Kure City in Hiroshima Prefecture had long been known as a shipbuilding city when, in 1937, DISCO Corporation was founded in its Aga-machi locality as Dai-Ichi Seitosho.
At the time, Kure was home to the Kure Naval Arsenal, which is known for having built the battleship Yamato, and was hailed as Japan’s “high-tech mecca” with its flourishing grinding industry. However, as many excellent companies in the same industry were already established in the area, those companies established later, including Dai-Ichi Seitosho, were unable to complete on a quality level for military orders. Instead, Dai-Ichi reluctantly moved its head office to Tokyo to focus on building business within the civilian sector.
As Japan recovered from the war, Dai-Ichi received an interesting request from an electric meter manufacturer. They needed to grind and polish a C-shaped magnet for use in electricity meters that measure the electricity consumption in individual homes and wanted Dai-Ichi to to produce blades that could grind it. Dai-Ichi gathered a crew of engineers and worked on making thinner blades. They succeeded in developing a thin, high-precision blade (1.2 millimeters thick)—at the time a revolutionary advance in abrasives technology.
Inspired by this success, Dai-Ichi began to take a deep interest in cutting, and in particular accuracy in cutting.
Without the relocation of the head office and the shift in focus to production of thin blades, DISCO as it is today may not have existed.
DISCO's abrasive wheels continued to grow thinner. In 1968, DISCO introduced MICRON-CUT, a cut-off wheel just 40 micrometers thick. MICRON-CUT won the New Product Award, conferred by leading industrial newspaper Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, as one of the ten most significant new products of 1968.
There was still one barrier that stood in the way of even greater success. When a problem was encountered in processing, the equipment manufacturers would usually blame the DISCO abrasive wheel. This was because no equipment existed yet that could truly take advantage of DISCO’s high-precision blades. Even when DISCO commissioned custom-specification equipment from equipment manufacturers, it was unable to handle DISCO’s blades. Thus, DISCO decided that it would have to take on the challenge of producing the equipment itself. DISCO’s stance of focusing on applications (usage technologies), which continues to this day, was the push that led to this first step toward equipment development.
In addition, as its technology developed both in variety and sophistication, DISCO grew into a global company. In 1969, even before the term "Silicon Valley" was coined, DISCO established there its first overseas subsidiary.
In 1974, the University of Tokyo requested that DISCO perform cutting in preparation for analysis of a moon rock that had been brought back to Earth by Apollo 11. This honor was representative of the acclaim that DISCO’s precision dicing technology had obtained even outside its industry.
Seven years after the launch of MICRON-CUT, a DISCO R&D team, under the leadership and guidance of Shinji Sekiya (Executive Director at the time), developed DAD-2H, the precursor to the modern-day dicing saw. SEMICON West was scheduled to be held around the same time in Silicon Valley, which meant this was to be DAD-2H’s debut. Since wheel breakage and stoppage frequently occurred during cutting at that time, the team worked with the strong conviction that “DAD-2H should not stop even once during the show.” As a result, the equipment was able to be kept running continuously throughout the show and quickly gained a reputation for its “unstoppability” in comparison to its competitors.
Since DISCO had transformed itself from a small abrasives shop to a leading manufacturer of precision processing tools and equipment and because the character of the company had changed, in 1977, Dai-Ichi Seitosho Co., Ltd. took the D, I, S, and CO in its name and became DISCO.
In 1992, DISCO initiated a special new project. The goal was to completely revamp major equipment models in time for the SEMICON Japan trade show to be held one year later. Fifteen members averaging 25 years of age participated.
A section head at a large device maker, stationed at a plant in Kyushu, had originally come to DISCO with a challenge: "We want to put the equipment for each process together, in one big U-shaped production line, so that a single person can operate them all at once. So we need smaller, cheaper manual dicing saws. If you can do this, we’ll take 200 units.” With this challenge, a project was launched to implement a model change, including the development of a manual dicing saw, which previously had not been planned.
