As if that weren’t enough, plant managers Hitoshi Hirata and Hirofumi Tsuru still saw corners to be cut. Conveyor belts were thrown out and robots brought in.
As a result, the production run of 2 ½ days for finished products was cut down to a remarkable 40 minutes. "Next year, we’ll try to shorten the cycle even more," said Hirata.
Japanese companies have long been known for their lean production techniques, but are now facing competition from low-cost rivals such as Korea, China and other Asian regions.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, Japanese producers are rearranging their factory floors so that as gadgets go in and out of fashion with consumers, they can adjust their production lines according to what’s hot and what’s not.
As a result, Matsushita has bounced back from its $3.7 billion loss of 2002, and at the end of April announced its best earnings in ten years. Its recovery has "much that other Japanese electronic firms can learn from," said Morgan Stanley analyst Masahiro Ono in a recent report.
No one does lean like the Japanese
Business Week, July 10th
Reviewed by Deborah Bonello