We give back through our business activities as a way to express appreciation for society allowing us to exist as a company through its confidence in our products and services. Sowing as many seeds of joy as possible through effective use of the resources entrusted by our stakeholders and society at large is our way of returning the blessings we have received. That is our way of creating value: living the philosophy of Prayerful Management in our business practices. We sow the seeds of joy throughout our franchise network to continuously enhance Duskin's corporate value.
Duskin believes in establishing workplaces where employees respect each other, and are respected, regardless of gender, age, nationality, career, lifestyles, or any other factors, thus empowering all employees to exert their talents to the fullest of their potential. In this environment, we are prepared to respond to the changing business environment and to diversifying customer needs, which also enables us to increase our value and competitive advantage.
We are dedicated to educating and nurturing human resources at the three educational facilities of the Seishinkan Guesthouse, Duskin School and Mister Donut College.
We focus on training and education of franchisee personnel, as our goal is to help customers live in comfort and with peace of mind through our products and services. These services are delivered by our franchisees via our nationwide franchise network, comprising 7,353 sales offices as well as 45 production and logistic facilities. As many of the owners run their businesses in the communities and markets where they and their staff members were born and raised, they know and understand the specific needs and attributes of each local market.
To be the best service provider in their community, Duskin service staff members must acquire the skill sets needed for supplying quality service. They also play a major role in making their offices as places to sow the seeds of joy throughout their community.
A solid financial foundation and sufficient cash flow have been attained by operating the businesses in ways that continue to generate sound profit. During FY2020, net assets stood at 145.8 billion yen and free cash flow amounted to 5.0 billion yen.
This stable cash flow serves as a source for cultivating new business opportunities as well as a financial reserve for our business activities in times of crisis, such as natural disasters. Ultimately, these financial resources support and assist Duskin in our endeavors to create value for stakeholders. Going forward, we will maintain this sound financial structure and continue generating cash flow that fuels investments for growth and profit returns.
Duskin plants and contracted plants that provide one-of-akind products and services are capital of indispensable importance. Manufacturing plants in Japan consist of three sites for the Direct Selling Group and two sites for the Food Group. For the contracted manufacturing plants that process products and raw materials, we conduct periodic inspections, and constantly strives to make improvements and enhancements to quality.
In addition, our specialists for food processing plants conduct extensive quality inspections, covering facility management, process management, hygiene management and production management. This wide range of items on our checklist forms the basis of our evaluations, and leads to guidance for improvements.
At Duskin, we place value on earning the trust and faith of customers, and treat the "researching the science of clean" as a mission critical to performing our role as a member of society. Based on our core technology cultivated through the development of dust control products, we offer an array of products that possess multiple functions, and aim to contribute to the field of creating healthy environments.
As of the end of FY2020, we held 143 patents in Japan and four outside of Japan. We hold patents in our core technology that is the source of our competitive capabilities, such as product forming technology, know-how and other ideas. In the previous fiscal year we invested 630 million yen in R&D.
Duskin has commercialized and grown an eco-friendly recycling-oriented business based on the rental of cleaning and hygiene products. We proactively take on initiatives to preserve the environment in a number of business fields, including food processing.
We always carefully consider the impacts on society and the environment at every stage of our business flows — from raw material procurement to product manufacturing, processing, delivery, the consumption and use of products by our customers and the collection and recycling of used products. Our focus is to develop safe and reliable products and services that help to reduce our burden on the environment. Moreover, our businesses pay close attention to recycling products and materials so as to extract as much value as possible from these limited resources.