“Barrier-Free Hand Bike Produced by a Welding Shop” Kazuhiro Ugajin, Ugajin Welding Industry Ltd.
Ugajin Welding Industry Inc. (Asaka, Saitama prefecture) specializes in “precision sheet metal welding” with over 40-years of expertise and high technology. One of its core businesses is built-to-order manufacturing, and the other is the development of an original product initiated by Ugajin-san, the second generation owner of the company.
“WELDICH”, a furniture and product brand using stainless steel, and “HandBike Japan”, a specialized brand for hand bikes.
Ugajin-san is highly independent minded. That is undeniable both by himself and others, but there was a reason why he began to develop an original product.
“Is “build-to-order manufacturing” enough to survive and thrive in the future?”
“If we have our own product, we can promote our technology more”
Due to the constraints of confidentiality issues of build-to-order products, it is difficult to openly introduce them on corporate brochures or exhibitions. Ugajin-san thought of producing interior products that make use of flexibility of stainless steel, so he started attending a specialized school to learn interior design starting with the basics.
Later, he became a welding craftsman who would submit his work to competitions, and display his work at exhibitions showcasing other industries.
Ugajin-san’s prize-winning work from the “Creative Chair Exhibition in Northern Japan” on display in Obihiro, Hokkaido
In 2008, Ugajin-san attended the designer’s event, “TOKYO DESIGNER’S WEEK.” He also produced “DNA shelf,” a furniture piece designed by Shibata-san, President of TEKO Design (Arakawa, Tokyo). Shibata-san was also a teacher of Ugajin-san when he was in design school.
At the time, neither Ugajin-san nor Shibata-san imagined that they would develop a hand bike together.
DNA shelf (center piece in photo) exhibited at “New York International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in 2009” by Shibata-san
Ugajin-san, who started receiving more processing work from fellow designers and exhibitors at exhibitions, eventually developed his network into a design unit called “DESIGN Heart” using his inherent coordinating skills. Prior to joining Ugajin Welding Industry Inc., he worked as a coordinator at a leading travel agency.
Ugajin-san himself launched an interior product brand “WELDICH”, which provided a network where professionals with different expertise can collaborate. “DESIGN Heart”, launched in 2010, currently has 19 staff members in 13 groups that perform product planning to sales.
We (enmono) once visited Ugajin-san to get a clearer picture of his micro manufacturing process. In 2012, he made an appearance on the 29th MMS broadcast. It was right before he launched a hand bike specialized brand “HandBike Japan”, and we interviewed him then and asked why his welding shop started producing hand bikes.
He told us that in 2009, he received an inquiry asking him to “please make a hand trishaw for me” from a person who became disabled in the lower body due to an accident. Ugajin-san tried to turn down the request by saying “never done it before,” however the person replied enthusiastically “you should be able to make one since you have all that technology (as those products listed on your website).”
However there was no drawing. He immediately thought of Shibata-san who he worked him a year ago.
Shibata-san, with whom Ugajin-san consulted on the hand bike, imagined the challenges but felt a huge potential. There was no hand bike made in Japan at the time. He became interested in trying to design something not found in the world
He was also a type of person who is positively willing to challenge whatever possible. He has experience as a sales engineer, a corporate promoter, and was in charge of a wide range of designing.
Shibata-san considered maintenance and costs, changed the design many times according to the existing bicycle parts, and completed the drawings in 10 months.
Energetic Ugajin-san (left) who used to play rugby
Shibata-san (right), the rider, runs next to him and follows him up.
For approximately 3 years, Ugajin-san and Shibata-san continued to develop new models of hand bikes and released information at exhibitions, events and on the Internet. In recent years, these activities have been covered by various media outlets and have received a great deal of attention.
The ideal situation that Ugajin-san and Shibata-san have in mind is “manufacturing in Japan”. They assume that if hand bikes attract more attention, Japanese manufacturers and related parties may start focusing on the domestic production of hand bikes.
As their business is run by only two people, companies will not cooperate unless they have extremely high ambitions.
Given the future of Japanese manufacturing, they cannot have the mentality of thinking only of themselves or how everything is good at the moment. As manufactures, they look forward to manufacturing something young people would be interested in or something truly useful.
Up to now, Ugajin-san and Shibata-san have been working hard to establish “points”. Now those “points” and the “points” that enmono has are connected, and a new line is being made.
From the end of last month(2013/8), they launched a hand bike project at zenmono, and are seeking various types of support. Depending on how they support the project, supporters are given the opportunity to test ride a hand bike.
Shibata-san: “I want our supports to experience it and come away feeling that ‘manufacturing is fun.’ We are encouraged by smiling faces.”
Ugajin-san: “We will do our best to continue the projects and have fun at the same time!”
Ugajin Welding Industry Ltd.
TEKO Design Ltd.
A barrier-free hand bike “HBJ-X” produced by a welding shop