From Publishing to Nursing Care, a Project with “Benefits for All” that Expands Possibilities for Business
- #Japan Wholesaling
Gakken Group is engaged in issuing publications, providing cram school and other educational services, and manufacturing and selling childcare products. In recent years, it has also expanded its business to operating nursing facilities, such as houses to service the elderly and group homes for people with dementia, as well as facilities to support childcare.
Within these businesses, Gakken Products Support (GPS) manages the manufacturing of products handled by the Group, the copyright management, and the outsourcing of back office operations with the mission of “providing high quality services to Gakken Group companies”. The company's production and procurement control department mainly handles the procurement of paper and the management of the print binding process.
GPS is where Japan Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd. sells printing paper mainly from Oji Paper to, which GPS uses for Group publications, teaching materials for cram schools, and mail-order catalogs.
Publication Paper Sales Department I
(Currently General Manager Publication Paper Sales Department II)
Production and Procurement Control Department /
Business Operation Section
A Truly Japan Pulp & Paper Type of Proposal
In 2013, Gakken Group launched its medium-term management plan “Gakken 2013”. In the plan, it committed to investing management resources in areas such as cram school and nursing care operations with its existing publishing business as its core. “As the so-called publishing recession continued, the Production and Procurement Control Department, whose main function was procuring paper for publications, felt a sense of crisis,” Yamaguchi said. Something new had to be done. However, it was difficult to come up with a concrete plan.
That is when Japan Pulp & Paper made a proposal. GPS, Oji Nepia, and Japan Pulp & Paper would jointly sell paper diapers made by Oji Nepia, a Group company of Oji Paper, to Gakken Cocofump Holdings, which operates a nursing care business.
It would not only expand the business scope of GPS, but Gakken Cocofump Holdings would also be able to improve its services by providing high-quality Oji Nepia products to residents of its facilities. Oji Nepia could also conduct comprehensive market research and respond to demands from the expanding market for serviced housing of elderly people, by learning what types of products and services are needed. “It would benefit our company by generating business other than paper for publications,” Yoshida said.
It was indeed a project with “benefits for all”. The idea was unique to Japan Pulp & Paper, a company that has long brought together paper manufacturers and user companies, conducting business that benefits all companies involved.
Three Companies with a Common Destiny
However, the proposal was not immediately commercialized and Japan Pulp & Paper continued to explore and propose ideas with GPS. “To get them to understand the paper diaper business and to have them recognize the need for purchasing Nepia products from our company, we conducted tours of Oji Nepia factories and had the GPS management team wear the paper diapers themselves in order to have them experience the product from the user's perspective,” Yoshida said.
If the Company were selling printing paper, it could have taken a hands-off approach after bringing GPS and Oji Nepia together. But it didn't. “It wouldn’t have been exciting. Most importantly, we started this project with GPS,” said Yoshida. The company took on a new initiative and stayed with the customer until the end. This attitude was also a very Japan Pulp & Paper like way of doing business.
Until then, diapers used in Gakken Cocofump Holdings nursing facilities had mostly been brought in by the elderly residents’ families, and facilities initially did not feel the need to purchase them in bulk. Therefore, Japan Pulp & Paper, GPS, and Oji Nepia made a point of visiting nursing care sites all over Japan to assiduously promote the quality and after-sales services of Oji Nepia products.
“There was a division of roles, with GPS being the contact point for Gakken Cocofump Holdings , Oji Nepia the provider of information and product knowledge as the manufacturer, and Japan Pulp & Paper charged with bringing the proposal together, but all three companies had a common destiny. We were promoting sales together,” said Yamaguchi.
Beyond the Success
The business, which started in 2016 with 15 offices providing products to approximately 150 people, has grown to a business with 100 offices providing products to an estimated 2,000 people as of January 2020.
Residents of nursing homes are not only able to use high-quality Oji Nepia products, but also save time and effort spent on shopping. Nursing care facilities have praised the products, saying: “The quality is good,” and “The lecture for staff on after-sales services was very informative”. The products have also led to cost reductions through management and centralized purchasing. For Oji Holdings, the project has not only increased sales for Oji Nepia, but has also expanded transactions for the entire Group, further strengthening its relationship with one another.
The biggest achievement for GPS was the improvement in its contribution to the Group. It was able to showcase its new initiative in the nursing care business to other business partners and publishers at a Gakken Group exhibition with a display of diapers and tissues in a Japan Pulp & Paper booth.
The project has strengthened the relationship between GPS and Japan Pulp & Paper. As a result, the sales volume of printing paper that Japan Pulp & Paper had in deals with GPS has also increased. Japan Pulp & Paper succeeded in expanding both its business scope and sales volume.
According to Yamaguchi, “Having talked about this project with Japan Pulp & Paper to other business partners we now receive a lot of proposals for new business ideas.” It seems to have prompted change in the traditional way of doing business in the paper industry.
The project was shared throughout Japan Pulp & Paper as a success story. Japan Pulp & Paper has long had a culture that allows employees to freely try new initiatives. “Many people appear to have been inspired”, Yoshida said. New projects may be launched again going forward.
Both Yamaguchi and Yoshida also feel it is time to try new initiatives. Japan Pulp & Paper, while returning to its roots of supplying printing paper, is considering new products and private brand development. GPS plans to develop the know-how and schemes it acquired in this project and expand its business target from adults to children in daycare centers and kindergartens. Their sights are set beyond their current success. Japan Pulp & Paper and GPS will continue to take on new challenges together.