What is an important issue that your company is currently facing? My name is Dermot Vibert. I work with Rio Tinto Japan. On March 11, 2011 I was in our office when we were hit by an extremely strong earthquake. Among the many issues we faced immediately after the earthquake was what would we do on the Monday morning when we had to supposedly return to the office and recommence business. What caused this issue to arise and why is it important? – Marketing The earthquake in the afternoon of March 11 was, although it struck 520 kilometers from Tokyo, it was an extremely strong one for us in Tokyo.
The buildings shook severely two or three times, and then many, many times thereafter because of the aftershocks. On at least two occasions we had to go under our desks with our helmets on and literally hold on to the legs of the tables. It was that strong. The earthquake knocked out a lot of the power system, and as a result the trains were not able to function normally, and because there was not enough power as well, things like traffic lights, lights in buildings, etc. , all these things were affected.
There were many unknowns such as what damage there really was in the Tokyo area, for how long would trains not be running, would there be adequate food in two or three days time, what was going to happen with fuel supply, because when we were watching on television, one of the spectacular scenes we saw was a gas terminus on fire in the Tokyo Bay area, so we had a lack of information, and as a result there were many many uncertainties. We did not know if we could go home that day or not. In the end most of us did not go home. We stayed and had to travel the next day.
It just was not a situation conducive to running a business in a normal environment. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career path to date? My name is Dermot Vibert. I live in Japan. I have been there for 24 years. I went to university in Montreal, McGill University. I did a BA in East Asian Studies, then a MA in Geography. I then went to Japan in 1988 on the Jet Program where I worked in a high school for three years teaching English. I then entered OKI Electric and spend six and a half years in their electronic components business section, and then in 1997 December I joined Rio Tinto Japan.
I have been with them ever since. Can you describe a typical work day for yourself? I will wake up perhaps at 6:00. I leave the house at 7:00. I walk to the train station, which is about an eight minute walk. Then I take an hour and a half train into Tokyo, and then I walk from the final station into our office. I will get to the office about 8:15, 8:30 perhaps. I will then work until perhaps 6:00 in the evening. Maybe two or three evenings a week I will go out with a customer and after that I will return home, so I have a pretty full week.
What is your role in the company? I have a number of jobs at Rio Tinto Japan. One of them is I look after our titanium and zircon for Rio Tinto Iron Titanium in Japan and Korea. I also am manager of the president’s office for Rio Tinto Japan. I also have a role in external affairs activities for our company’s branch. Can you describe your leadership style? In general I tend to lead by example where possible, and I also try to encourage my coworkers or subordinates in a positive manner. I prefer not to use harsh criticism and I certainly do not shout.
What does your organisation do and how is it different? Rio Tinto Japan has two operations. One is a buy-sell operation which is linked with our aluminum division. Then we have our service provider operation, which basically covers all of the other business units who are doing business in Japan. We facilitate business between them and our customer base here in Japan. Who buys your company products and services? Rio Tinto sells to a broad range of industries in Japan depending on the particular raw material product that we are selling.
For example iron ore will go to the steel industry, coal will go to the power companies or to the steel energy, aluminum will go obviously to the automobile industry, titanium will go to the pigment industry, or the titanium sponge industry, copper goes to the smelters, salt, we also have a lot of business in Chlor Alkali side of business, so there are many industries into which we sell Rio Tinto products in Japan. Can you describe the industry within which your company competes? Rio Tinto Japan is located in Tokyo. We have 27 employees.
We look after between 13 and 14 products, and Rio Tinto sells these products into dozens of industries. Can you describe the organisation of your company and why it takes this form? Rio Tinto is a publicly listed company. It is headquartered in London. We have the following business groups. We have aluminum, copper, diamonds and minerals, energy, iron ore, exploration, technology and innovation. In Japan, as we are a liaison office and a buy-sell operation we have approximately 27 staff at the moment in one location. Can you describe the flow of activities or value chain of a typical product sold by Rio Tinto?
Let us take titanium feed stock. The product is mined in either South Africa, Madagascar, or Quebec. The product is then the Aluminite which is the core product. It is brought to our smelter which is either in Quebec or Richards Bay, South Africa. The product is smelted and therefore upgraded to become a slag or an upgraded slag, which basically means that the TiO2 content is a higher purity than what was the case when it was taken out of the ground in either rock form Quebec or in sand form in Madagascar or South Africa.
This slag then is brought over to our market here in Japan. It is then sold to pigment makers, the majority, and also to titanium sponge makers. The pigment makers use the titanium slag to make pigment which they then sell to the panes, plastics and paper industry in particular. There is ink as well. The titanium sponge manufacturers will make sponge out of our product, and they will sell this to a number of industries including the aircraft industry, well it makes its way to the aircraft industry.
It also can be found in products such as glasses, golf clubs, water desalination plants, jet engines, and various other applications. How do firms compete in this industry? Rio Tinto competes in Japan with its various natural resource products and minerals. We basically will compete in the various industries with other major mining companies on price, on relationships, on quality, on supply reliability, and various other factors. Obviously they are not always of the same importance, but usually all of these points are important.