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From Value One, Autumn 2008 No. 22
Nifast Corporation
Unique System Supports the Global Automotive Industry
Nifast Corporation building
  Tourists as well as horse racing fans visit Arlington Park, which is close to residential areas and one of the prettiest racetracks in the United States.
Nifast's Efforts
Headquartered in Chicago, Nifast Corporation is a distributor of automotive fasteners and small parts and has a network that links 10 North American bases (eight in the United States and one each in Canada and Mexico). Founded in 1988, Nifast now has 110 employees and $85 million in sales (based on FY2007 results).
More than 70,000 types of parts are purchased from approximately 600 suppliers in Japan, Taiwan, China, and the United States and delivered to 400 customers, mainly Japanese parts manufacturers, in the amount required and when needed. These huge numbers of transactions and administrative tasks are supported by Nifast's unique system.
Unique System Supports Increasingly Sophisticated Capabilities of Bases
An integrated system that manages accounting, inventory, the receiving/placing of orders, and administration was installed in the second half of 2005 as part of efforts to beef up the IT Division. A system that automatically calculates appropriate volumes of orders placed based on the amounts that customers plan to use was developed in-house in 2007, and the installation of this system has begun at all offices. The adoption of electronic data interchange with major customers and suppliers is now accelerating, promoting speed and rationalization in receiving/placing orders and invoicing tasks, as Metal One strives to build its own automotive parts supply chain system in North America.
These kinds of strengthened system capabilities form a foundation for increasingly sophisticated inventory and distribution services and enable the provision of vendor-managed inventory, going a step beyond just-in-time production systems. Customers can eliminate the very task of placing purchase orders because items that are required on any given day are delivered alongside production lines, thus simultaneously eliminating inventory and purchase order tasks within plants. As such, customers only need to settle accounts for the portion used, substantially alleviating capital liabilities.
Additionally, Nifast has a quality-inspection facility accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA). This is why customers can immediately use Nifast parts on production lines without conducting verification tests upon receipt of deliveries.
In the Value Chain Vanguard
Most of our supplier-manufacturers are parts manufacturers that purchase steel products from Metal One. Metal One supplies the steel products while we carefully store and conduct quality inspections on automotive fasteners and small parts made from those steel products, carrying out just-in-time deliveries to car manufacturers. We are responsible for putting the final touches on the Metal One value chain, from steel products to parts and, finally, delivery to the end user. The pressure is great, if only due to our proximity to the automotive manufacturing line, and we sometimes make emergency deliveries after receiving a midnight phone call. There are also times when everyone, from the office's general manager down, is involved in responses, and this can be described as an important job for us.
Behind-the-Scenes Players Ensure Safety
Nuts and bolts is a phrase Americans often use to refer to trivial or bothersome things. At the same time, the phrase means the essentials. Other than lug nuts, you cannot see fasteners from a car's exterior. The more than 700 types of fasteners used in a single vehicle can truly be described as behind-the-scenes players that ensure every day is safe.
This year, for the first time in 15 years, the car industry has faced such trials as high oil prices and the subprime loan problem in the United States. Unlike in other developed nations, however, there is a sense of optimism about the economy's direction in the United States, whose population is growing. The U.S. population is increasing at a pace of 3 million per year and, using Japan as an example, it would be as if a new Fukuoka (1.4 million people) and Kobe (1.5 million) were being created each year. Whether for commuting, shopping, or sending kids off and picking them up, life without cars is inconceivable in the United States, and we work in the nuts-and-bolts business with the knowledge that it sustains the safety of that U.S. lifestyle.
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