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Juki, the supreme sewing machine

Across factories in South China, millions of young Chinese spend their days churning out garments for consumers in Japan, South Korea, Europe and the US. For many of the workers, their most important piece of equipment — after the umbilical smartphone — is a sewing machine made by Juki. The Tokyo-based company, which started making sewing machines in 1947, has customers in 170 countries from China to the Vatican. While some of the big manufacturers — such as Sony — that were synonymous with the rise of Japan have lost their lustre, Juki is an example of the low-profile companies sustaining Japan’s economy.

“The situation in China [in 1979] was nothing like today . . . when a factory advertised for 1,000 people, 10,000 people would gather outside the factory gate,” recalls the Japanese executive. Everything changed in 2005. China unpegged its currency from the US dollar and allowed it to appreciate slowly, which in turn increased manufacturing costs. Then, in 2008, China introduced a new labour law that ensured workers enjoyed better conditions, but dramatically raised labour costs. "Costs rose, the renminbi kept getting stronger, and profits started to fall," says Mr Miyashita. "Retailers said China was becoming difficult and slowly started shifting order to southeast Asia."

Source Extract from Financial Times article on ‘Juki’, the Tokyo sowing machine company supplying many of China’s textile companies. Published 15 December 2014.
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