ITOCHU Announces Entry into Component Machining Business by Utilizing Digitization Technologies

Investing in U.S. Plethora

September 20, 2018

ITOCHU Corporation (headquartered in Minato-ku, Tokyo; Yoshihisa Suzuki, President & COO; hereinafter “ITOCHU”) announced that it will enter the contracted production service business of prototypes and small-lot components through digitization, by investing in Plethora Corporation (headquartered in San Francisco, United States; Nick Pinkston, Founder and CEO; hereinafter “Plethora”). Plethora has been promoting innovation in the component machining business through digitization.

With rapid advances in new technologies such as AI and IoT in the manufacturing industry, a major transformation called “the Fourth Industrial Revolution” is taking place. In the meantime, there is great demand for automation in the manufacturing process, given the serious lack of engineers on the manufacturing frontlines.

Innovation in manufacturing technologies that utilize digitization technologies heralds a new age of manufacturing at a time when there is a strong need for reduction in prototyping lead times, and given the increased demand in small-lot production of a broad range of products as well as a shorter product development cycles in the United States, digitization is increasingly important. Plethora has been able to digitize and automate the prototype parts machining processes by combining the use of the Internet with its own algorithms. As a result, it is able to provide a contracted production service with a very short turnaround time. Immediately after a customer uploads their component CAD data onto the Plethora website, the feasibility of machining and estimates will be displayed on the screen. Products can then be delivered to the customer in as little as one day after an order has been placed on the web. Plethora also has its sights set on the Win-Win sharing model to expand production capacity, technical responses, and to enhance the operating rate of partner factories. For example, machine tools that an external partner possesses in a remote location will be linked via the Internet through digitization, and components can be machined, utilizing the idle time of these machines.

ITOCHU engages in the sale of a wide range of industrial machines, including machine tools, by leveraging its sales and technological support networks in Japan, Europe, America, China, and other Asian countries. Through this investment, ITOCHU aims to launch a sharing-type business model of owning and utilizing machines by actively using the experience it has cultivated through the sales of machines and its client networks, and will promote a digital contracted production service business.

ITOCHU will seek to expand the digital manufacturing platform business to respond to any needs in manufacturing on a one-stop basis. At the same time, it will accumulate business know-how in the digital contracted production service business, and create synergies with existing projects and businesses in Japan and overseas.

Overview of Plethora Corporation (as of the end of July 2018)

Corporate name Plethora Corporation
Representative Nick Pinkston(Founder & CEO)
Address 701 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco CA 94124
Business activities Contracted production service of prototype parts

Overview of Plethora digitization technologies

Image of machining components at Plethora