Schumpeter: Zen and the art of automobile manufacturing | The Economist

The Art of Zen and automobile manufacturing

The process of the Japanese companies famous. However, they also need to let the process "show".

June 16, 2012 from the print edition

In Japan, Built to Last. The world's oldest business builders Diamond Group (Kongo Gumi,) can be traced back to AD 578. After the baptism of more than 14 century, the company still insists on its core business: maintenance of Osaka (Osaka) temples. Many Japanese companies also allow employees unforgettable founder principle. The common themes include: long-term development, consistent and honest. Making profits, there has been no one in Japan is still being considered is a shame acts like blowing his nose in public places.

Chun bashing in this folk world, we believe that superior manufactured goods than selling goods. The quality is not the Japanese Patent: hackers do not want a pure small traders the company in the U.S. Silicon Valley (Silicon Valley). However, the people comparable to the project ecstatic religions pay homage to; Indeed, everything in good repair some will become perfect no time, the idea connected with Zen Buddhism a pulse. Less emphasis on marketing. Light sales will miss the opportunity is rampant the world of international brands, re-production. Japanese companies also proficient in the art of storytelling.

To change such as climbing obstacles, because the Japanese from an early age there is this bias. Schumpeter column last year, invited to visit an Institute of Technology is located north of Tokyo (Tokyo), surprisingly, that the fingers grease boys gathered in the workshop: one per liter of oil can run 620 km (1747 miles / gallon) the car around the sports arena, and galloped off. However, ask, and desire to how this type of car sold, they are perplexed.

Japan's largest car manufacturer Toyota (Toyota), is the cult of an example of the Japanese engineers. Recently the Division unavoidably, a spokesman explained that the supplier is how Lexus GS450 (Lexus GS450) models invented a new steering wheel with bamboo hand-polished. The subject, it comes to the 8th century, Buddhism - in the global automotive trade, this topic is known. The spokesman for the intention of showing off about how the ancient craft is rooted in Japanese culture, but also into the Toyota culture. The implication is that Toyota in Japan can only create the perfect car - and sell themselves.

Over the years, many Japanese manufacturers, the concept is proven. 1970s, once the diligent Japanese sales team pry open the U.S. and European markets, Western consumers, product quality, design and price in Japan at first sight, whether it is energy-saving cars or trendy electronics small inventions, such as the Sony Walkman Sony Walkman and Nintendo (Nintendo) DS, just a few. For readers under the age of 30, the Sony Walkman is a used to play tapes of the portable music player, the Nintendo DS is a playing video games, gadgets.

Less than before, and now, Japanese products become more difficult to pin a. The stronger yen makes the product more expensive. Competitors Korea (South Korean) investment in new ideas, new technology and suppliers paragraph statement one step ahead. This makes the innovative company - and even Japanese companies - eager to cooperate with such companies like Samsung (Samsung), Hyundai (Hyundai) and LG. In emerging markets, such as Chinese, Japanese products for the budget of ordinary people, too much emphasis on design; but excluding the nouveaux riches, the pursuit of the gorgeous appearance of the taste. Indeed, a few years ago, the Division cars were recalled the nightmare, but the Toyota Camry (Camrys) is still selling unimpeded. However, just come out of Toyota's new Prius (Prius) is still difficult to squeeze into the Audi the rampant Beijing streets.

To make matters worse, Japan's shrinking domestic market makes it harder for companies dependent on fault-finding, to act as the appreciation of the authority of local consumers. Compared with competitors, Toyota should not be a big problem. The Division accounted for a 44% share of the Japanese car market, which was almost three times that of its major domestic competitors Nissan (Nissan) or Honda. This allows the Division to have economies of scale. Toyota's goal is the production of 3 million cars in Japan at least once a year, and it is cost savings through the following means to achieve such an extent - Depends on Demands flexible production line, through the vehicle's side-by-side arrangement, rather than end to end and thanks to the addition to the fertility almost swept all the living robot - the Division is expected per plant per year can profit from the original production of 200,000 to the profit decline to the production of 50 000. It is so exciting. However, for other corporate giants such as Sony and Matsushita (Panasonic), the fascination with the product may lead to a catastrophe. Last year, Sony has created 30 new Bravia HD TV. Television Enterprises for eight consecutive years of loss, which is 30 kinds of tricks make its profitability.

If need be, sell your soul

Many Japanese companies lack the habit of listening to customer needs and sales to the customer the ability of their real dream. This can be achieved in two ways. First, let mediocre corporate bankruptcy, so that innovative companies prosper together. This is the Japanese capitalism to regroup on the best way. Panicky, but because of cultural barriers that lead to - all-pervasive fear of failure, lack of interest in the venture and the introduction of a promising young foreign talent - this change will not be half past one will be able to achieve.

Justification, then, yes, make a prompt decision to choose the second approach: to improve the level of marketing. Typically, a Japanese company's brand strategy is irrelevant, and outsourcing to Japan's largest advertiser Dentsu (Dentsu,). Dentsu in the country is a leading boss (in Japan, the Division grasp up to 38% of the huge amount of TV advertising fee), but out of the country is a nobody and in maneuvers remodeling such as the Internet and social network field of international brand , at best, is a rookie.

In Japan, Toyota's biggest competitor, Nissan (Nissan) is training another very different mode. In Yokohama (Yokoham) Headquarters, the Division of marketing and communication departments across the entire office. TV studio specialized in selling their own brand via the Internet around the world, oil heads, all-encompassing. It is said that its $ 4 billion marketing budget and its R & D budget evenly matched.

For such a preposterous move, Toyota executives were only shook his head. It seems that Japan's two major auto giant, one is single-handedly founded by the family descendants to take over the enterprise, a Ling teeth teeth of French and Brazilian enterprises, like fire and ice of the East and West. There are two proverbs can be described as sharply. In Japan, people often say "Nails hammer" - engineer's point of view. In the West, is often said that the loud creak of the wheels need oiling "- the mantra of a Salesman. In a crowded global marketplace, even the most sophisticated technology wheels squeak to attract the attention of the crowd.

The Economist. Com / blog / Schumpeter

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