Never before, the brand “Made in Japan” has suffered such bad scandals. Top brands’ data tampering scandals that cause trust to collapse are rooted in the most unimaginable reasons.
Hoping to restore its reputation, Kobe Steel Corporation has launched a new system to record all data of testing and censorship at an aluminum factory in Moka city. , Tochigi Province. “The new system will definitely not allow data fraud, even if someone does it intentionally.” someone with experience working with the system was recently posted online in February said.
Whether the system works or not, Kobe Steel and other Japanese scandals should ask themselves: “Why in the first place, people Was the member intending to falsify the figures? ”
Similar to similar cases of Nissan, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and some other companies, the answer is the following three reasons, labor shortage, conflict and disagreement between management. management and staff members, and ultimately quality is overestimated than necessary.
These extreme problems are hard to deal with, but the future of “Made in Japan” brands depends on solving and fixing them.
The problems facing Kobe Steel also indicate the pressures Japanese manufacturers are facing. According to an internal investigation report released on March 6, the aluminum and copper production stages at steel mills – the main profitable operation, have been stuck for a long time and only contribute a small fraction of profit after tax. To change this, Kobe Steel decided to take orders for aluminum and copper supply, even when production capacity could not be met and completed as scheduled.
The report also stated that if these orders are not resolved, the factory will most likely be shut down.
Data falsification has been “rekindled” since about 1992 under the guidance of the head of the quality assurance unit. This person was later promoted to vice president but did not report “out of the ordinary” to the board.
Kobe Steel’s history goes back to September 1905 when a trading company called Suzuki Shoten, one of the top dealers in Japan in the 1900s, was acquired. The company acquired the manufacturing business. Seikosho Kobayashi steel in Wakinohama, Kobe. Shortly thereafter, activities were diversified and now there are 7 main business areas, including steel, aluminum, copper and electricity. Each sector operates independently as different companies.
This complex stratification has created barriers within the company that hinder connectivity and give the seed of current troubles. The situation is exacerbated by the discord between management and workers. An internal investigation was issued in October titled “Failure to Follow Guidelines for Quality Reporting at Kobe Steel Corporation”. Management blamed production workers for their lack of responsibility in reporting falsification of data.
Similar to the case of Mitsubishi Materials Corporation: During a press conference held in December last year, president Akira Takeuchi blamed data tampering “as the non-compliance of those directly involved in wrongdoings “.
In a period of rapid post-war growth, businesses flourished, factory workers received raises and subsidies. Executives all actively contribute to the process of product quality improvement, including the establishment of “quality management teams”. Not long after, the producers of this country became famous quickly.
But until the 1990s and the period of economic bubble in Japan, the appreciation of the yen stimulated Japanese firms to invest directly abroad. Managers only focus on increasing profits, making workers unable to guarantee time and effort in the process of improving product quality. According to the Japan Association of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), the number of “quality control groups” peaked at around 27,000 in fiscal 1984 and today just over 1,000.
The Nissan scandal involves improper censorship at the Oppama plant in Kanagawa Prefecture. In order for the factory to continue operating, employees must work hard to cut costs, forcing the production of new cars to be relocated to other factories and to Oppama next year. 2016. Although working at nearly full capacity, the factory does not have enough staff to perform the inspection process. Yet the problem was solved by doing sloppy inspection procedures.
An official from the Ministry of Transport asked: “Why didn’t the workers speak up about this?”
During a press conference in October last year, Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa said the inspection tests were probably not due to the condition. lack of labor. However, according to an investigative report released by the lawyers a month later, “No specific calculations have been made to ensure the factory always has enough workers” indicates a lack of linkage. between managers and employees.
At the same time, the entire manufacturing industry of Japan is facing a serious shortage of labor. In January, Kobe Steel established a new branch at the headquarters to oversee overall quality. Earlier this month, the company posted an opening notice for the division’s permanent employee position in Tokyo with a salary of 6.5 million yen (US $ 61,260) up to 13 million yen.
Labor competition is heating up in industries, especially in quality management, though this is not a common field in the manufacturing industry. Data from job search website En-Japan shows that the number of jobs for quality management positions in the electronics sector increased 350% between 3 / 2014-3 / 2018 and about 400% for machinery, mechanical electronics and automotive sectors. Manufacturers are desperately looking for workers that they remove age restrictions, for example restricting the recruitment of candidates aged 40 and under.
It is also difficult to find workers for the production lines. The average hourly wage for part-time workers at convenience stores in January 2018 was up 4% from three years earlier. Meanwhile manufacturing costs have risen 13%, according to a Persol Career survey. However, the high salary has not solved the problem of labor shortage. Many manufacturers have to rely on the temporary workforce as a last resort, but even when they find enough candidates, relying on temporary staff creates another problem – it’s difficult to secure. quality maintenance.
The series of data scandals have clarified another issue facing Japanese manufacturers: The setting of quality criteria is too high.
Last November, as scandals flooded the media, a salesperson at a Tokyo-based parts manufacturing company convinced the copper robot manufacturer. with the intention of reducing quality testing due to the lack of manpower and testing equipment. “The strength data is within the required range no matter how many tests we do, so there are no problems of durability and safety even if we do less.” However, the person in charge of the cargo source was not convinced.
A subsidiary of Toray Industries is also involved in the fabrication of data, in this case the tire cord, which is used to increase the durability of automotive tires. The subsidiary has a contract to supply tire wire with the power of 260 horsepower, but the product they deliver to customers is only 258 horsepower. This doesn’t have much of an impact on safety – the difference is only 0.8%; A rival company also said that only 250-255 horsepower is enough to ensure safety and many other examples show that this company has breached the contract.
According to a practice called “tokusai”, Japanese manufacturers are allowed to deliver products that do not meet the quality standards agreed in advance, as long as they receive the consent of the customer. This type of agreement is even specified in Japanese industrial standards.
Toray President Akihiro Nikkaku, however, said, “We need an alternative tokusai“. He proposed contracts that set strict and clear conditions for product quality, including strength and durability so that post-shipment negotiations no longer take place.”
“What is considered adequate quality for plastics and molds in Japan is different from what is considered suitable in the US and Europe,” said Hideki Kobori, president of Asahi Kasei.
In order to compete in the already cramped domestic market, Japanese raw material producers and suppliers need to offer ever-increasing levels of quality, even if that exceeds consumer demand. . Meanwhile, the leading German raw material suppliers BASF and Thysenkrupp only provide products that are of sufficient quality to European automakers. This eliminates the excessive pursuit of quality, leading to increased production costs.
“In the US and European manufacturing industry, the quality data in the contract is the most important, and the quality of the product to be distributed should not be higher or lower, so the tokusai deal probably does not applicable in these markets “. Yuji So, head of the quality innovation center of JAM Consultant, said: “It is necessary to have a system to ensure strict compliance with the quality and price agreed with the customer”
The recent scandals have caused a serious shock to Japan’s reputation for product quality. Reputation will require not only collaboration between managers and employees, but also new ways of thinking about the relationships between corporations and their customers.
* Source: Young intellectuals