1. Improving Productivity in the Manufacturing Industry
Meeting the Automation Challenge (1933-1960))

1933: The Origins of Innovation

Development of a timer for X-ray machines

X-ray timer

In 1932, a friend of OMRON founder Kazuma Tateisi who worked as an X-ray salesman said to him, "If there were a high-precision timer for X-ray photography capable of operating accurately at a speed of 1/20 of a second, it would be huge success."

Inspired by his friend's remark, Mr. Tateisi came up with the idea of using an induction-type protective relay that he had worked on in his previous position at Inoue Electric Manufacturing. It took Mr. Tateisi a month of trial and error to complete a sketch of the timer. In 1933, he delivered a handmade prototype to Nissei Hospital in Osaka, where it was tested and proved effective in operating at the required speed of 1/20 of a second. The hospital strongly recommended the timer to Dai Nippon X-ray Manufacturing Co., and Mr. Tateisi soon began to receive large orders from the company.

This was the beginning of OMRON's commitment to "challenging ourselves to always do better" and the first milestone in our history of innovation. In addition to providing the financial base of the company, Mr. Tateisi's success with the X-ray timer determined the direction of future technological developments.

1935: Establishment of a Relay Factory

Development of a general-purpose relay

As production of X-ray timers gradually picked up, Mr. Tateisi developed an induction-type protective relay for use in power switchboards based on the voltage relay he had used for X-ray timers, and expanded sales channels.

In 1934, Japan was hit by Typhoon Muroto. Repairs necessitated by the typhoon created a surge in demand for protective relays, which convinced Mr. Tateisi to stake the company's future on relays.

  • MR model electromagnetic relay
  • Relay assembly at Nozato Factory

1943: Expansion of Automation Devices

Successful production of Japan-made precision switches

In 1941, OMRON was asked by the University of Tokyo's Aeronautics Laboratory to work on domestic production of the precision switch. This switch boasted durability of more than 100,000 operations, an incredible lifespan at the time, considering its small size.

After extensive trial and error, OMRON finally perfected the precision switch-the first of its kind in Japan. This dedication to research and development allowed OMRON to pioneer the development of control components.

  • The first domestically produced micro switches
  • Kyoto factory from which OMRON resumedbusiness after the head office and mainfactory in Osaka were destroyed inWorld War II


Postwar Restoration

Postwar rebirth with household electrical appliances
Tabletop cigarette lighter and long-burning matches

Japan's defeat in World War II devastated the country's industrial infrastructure. This led to dwindling orders for relays, OMRON's mainstay product. In response, we focused our energy on developing home appliances such as a portable clay stove, a curling iron for women and long-burning matches. These products allowed OMRON to make a new start after the end of the war.

Year One of Automation
MIL spec-compliant inspection facility

In 1955, OMRON began developing precision switches in response to a call for their increased domestic production by Japan's Defense Agency. The switches had to meet US military specification MIL-Q-5923C. Taking a page from the MIL specs, OMRON built a unique management structure that covered everything from R&D and production to business administration. Since OMRON built this foundation for its automation business in 1955, we refer to that year as "Year One of Automation."

1960: Advancement of Automated Systems Through Technological Innovation

Development of a "dream switch"

As automation spread throughout Japan, market demand for high-performance precision switches capable of withstanding more than 100 million cycles increased. Mr. Tateisi believed that this could only be achieved by creating a switch with a contactless (solid state) configuration, and challenged his engineers to develop such a switch. A team of seven young researchers referred to by colleagues as the "Seven Samurai" eventually succeeded.

Dubbed the "dream switch," this new discovery was unveiled at the Osaka International Trade Fair in 1960. It received a positive response, accelerating the incorporation of electronics into automation devices.

  • The "Seven Samurai" hard at work in the attic
  • TL-1 model solid state proximity switch


Construction of the Central R&D Laboratory

External view of the Central R&D Laboratory

OMRON built the Central R&D laboratory in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto in 1960 at a cost of 280 million yen, which was four times the amount of capital held by the company at that time. This proactive investment in R&D supported OMRON's growth. Following the construction of the Central R&D Laboratory, as many as 731 new product models were developed, including 319 semiconductor-related products. This was more than two times the number of new products introduced in the previous five years. This progressive investment in R&D helped us earn a reputation as a technological leader.