What The Data Says

February 17, 2010
Lessons from  the Japanese:  Monozukuri, Quality, Cost Cutting, and the Risk of Recall.

In this case, up is "Not good."

Graphic credit.

Recalls on products sold in Japan (excluding cars, food and drugs) are up more than 80% from three years earlier, according to a Wall Street Journal report credited above.

It’s not just Toyota.

It’s not just Cars.

Is it the relentless pursuit of cost cutting?

Is it the reduction in part count (sku reduction)? As a component is used across many products, increasing scale and  so reducing price per piece,  this also  increases the scope and scale of a recall if the design or manufacture is defective.

It’s not just Japan.

Ford recalls 2007-2010: 15.505  million vehicles according to my analysis of the data here. See our post from October 21 2009 here.

Where was Congress when Ford announced these huge recalls?

GM recalled 1.5 million of its vehicles last year.

Did Congress weigh in? (I mean, besides bailing them out with lots of our tax dollars.)

Why is Congress suddenly calling for hearings?

I think that OEM manufacturers and businessmen  EVERYWHERE, not just in JAPAN, have taken their eyes off the ball of continuous improvement in their manufacturing processes.  They have been distracted by the fleeting flash of lower prices.

Continuous reduction in ‘costs’ is not the same as paying  continuous attention to Quality. And when you take your eye off the Quality ball, it  really shows up when you have a near perfect record.

Cultural footnote: This summer, I spoke with managers at Japanese auto companies who told me that MONOZUKURI is about ‘the existential joys of making things.’  Of ‘implementing a process that realizes a design to product.’  This was a really big deal. It was their long and storied tradition. It’s their national heritage, and they are “sharing it with the world.”

 I’m starting to  think that MONOZUKURI is really more about mercantilist economics and economic nationalism

 And maybe 安価.  Or 失敗.



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