Ryugo Oyama, CEO of CSS Engineering Co., Ltd.
Determining the positional relationship between certain location points and displaying it on the ground, or measuring the shape, area, and volume of the earth surface—Surveying is crucial work when it comes to improving urban infrastructure. Everyone has seen this kind of survey being conducted, where special machines are installed on tripods at riverbeds or the side of the road.
In the past, calculations for surveys were done by hand using function tables, and depending on the scale of the site, it could be a laborious job that took nearly an entire day and many hands. By introducing state of the art equipment, unique technologies, and rational division of labor based on the situation, CSS Engineering Co., Ltd has built a smart surveying business model. We interviewed the president Ryugo Oyama.
CSS Engineering Co., Ltd was founded in 1985 by President Oyama’s predecessor, the first president Yuzou Takashiro (currently an advisor).
"Takashiro started the company as a landscaping survey business using his former job. At the time, coordinate calculation for surveys was commonly done by hand, but Takashiro noticed that using Sharp’s “Pocket Computer”, which was widely used in the 1980s, calculation time could be shortened considerably. Furthermore, as a result of developing his own program "Omakase-kun", he succeeded in reducing calculations that took several hours to several seconds. This was our company's first breakthrough."
10 years after its foundation, the succeeded in developing the survey device “Omakase-Kun Pro” using Zaurus, a PDA (personal digital assistant) made by Sharp and used from the 1990s to 2000. This was the company's chance for a second leap forward.
"By creating the surveying technology using the Zaurus, we were able to dramatically improve operability. Since it has a touch panel and can be operated intuitively, more than before even workers with little experience could produce high quality surveys just like professionals.”
Incidentally, this technology, which originally required two people to survey, can now be operated by one person with the current “Omakase-Kun One Man”. Since then CSS Engineering has continued to reflect unique technology for equipment that has appeared in each era, such as 3D scanners, CAD, and GPS. With creating fresh added value as their strength, they have been pioneers in the surveying market.
[PHOTO on the left]
In the 2016 fiscal year, the company received the Science and Technology Award from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for a compact survey instrument "Koro Koro Survey" using patented technology developed by the advisor Yuzou Takashiro that can measure irregularities on the road with high accuracy just by rolling.
[PHOTO on the left]
In addition to telemarketing, the surveying work is divided into four steps: survey preparation, on-site surveying, creation of CAD data, and output and delivery of the survey results. They promote thorough streamlining of operations, such as filing by case and data organization, leading to shortening of time and better profit margins.
According to President Oyama, the world of construction has a strong sense of craftsmanship, relying on one’s own skill cultivated over many years, and so many people in the industry are reluctant to introduce new technology. Despite this, there was a reason why CSS Engineering focused proactively on new technology.
“For one, simply put Takashiro liked creating things like that, but part of it was there was a need to press beyond that. One day in the 11th year since our establishment, all the main employees suddenly left the company due to dissatisfaction with the working environment and set up a surveying company nearby. Our company's survival suddenly fell into crisis. ‘We will develop and utilize surveying instruments that can produce high quality and uniform result even when used by workers with little experience,’ and ‘We will improve the working environment and make employees happy by using state of the art software and equipment to streamline work and shorten work time.’ Takashiro made himself clear on these two management policies to be emphasized. Then we encouraged further technological development at the company, and developed innovative new equipment one after the other. It was successful, and we succeeded in breaking into new markets such as landscaping, civil engineering, embankment, and so on, which were once the center of the former business.".
[PHOTO on the left]
CSS Engineering counts over 10,000 sites survey since establishment that have used their advanced technical power. The photograph here is one of those sites, the Takaosan Interchange on the Ken-O Expressway. Since 1998, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport has operated NETIS (New Technology Information System” for public works, and when using technology registered here for public projects under MLIT, it is subject to additional construction performance evaluations. CSS has many unique technologies registered to NETIS, and one can see the high level of skill.
Among the many survey devices and services from CSS Engineering, the MMS (mobile mapping system) is attracting attention particularly in recent years.
This is an omnidirectional measurement device based on the Leica Pegasus 2, developed by Leica Geosystems, a worldwide survey instruments manufacturer in Switzerland, which we have added to our company’s unique technologies to further improve accuracy. Leica's products had a surveying error of up to about 30 mm, but by developing our own correction software, accuracy has been improved to an error of about 1 to 3 mm. When installed on the roof of a car, it can perform high-speed surveying at 1 million points per second at 5cm pitch, meaning that surveying time is shortened dramatically and it is no longer necessary to block traffic on large roads.”
Moreover, the MMS introduced by the company is detachable, making it possible to mount it on a bulldozer or boat and use it for a variety of purposes such as agricultural or residential construction work, revetment construction, tunnels, subway construction, public roads and highways, and the building of gold courses, parks and sports grounds. President Oyama takes pride in how this has led to further development in the market.
“Currently, there are about 3.4 million skilled workers in the Japanese civil engineering industry, but it is said that this number will be reduced to about 2.4 million in the next 10 years. In other words, even if there is work available, the number of skilled workers will be critically low, and there will be more anxiety about labor shortages than there is now. I am proud to say that a technology like MMS will have be valuable in making up for these manpower shortages.”
Incidentally, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is taking the decrease of manpower in industry seriously and is promoting a policy called "i-Construction" as a countermeasure. This is an effort aimed at introducing ICT (information communication technology) to the construction site to improve productivity and appeal of the work itself. One can see that the aims of CSS Engineering, which are in line with the direction of the nation, are a promising thing.
[PHOTO on the left]
Cars equipped with MMS that have GNSS (global navigation satellite system), omnidirectional cameras, and light sensors in addition to 3D scanners acquire data (below) as they drive along the street (above).
Finally, we asked about the appeal and merit of being located in Tama City.
“About 30 years ago when the company was founded, there was a lot of construction work around Tama New Town for things such as residential areas and parks, so the fact that there was a high need for surveying was a benefit. After that, we actively hired women living in the Tama New Town area, and the strength that they have become has been a huge merit for our company.”
Incidentally, 22 of the company's 73 employees are women. It is one of the highest rates in the industry. We have a wide range of faces, from those who have completed the first stage of parenting to young employees balancing childcare and work.
“Also, since the Ken-O Expressway was opened in addition to the Chuo Expressway, I feel that our company, which has many projects in the Kanto area, is blessed with convenience of transportation. Because having many cars is necessary for business, the fact that parking is a lot cheaper compared to the downtown area is another appeal. We pay 20,000 yen a month to employees living in Tama City as a “neighborhood residence allowance”. With the encouragement of this system, most of our employees live in Tama City, meaning they do not have long commutes and live comfortably in close proximity. We began recruiting new graduates 5 years ago as well. Currently, the average employee age of our company is late 30s, which is unusually young in the industry.”
Introduction of new technology over the years, active hiring of skilled workers who are young or female—CSS engineering continues to challenge what has been the norm in the surveying industry.
[PHOTO on the right]
The orderly office environment is another feature of CSS Engineering. Many women initially join the company as part time workers, then are hired full time. In doing so, the company has on several occasions used the “Career Up Grant”, a grant from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to subsidize employers who implemented efforts to promote career advancement of non-regular workers within the company.