Shigematsu comes to town: Interview with Yuji Koga

A visit from STS Shigematsu over the summer has been the perfect opportunity for the No1 Japanese manufacturer of respiratory protection to gauge the specific needs of New Zealand companies and show off this innovative business’s latest products.

Yuji Koga – Foreign Trade Sub-Section Chief – said the past 18 months relationship with ph7 International had seen a huge growth in brand awareness and sales in New Zealand (outside of Asia we now rank in the top-two for global sales) but it was still vital to get feedback from customers and to see how Shigematsu was performing against more established companies.


Yuji Koga (Shigematsu) and Darryl Burn (ph7 International)


“The trip has been very positive,” Yuji said. “People tell us that wearing our masks is comfortable and breathing is comfortable – and it is very impressive to hear that the younger generations, especially, like the products.”

With its 100-year history and a strong culture of research and development, Shigematsu has traditionally not had to fight too hard to maintain market dominance in Asia – after all this is a company that can work directly with government in Japan and inform legislation to ensure workers always have adequate respiratory protection and companies have no option but to conform – but, in New Zealand, where legislation isn’t as black-and-white, the company has had to work hard to show the benefits of both technical requirements and usability (such as lightweight materials, intuitive filter attachments, high wearability and comfort levels, and speech diaphragms to aid communication).

Yuji Koga said this has resulted in Shigematsu’s adoption of the slogan “Safety with Style” and, more recently, the launch of an improved version of its reusable full face respirator at October’s A+A Safety, Security an Health at Work international trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany.



This mask, according to Yuji Koga, has already made a “big impact” on Kiwi customers because of its new features such as anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings, a “four-sphere” visor and set-back filters for a much improved field of vision, and full polycarbonate construction.

“In Japan we are No1 and businesses know and understand us: when we have a new product, everyone is interested. But in the rest of the world like New Zealand we are just another Asian company so people will ask what is so good about our products,” Yuji Koga said.

“So we have to explain the story that we have 100 years of experience, and that we aren’t just another company from Asia but are actually No1 in Japan, and that we have a strong history of success and research and development, and that we understand the idea of providing safety with style.

“The reaction to the new mask was that everyone was very happy because customers always want new products! They also like that it ties into the philosophy of safety with style so it looks good as well as having the technical requirements and performance.”

The other innovation Shigematsu was showing off during its visit was a new version of its most popular mask, the RS01, which is still extremely lightweight but is now manufactured in silicon to aid comfort.

ph7 International managing director Darryl Burn said being able to meet customers face-to-face was important for Shigematsu’s growing involvement in the New Zealand market – especially in areas such as asbestos removal where he says there still needs to be a “cultural shift” in how people view respiratory protection.

“We’re hoping that by getting the brand out there, people will become familiar with it and, because the benefits are so obvious when you look at the masks and filters from an end-users perspective, it’s quite appealing.”

As well as getting a feel for the New Zealand market and showing off two new products, Shigematsu also used the visit to announce planning for two new features that will benefit Kiwi businesses.

The first is something directly requested by New Zealand companies who aren’t used to changing filters after every use and that’s the expected addition of a pre-filter attachment for existing masks.

The second development, which is around a year away, is the addition of a microphone inside masks which would run off the existing battery and help improve communication between wearers.

ph7 International has a long history of working alongside New Zealand companies to ensure health and safety compliance and to minimise risk for workers. For more information about the Shigematsu range – including the revolutionary PAPR – contact us on 0800 323223, or via the website.

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