Winners / Selection Rationale

2019 19th Porter Prize Winner


Elecom is one of the biggest suppliers of peripherals, I/O devices, and PC and smartphone accessories (such as mouse pads, mouse devices, keyboards, and earphones). The market for peripherals and accessories are directly affected by any changes made to the primary products, PCs and smartphones. This is an intensely competitive market because of the low barrier to entry and the large number of players. Many “new” products are usually upgraded versions of existing products, offering both enhanced features and lower prices. Elecom’s product line is easily the broadest in the industry. In addition, many Elecom products have secured the top share in their product category. The company introduces a much larger number of new products than its competitors in any given year. It should also be noted that Elecom’s salesforce far exceeds the competition in terms of numbers. These salespeople spur sales by making frequent visits to consumer electronics stores, the company’s main sales channel. At these retail outlets, members of Elecom’s sales staff improve displays and make product pitches to customers. Elecom does not have factories. Merchandise is procured from numerous suppliers. The company focuses its internal product development efforts on carefully selected cutting-edge products. The company monitors the profitability of each product, sales person and sales office. For each product category, Elecom creates "tripod" teams, called "Category Owner Teams" (usually shortened to "COTs"). These teams consist of three employees, one each from R&D, procurement, and sales. COTs are responsible for product planning, product launches, and product termination. The effective utilization of COTs is what enables Elecom to efficiently manage such a broad product line.

UT Group Co.

UT Aim provides a manufacturing outsourcing service and dispatches workers to factories. Contrary to the industry's standard practice, UT Aim hires temp-staff workers as permanent employees. The company offers these workers job security, training, and opportunities for career development. In addition, UT Aim employs an ability-based wage system, and has created a ranking of jobs, which consists of 25 levels, with the specific skills required for each level clearly indicated. Moreover, UT Aim provides educational opportunities to its employees through e-learning and instruction at the company’s own facilities. UT Aim’s Career Development Department provides these workers with career counseling. The available career opportunities include the option of being dispatched to factories in various different industries requiring diverse and specialized skills. UT Aim’s dispatch workers frequently have the option of becoming site managers, career consultants, or dispatch engineers. Many dispatch workers have been hired by the client companies as full-time employees. The company selects as clients large companies that operate factories and require skilled workers who have achieved a level of proficiency. UT Aim dispatches its employees in teams of 30 or more members. The company assigns a site manager, who responds to the clients’ complaints and requests. UT Aim’s attrition rate is low, which contributes to reliable and high-quality manufacturing operations. Clients also highly value UT Aim’s excellent site management program, and its comprehensive compliance program.

en-japan inc.

en-japan operates an online advertisement service through its "en TENSHOKU” jobsite. The company’s primary income source is the advertising revenue generated by its job posting service website. However, en-japan’s highest priority is not: (1) the selling of advertisements; (2) the number of applications; or (3) the number of new recruits. Rather, en-japan wants to help job seekers find satisfying jobs. Finding the right match increases the likelihood that the newly placed recruit will remain with the new employer for a long time. en-japan focuses on finding full-time positions for young candidates (under age 35) who are already working full time. The company seeks to place candidates in new positions at small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). The company’s goal is to arrange long-term employment for its job-seeking customers, mainly young, inexperienced workers. To achieve this goal, en-japan must avoid making any mismatches, which is not easy. en-japan conducts interviews with each hiring company, writes a report, and provides access to an online review site that carries both positive and negative comments. Even after the candidate has begun working at the new company, en-japan makes available to these customers a follow-up support program that is free for the first three years. Customers can choose from three optional follow-up services.

Workman Co., Ltd.

Workman’s specialty retail franchise consists of both WORKMAN and WORKMAN Plus stores, which carry clothing and work-related items required by construction workers and other blue-collar workers. Workman is clearly the leading retailer of workwear clothing and gear, with 837 shops nationwide (at the end of March 2019), operating in 45 out of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The company sells more than 1,700 items, with 9,000 SKUs. The workwear items, which offer professional-level protection against water, wind and cold temperatures, sell at extremely low prices. Workman’s merchandise has a long product life, and the company does not practice discounting for the purpose of selling out its inventory completely. The company has maximized operational efficiency by standardizing product merchandising and store layouts nationwide. The company responds to diverse customer needs, which vary by geographic region. Workman also meets the specific needs of individual stores by frequently replenishing the merchandise, with deliveries made to retailers 6 days a week. The company will even arrange for the delivery of one unit of a single product, if necessary. Franchisees also enjoy high profitability, because only two people are required to operate a WORKMAN store. In recent years, WORKMAN stores have been increasingly attracting more general consumers. The company has redesigned its product lines, incorporating the taste of outdoor wear and sports apparel. Since the debut of these new products, WORKMAN stores have seen steady growth in sales to general consumers, like bikers, individuals who enjoy outdoor activities and have a need for clothing that offers a professional level of protection against the elements, and people looking for athleisure wear.