Japanese companies were immune to corporate scandals many years ago. These companies seemed squeaky clean, and seldom made headline news about scandalous business practices (the exception was the financial crimes at Toshiba). That has changed recently. The credibility of Japan’s manufacturing is at stake as more companies are cutting corners and making headlines news when quality issues arise with of their products.
The first company with negative press is Kobe Steel, a major high-end metallic sheet supplier in Japan. The company supplies performance metal sheets to the transportation industry. Their products are required to go through quality control tests before shipped to the auto, airline and railway manufacturers. Kobe sold products to these industries even though they failed these tests. What Kobe did was falsify test results. The data-altering scandal goes back ten years. It may have started out innocently enough, but over the years it was a “systematic” approach to falsifying test results. The company tried to explain that that there was not enough time to address product issues before they were shipped. They further went on to say that there could be no negative influences on the final products because they were within requirements when actual test procedures were conducted while they were being investigated.
Next up to make headline news is Nissan Motors, the second largest automobile manufacture in Japan. The company admitted uncertified technicians performed final vehicle checks. This forced Nissan to recall 1.2 million new cars sold in Japan over the last three years. The company blames this on a lack of inspectors, and claimed this has no impact on the quality of their vehicles. Japan’s transport ministry claims the illegal inspections were evident throughout the company, and they plan on conducting a companywide audit.
Subaru admitted they failed to follow proper inspection procedures a few weeks after Nissan reported the same. The company admitted final inspections of new vehicles were sometimes conducted by noncertified technicians.
Throughout my career, I have engaged with quality assurance managers in the electronics industry. Unfortunately, many manufacturing companies place cost and productivity before quality. Some management teams believe that quality does not add any additional value to their products. For that reason, there are a few companies that focus solely on cost. This may be the rule and not the exception for the electronics industry in Japan, and other countries including the U.S. The worldwide culture wants it now and we want it cheaper.
The Japanese government is concerned that “Made in Japan” will lose its reputation for quality. Let’s hope other companies use these corporate scandals as a learning opportunity, not only in Japan, but also in the global manufacturing industry. In my opinion, quality will always win out over cost.
Headlines of the Week
1. Shimadzu (Major scientific equipment supplier in Japan) 10/19
Has developed a new plasma treatment process under vacuumed prior to metallization on plastic materials. The new process does not generate chemical waste.
2. Asahi Glass (Major glass material supplier in Japan) 10/23
New eco-friendly coolant “AMOLEA 1224yd” has been certified by ASHRAE. Asahi plans to commercialize it in the beginning of 2018.
3.Sumitomo Chemical (Major chemical company in Japan) 10/24
Has developed the world first see-through optical guide sheet built by screen-printing process. four colors are available for signage.
4.Osaka University (Japan) 10/24
Has developed a new 3D printer with blue ray semiconductor laser. It can build pure copper parts for high-end applications.
5.DISCO (Major equipment supplier in Japan) 10/25
Has decided on an additional investment (14 billion yens) to expand the capacity of the high-precision processing tools for the silicon wafers in Kuwahata Plant.
6. Kyushu University (Japan) 10/27
Has developed the industry’s first hydrogen generation process from water with near infrared light. It could be a valuable step up for artificial photosynthesis.
7.University of Yamanashi (Japan) 10/26
Has co-developed a new electrolytic membrane for next generation fuel cells without fluororesins.
8.FURUNO (Electronic module manufacturer in Japan) 10/31
Has developed a new positioning unit with high accuracy as the position sensor of smart taxi cabs.
9.Citizen Systems (Major electronic module manufacturer in Japan) 11/2
Will roll out the industry’s smallest label printer series “CL-E303/331” in the beginning of the new year. The new printers work 4” wide, 300 m long.
10.NEC (Major electronics company in Japan) 11/7
Has developed a new eyes-free arm keypad system with smart glasses for business uses such as hospital and drug stores. The arm slants work without eye movement.
11.YAMAHA Group (Major machine manufacture in Japan) 11/7
Will co-develop remote control system package for IoT foundation and industrial robots used in manufacturing plants.