Development Room: the story of our manufacturing spirit

02 Security cameras

TSS began selling the DOM-1200B indoor security camera in 1998. The company's security camera business began with this small indoor camera. With the camera—considered as the security camera that allowed TSS to establish its epoch—able to render small turns and be customized as made possible by TSS as a small and medium-sized company, it may not be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the many products that embody the company's manufacturing spirit.

The story began in the autumn of 1997.

"Would you consider making security camera swivels with us? We need your (TSS) machinery technology."
"Security camera...?"
And so came a sudden phone call from someone from a company in Guangzhou, China.

Tanaka, the president at the time, responded to the request without knowing what was going on. It seems that someone from the pan-industry social event that he was a member of introduced TSS to him and subsequently made the call.
Coincidentally, it was at a time when the myth of Japan being safe was on the brim of collapsing due to an increasing rate of violent crimes. Having picked up on the signs of that, Tanaka predicted that the market of security-related products would greatly begin to shift and that phone call had touched something in his mind.
And just as it so happened, a workshop organized by the very pan-industry social event was then about to take place in Shanghai, He replied to the caller that he would like to meet at his hotel to discuss the matter directly before hanging up.

This was what they told him when they met at his hotel on the day of that workshop:
"Security cameras in China are mainly stationary and there is a need for a rotating camera market. However, imported cameras from the west are rather expensive, costing 1 million yen per set. Although we need to procure cheaper cameras with better performance from somewhere closer to us, we can only manufacture the electrical parts and the CCD camera here in China; the required swivel manufacturing technology is currently non-existent in China. That was the reason why we hoped to work with a small and medium-sized company in Japan and establish a joint company in the future."

Tanaka then thought:
"I wonder if what they are telling me is credible…But if we succeed we can acquire the technology. It does sound very attractive....."

"So, what is your decision, Mr. Tanaka? We are serious about this."

"...Let’s give it a go."

And so began the development of an indoor security camera swivel.

The first model used to create the camera swivel was one from a major Japanese company, but it was necessary to make the size more compact and give the camera itself higher precision, as well as making the device silent when in operation. With that in mind, Muroi, Kodake, and Tono became members of the Camera Business Division and began designing the swivel. However, as it was an entirely new area for them and as expected, they faced many difficulties.

Tanaka wanted to launch TSS’ own camera as quickly as possible. While this was for making profits, on the other hand it was also because he had wanted to show the world that “we can make this kind of thing.” In that sense there was urgency to make it happen.
Of course, a hurried project would lead to impossible tasks. As he became desperate to launch the camera, his staff faced the dilemma of compromising what they could not compromise, especially as technical experts.

"You get this part done by this day, right?"
"Mr. Tanaka, that’s a bit... We should take more time to consider this. If we don't..."
"That won’t help us achieve the target sales! It isn’t easy for me either. We have to get it done by this day!"
"Mr. Tanaka, more than the sales itself, we won’t even be able to achieve the target performance of the product! Please listen, Mr. Tanaka!"

Despite the arguments, they continue to follow Tanaka. -What kind of mechanism and parts would be perfect for making a compact-sized camera? Where would we store the substrate? Would our design make the camera rotate at the target speed? And would all our decisions and choices be adequate?-

With ups and downs along the way, the development of the camera went ahead. But just as they progressed this far, there was a rift between TSS and the Chinese company! Determined not to give up at that point, TSS desperately continued to negotiate with the Chinese company, but the deal ended up being cancelled.
What were all the efforts made so far for....? As Tanaka felt lost, one day a former classmate called upon him.

At the time, Japan's domestic indoor security cameras market was dominated by major security companies, allowing no room for small and medium-sized companies like TSS. On the other hand, the market for security camera for outdoor use did allow some business opportunities.
Tanaka's classmate, a man who was the general manager of the security camera business division of a major electrical equipment manufacturer in Japan was looking for a business partner to join his company to go into the outdoor security cameras market.

"Hey, Tanaka...why don’t you guys try working on outdoor cameras? I would be glad if you could work with us. So, what do you say, shall we do it together?"

And that was the beginning of the OEM development of outdoor security cameras. It was around the year 2000.

As outdoor security cameras are installed at locations such as along highways and at airports, much of the indoor security camera technology was inapplicable. In particular, it was extremely difficult to create a swivel that could withstand all weather conditions. It was necessary for them to start from scratch and create a technology that can make the cameras withstand water leaks, snow, freezing, temperature differences and other weather conditions that were not an issue with indoor cameras.

As with the making of the indoor model, the team was glad they finally finished creating the outdoor model. However, in the beginning many cameras would be returned immediately after shipment due to water leaks. Everyday the cameras kept being returned…but the team did not give up. With Ichii joining as a new team member, the newly powered-up team responded to the returning of cameras by checking every single one of them. —How much water and what level of water pressure over how long would cause the leaks? Is the camera built to withstand wind pressure so strong one cannot walk against it?

How can we evaluate and guarantee the required performance?- These questions were discussed time and again not only within the manufacturing department, but also with all related personnel, such as people from sales; the team built everything from nothing. As a small and medium-sized company, TSS also managed to facilitate small and complecated requests made by customers. While being disadvantaged by major manufacturers in terms of price competition, the team overcame problems and issues through their unique specification development and team cohesion.

The process had been a tedious one, where the team created a unique technology by accumulating know-how from countless verification tasks and conducting numerous reliability evaluations with the customers. During this process there were many conflicts not only within the company, but also with the customers. Regardless, everything was literally collaborated work. And all products created from that mirror the people who created them.
All that hard work paid off and eventually the team's own original outdoor security camera brand, the OSC-201/202 models, was complete. And business began expanding.

TSS has now nearly a decade of experience in security cameras, but they were hit by the tide of the times.
It was in 2004, when a trend to make communication equipment compact was rapidly progressing. Despite attempting to create a security camera that could be controlled from a mobile phone, TSS had to give up on the idea due to the company’s lack of communication-related technology. Not only that, as security systems themselves diversified, security camera became just one part of the entire system, and TSS was not going to survive without any knowhow on how to setup an entire security system.

Tanaka desperately considered options. He was sure the company would survive and the path to survival had to be somewhere out there. However, no matter how hard he looked, he never found that path. Despite all the sentimental memories of everything he and the company had put in hard work to achieve, the time to make a decision had come.

"...Let's call it quits"
This was the only choice left.

Companies who collaborated with TSS also agreed on this and it was then, when they officially decided to pull out of this business, that a company who required the technology for outdoor security cameras with the same needs as TSS called on the company. It was agreed that TSS would sell them the outdoor security camera division and with that TSS made the decision to stop production of indoor security cameras.
In 2006, while keeping part of the maintenance and repair section, the curtain was brought down on the security camera business at TSS.

The security In 2006, while keeping part of the maintenance and repair section, the curtain was brought down on the security camera business at TSS. camera business had been a difficult experience. As employees desperately hanging on to the vision painted by the president and to respond to customers’ expectations. Along the way there were real conflicts that went beyond the company. There is no doubt that there was a challenge of human nature where the team members wondered how they should face each other and others.
(To TSS) "You know, this is what I think. No one can work alone. In the end, it’s all about the unity of people. When people connect with one another by looking beyond their own standpoint, that’s when good things are created, wouldn’t you say so?"

Although the business itself has come to an end, the team members now walk their own paths, each proud with what they have learned from their customers.

(Except Tanaka, all characters in this story are pseudonyms. In consideration of related companies, parts of the story may differ from actual facts.)

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