europe has benefited significantly from its parent company’s remit to seek out and establish new supply partnerships. “We’ve always been encouraged by Ishida to source locally and not be completely dependent on the parent company.”

This openness to forging new supply partnerships does not, however, mean that Ishida Europe will rush into agreements. “We’re very careful and selective about who we add to that list because it takes time and effort to establish both the level of supply and the level of service that we expect from our suppliers,” John says.

And the patient approach has paid off, John explains. “We’ve established what I think is a very good network of key partners.” Recently, Ishida Europe has forged partnerships with suppliers in mainland Europe, the first time it has entered into such agreements that extend beyond its UK base.

“Those new agreements should help to balance the risk in terms of currency fluctuations, which will likely be something we need to manage going forward,” he says.

Once suppliers have come on board, there is still significant relationship maintenance to be undertaken. Ishida Europe enhances these partnerships by holding regular supplier forums. In these forums, both sides exchange feedback, establish common goals, and work together to develop best practice.

Employee-exchange program

Another initiative Ishida Europe has implemented to strengthen ties with suppliers is its employee-exchange program. This involves Ishida Europe exchanging apprentices and graduates with a number of its suppliers, which has already led to a greater understanding of the priorities on both sides.

In fact, the success of the program saw an Ishida apprentice win the national-level EEF First Year Apprentice of the Year award
in January this year.

The exchange program also fits neatly into Ishida Europe’s big-picture approach. “What we’re really trying to do with the program is to pass on experience and knowledge to future generations and future leaders,” explains John.

“This will have benefits not just for our business but for the manufacturing sector as a whole.” Suppliers have also gained clarity about their performance through Ishida Europe’s monthly supply review process. This allows suppliers to easily access online KPI reporting that draws on the same data the company is seeing.

Rejecting a ‘one size fits all’ mentality

Another aspect of operational excellence is rejecting a ‘one size fits all’ mentality in order to ensure the client’s individual needs are foregrounded. “Specifications are often very dependent on customers, so in a way it’s almost mini-project managing each build,” John says.

“There are some standard elements to many of the machines we build, but also a lot of very bespoke elements that have to be project managed.”

We can help the customer realise the full potential of our machines through new data products and support services.

Being attuned to the individual client’s requirements also entails providing support after the products have been designed and sold. “Our products are complex and highly engineered,” Dave says.

“We can help the customer realise the full potential of our machines through new data products and support services. At one time, we sold machines and the customer took responsibility for installing and completing a food-processing line. These days, we actually help the customer in applying the equipment and optimising the whole line.”

Responsiveness & agility key in the face of Brexit

Manufacturing companies across Europe are operating in a climate of considerable political and economic risk. “Within the UK, we have the uncertainty of Brexit,” says Dave. “We’re luckier than most, as we have 10 offices established overseas and the flexibility to adjust our operations if required. Our main concern is the impact of Brexit on our customers.”

In light of this market unpredictability, Dave says, responsiveness and agility will be even more crucial. “Unfortunately, we don’t know too much about the impact of Brexit, so our duty is simply to stay as informed as possible, to monitor the situation, and to make timely adjustments in accordance with new developments.”

As Ishida Europe continues to evolve in light of new market conditions, Dave has a vision for the company to become “an enduring and indispensable part of the global supply chain, ensuring food can be delivered and consumed safely, efficiently and sustainably around the world”.

With a culture of patience and a clearly articulated set of guiding principles in place, even such a lofty goal seems attainable.