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Iwatani Outlines Matsushita’s Vision

NEW YORK -Highlighting what he described as the budding “digital revolution,” Matsushita Electric Corp. of America chairman/CEO Don Iwatani spoke about his company’s vision for the future, along with its new ‘Value Creation 21″ program.

During Panasonic’s annual holiday Meet the Press event last Tuesday at the St. Regis Hotel, here, Iwatani said, “We believe that Panasonic is uniquely positioned to bring consumers the products that will enable [the digital] revolution.” To that end, Iwatani spoke about creating a new corporate culture and management structure at Matsushita.

The Value Creation 21 plan, which was recently announced by the parent company in Japan, will focus Matsushita’s growth strategy around actively promoting its digital audio-visual technology and mobile communications business.

The three-year plan will give rise to four business segments: AVC (audio, visual and communications) Networks; Home Appliances; Industrial Equipment; and Components and Devices. These will replace the company’s three existing segments-Consumer Products, Industrial Products and Components-beginning next April.

Iwatani said the strategy is designed to “make a large company react to the market like a small company” and to “break the barriers” between segments of the company. “We have a super production company and a super sales company,” but there are still inefficiencies, he told TWICE. “There might be three separate plants working on the same new technology.”

Matsushita’s U.S. operations, like other Matsushita companies worldwide, will now be able to purchase product from Matsushita plants in the United States, China, Singapore, Mexico or “wherever the best deal is for that particular product,” Iwatani said. The company will create manufacturing centers serving several product divisions.

Matsushita has established several goals to achieve by the end of fiscal 2004, including bringing its operating profit ratio up to 5 percent of consolidated sales, and it expects to have consolidated sales at about $81 billion in the last year of the plan.

Iwatani also discussed new Panasonic-branded products enabled by the diminutive SD Memory cards. These cards (which should achieve a 1 gigabyte capacity within 12 months) are the driving force behind Panasonic’s new E-Wear products-such as portable MP3 players that can fit in a shirt pocket, digital cameras that you wear as a necklace, and other portable digital devices that will be available shortly.

But perhaps the most profound insight came at the beginning of Iwatani’s speech when he proposed an entirely new, and potentially lucrative, product category for Matsushita: voting machines based on the touch screen cash registers employed by fast-food franchises. “At least there are no chads,” he said.- Additional reporting by Steve Smith