Customer Story

Hamaya: Transforming traditional ways of work seamlessly with Google Workspace

Hamaya digitally transforms analog workplace practices by streamlining processes and improving cross collaboration with automation and Google Workspace.

Google Cloud Results

Improves overall productivity by saving 5,760 man hours a year

• Saves business of up to 5.76 million yen a year
• Reduces man hours by 5,760, and labor costs
• Develops more than 100 tools and improves operational efficiency
• Enables launch of consulting business based on DX success experience

“The biggest impact is that we were able to greatly improve the profit margin by utilizing the data for marketing. What was about 9% has increased to about 30%. Developing original products has also contributed greatly to the growth of the company. Having more time each day means I am able to take on the challenge of more creative tasks that I was unable to focus on until now.” – Shinichiro Wakai, CTO, Hamaya

As a wholesaler dealing in handicraft materials such as yarn and knitting needles, Hamaya has been supporting people's handicraft projects and love of "creating, connecting and communicating” for several decades. However, as the company continued growing, Hamaya realized that it needed to turn its traditional business structure around. Shinichiro Wakai, CTO of Hamaya, recounts his first impression of “an amazing analog company."

"I joined the company in the summer of 2018, but even then, handwriting memos was the norm. Orders from clients were often faxed, with most of them being placed via telephone calls. Emails were not really used," shares Wakai.

Hamaya wanted to put a stop to such analog practices, and embarked on a DX (digital transformation) conversion project in 2018. Wakai led the project, and most of Hamaya’s work is now centralized on Google Workspace. With more than 100 tools developed mainly using Sheets, work efficiency has greatly improved, resulting in a reduction of 5,760 man hours a year, and a converted cost of 5.76 million yen.

While success provided proof of the importance and convenience of DX and IT, which led to major buy-in and adoption by the company, Wakai recalls that there were still a few challenges when it came to implementation. The average age of a Hamaya employee is about 60 years old, and the human resources team was encumbered by manual processes and ways of working. With a lean team, limited resources, and almost no budget, Hamaya had concerns about introducing DX. “There was almost no budget for DX, and I was worried people would be passing the work around, and requests to work outside of the office from even a mobile device” says Wakai.

After much deliberation, there was no other choice but Google Workspace, a cloud service that anyone can use easily, is multifunctional, and has good security.“Given that Google Workspace is easily accessible on your mobile phone from almost anywhere, provided multiple functions and had high security built-in, it was the obvious choice.”

Listening to teams to progressively build DX

“We constantly created tools that could be developed within a month and had immediate effects. In doing so, the effects of DX spread quickly by word-of-mouth among employees, making it much easier to implement." – Shinichiro Wakai, CTO, Hamaya

There are three effective steps that Wakai took when he started implementation. Step one involved one-on-one interviews with every Hamaya employee, starting with teams that would be affected first. The objective is to understand each member's work for the week. Armed with the knowledge of how many man-hours were needed for a task, Wakai had a starting point from which to work with.

"What I kept in mind during the interviews was understanding the areas of concern for each employee. I assured them that DX does not “replace” them, and that in fact, saving time and improving efficiencies meant they could focus on more creative work,” shares Wakai. “With proper communication and care shown, I was able to get them onboard with the project.”

The second step was to share small wins so employees understood the benefits of DX. Wakai adds “Some employees already had a positive response to DX. By leading with the issues of teams that had DX fans, we were able to easily highlight the benefits.”

“We constantly created tools that could be developed within a month and had immediate effects. In doing so, the effects of DX spread quickly by word-of-mouth among employees, making it much easier to implement."

An early stage example was when Wakai and his team automated forms, which previously involved printing out more than 100 documents daily and checking them. What used to take hours can now be completed with a single click. In addition, the supply ordering system became more effective.

"When ordering supplies, we used to circulate a piece of white paper and literally write down the supplies we needed. Today, we have a system that asks you to fill in a spreadsheet and automatically totals orders. This is a company wide circulation for all employees, who now feel the effects of convenience that technology can bring,” says Wakai.

The third step involves the development of a simple customer management system. The number of visits and achievements, the rate of attracting customers to stores and events, and even the transportation costs to customers are now recorded and scored in detail. Before, the sales strategy had to rely on the gut feelings of sales teams.

Wakai admits that it was a business opportunity that he had overlooked. “It is a system that was realized with the cooperation of the sales department, because the initial steps taken raised the perception of IT and made it favorable. I think that 80% of DX’s success will be determined by internal buy-in, but we are taking small steps in the right direction. It was an event that made me aware of the importance of following through the process.” He goes on to share that thus far, almost every progress made has been achieved with just a single spreadsheet.

Going beyond wholesales to becoming a leader in DX

“It's no exaggeration to say that for a small business like us, not being able to adapt to the digital world of today, would have resulted in our decline. Understanding is the first step in DX, and in that sense, the smallest. Beyond its ease of use and implementation, Google Workspace is also a cost effective solution, even for SMEs. In the future, Hamaya will look to expand its IT services in parallel with the wholesale business, and work with SMEs who have similar challenges. We aim to help expand the adoption of technology.” – Shinichiro Wakai, CTO, Hamaya

Armed with data on the man-hours and time required for each job, Wakai and his team were able to immediately realize the effects of introducing Google Workspace in a short time.

“The biggest impact is that we were able to greatly improve the profit margin by utilizing the data for marketing. What was about 9% has increased to about 30%. Developing original products has also contributed greatly to the growth of the company. Having more time each day means I am able to take on the challenge of more creative tasks that I was unable to focus on until now," says Wakai.

Today, Hamaya is committed to the development of IT personnel, and the buzz created around the DX project continues. Employees looking at digital transformation in a new light, often wanting to make something new themselves.

Hamaya now also boasts an IT Department, which Wakai leads.

“It's no exaggeration to say that for a small business like us, not being able to adapt to the digital world today would have resulted in our decline. Understanding is the first step in DX, and in that sense, the smallest. Beyond its ease of use and implementation, Google Workspace is also a cost effective solution, even for SMEs. In the future, Hamaya will look to expand its IT services in parallel with the wholesale business, and work with SMEs who have similar challenges. We aim to help expand the adoption of technology," concludes Wakai.

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.