Brother Industries

The Japanese company Brother Industries manufactures a range of consumer products, including sewing and knitting machines, business machines, and home electrical appliances. Brother has thirty-three foreign subsidiaries, and 90 percent of its sales are outside Japan.

Brother Industries began as the Yasui Sewing Machine Company, which was set up in Japan in 1908 to repair sewing machines and produce parts. In 1928, the company produced its own sewing machine, an industrial model, and adopted Brother as a brand name. It began producing domestic sewing machines in 1932. Two years later, it was incorporated as the Nippon Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company. In the 1950s, the company began to expand both its product line and its markets. In 1954, it produced its first knitting machine and entered the domestic electric appliance field. To stimulate overseas sales, the Brother International Corporation was set up in the United States in 1954; a European sales subsidiary followed in 1958.

In 1961, the company diversified into the machine tool and business machine fields by producing a small lathe, intended for the school market, and its first portable typewriter. The company changed its name to Brother Industries Ltd. in 1962. In 1968, Brother acquired the leading British sewing machine company, Jones, which had been set up near Manchester in 1859. Jones and Brother had developed a mutually beneficial partnership shortly after the end of World War II. Brother reached the production landmark of 10 million sewing machines in 1971. This was also the year that the company introduced its first high-speed printer. Brother began to manufacture sewing machines in Taiwan in 1979. Fourteen years later, it set up a domestic sewing machine factory in China.

In the 1980s and 1990s, while Brother continued to be a highly successful manufacturer of sewing and knitting machines, business machines became the company’s major growth area. In 1980, Brother produced its 10-millionth typewriter and launched its first electronic typewriter. It began manufacturing electronic typewriters in Britain at a new factory inWrexham in 1985. In the following year, Brother Industries (USA), Inc., was set up in Bartlett, Tennessee, to manufacture electronic typewriters. Production at the Wrexham factory was diversified in 1987 with the start of microwave oven and printer manufacture.

Brother launched its first fax machine in 1987. Another new product line in the business machine sector, electronic labeling machines, followed in 1988. Growing demand for Brother’s products led, in 1989, to the construction of new factories to manufacture parts in Ireland and Malaysia. In the 1990s, the fax machine became the company’s fastest-selling product ever. In order to meet demand, Brother began to manufacture fax machines in Malaysia in 1994. It took six years for the production of fax machines to reach the 1 million mark in 1993; accelerating sales meant that total fax machine production reached 2 million in 1994, 5 million in 1996, and 10 million in 1999. Today, two-thirds of company revenue comes from business machines, such as fax machines and computer printers, while about a fifth of revenue comes from sewing machines, knitting machines, and home electric appliances.