The project members worked hard day and night. A year after the launch of the project and after having made some remarkable changes to the equipment, they were able to display a total of 10 units at SEMICON Japan—fully automatic dicing saws DFD620 and DFD640, semi-automatic grinder DAG110, and semi-automatic dicing saw DAD320.
The project was complete, and the section head at the aforementioned device maker was promptly contacted. Unfortunately, he had been transferred to Malaysia and, despite his continued enthusiasm, could only issue an order for 10 units. But it didn't matter. Although the plan had not gone as expected, the new, smaller equipment was an immediate hit around the world.
DISCO Values clearly defines the values shared as a company, detailing the approach with which and the direction in which corporate activities should be carried out.
DISCO's increasing size and complexity was the main reason for the introduction of the system. When a company is small, communication is fluid and most employees know each other. Further, employees tend to be generalists, understanding the better part of what goes on inside the firm. In terms of values as well, they understand the kind of actions or initiatives likely to be supported by management, and ethical principles tend to be shared and agreed upon.
As a company grows beyond a certain point, however, the number of employees who know each other decreases. As people's jobs become more specialized, the company as a whole becomes more difficult to comprehend, and employees begin to lose interest in the work of those around them. When this happens, it becomes more and more difficult to share vision and values. This is one of what can be called “big-company diseases,” and it “big-company disease” had begun to show at DISCO. In response to this situation and in order to regain the shared values it had possessed when it was smaller, in 1995, DISCO launched Future Project Alpha, aimed at top management. For over two years, project members had thoroughly discussed DISCO’s purpose, and in December 1997, DISCO introduced DISCO Values to employees.
However, there is no meaning in a system simply being announced. Thus, DISCO Values undergoes continual review and revision to remain consistent with changes in the managerial environment and society, and has come to be shared by all employees while serving as a guide in every activity that DISCO undertakes.
In November 2004, DISCO relocated from Higashi-Kojiya(Tokyo, Ota-ku), which had been its base for nearly twenty years, to the new head office and R&D center in Omori-Kita(Tokyo, Ota-ku).
When the head office moved to Higashi-Kojiya from Shinagawa in 1984, the number of employees working there was about two hundred. After the move, the number of employees increased with the growth of DISCO, and twenty years later in 2004 the number of employees working at the head office was approaching one thousand. As a result of repeated measures to increase the facilities for employees, such as rebuilding aged buildings and constructing new buildings, the head office facilities in 2004 were dispersed over seven locations, with six buildings in Higashi-Kojiya and the training center in Higashi-Shinagawa several kilometers away. Since sometimes the trial manufacture site, application lab or one's desk was located in different buildings, on rainy days engineers where often seen walking quickly between two buildings carrying a tool box in one hand and an umbrella in the other.
After the head office moved to Omori-Kita in 2004, all of DISCO's core facilities, such as administration, R&D, application lab and service departments, were in the same building. This has enabled DISCO to provide better service and solutions more efficiently to the customer.
In February 2015, construction was completed on the new building at DISCO's largest manufacturing affiliate, Kuwabata Plant (Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture). The official name of the new building is "B Zone, A Building, Kuwabata Plant." The building serves as a structure for housing large equipment, and is the same size as A Building. Around the same time, road construction around the plant progressed, allowing the Kuwabata Plant to be seen from places that were previously inaccessable. Seeing the tall mountains and the eight story Kuwabata Plant, far removed from inner Kure City, is truly breathtaking.
In March, one month after the completion of the new building, the "Higashihiroshima, Kure Expressway" was fully opened, connecting the Sanyo Expressway and the Aga region near DISCO's Kure Plant. An interchange for the expressway was also built just next to Kuwabata Plant. The expressway can now be used for the majority of the trip when travelling from Hiroshima Airport to the Kuwabata Plant and Kure Plant. Easier access to the plants for both DISCO employees and for customers visiting the plants from within Japan and from overseas is long-awaited good news for DISCO.