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What are the Japanese doing that we aren't?

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
Lately I have been thinking alot about this because, since buying a home, I've purchased alot of power equipment to take care of the property. My brand of choice is "Echo," a japanese small 2-stroke engine company that makes very quality equipment for a competitive price. When initially looking, I wanted to buy American stuff, but when it came down to it, there either wasnt a US company in existence who offered what I wanted, or the prices were simply exorbitant for their high end manufactured products.
What I understand about Japan is it's a capitalist society like the US, with a similar standard of living to ours, however, where the manufacturing has been in a freefall here...it is thriving there. Why can they build tons of quality stuff like vehicles, dirtbikes, chainsaws, etc. where we cannot do the same? I mean vehicles here have gotten better recently, but anything else is either ridiculously expensive or made in china now. Didnt they model their system after ours after WWII?
I understand Japan also has universal healthcare and that the US workers' healthcare costs are built into the products they make, which raises prices or forces work overseas, but healthcare is only a piece of the puzzle. What are the other factors involved?
Do the japanese work for alot less?
How do they keep prices, costs so low and quality so high, and we cannot?
 

firemandivi

They drank my Tooters
Sep 7, 2006
784
0
a state called denial

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
From what I remember of high school it goes something like this
Japan has tariffs against outside manufactures so their goods cost more in Japan giving them an unfair advantage in the Japanese market. Also Japan has no military only a police force. So there is a huge savings. Also their health is good if you can get into a hospital http://www.gmanews.tv/story/74501/Woman-dies-after-being-refused-admission-by-30-Japan-hospitals
Please do not pollute this thread with anti-universal healthcare idiotic BS. I dont care how many people their hospital refuses or why our products cost more over there so if you cant make sense of my original question, please refrain from posting.
 

H8R

Cranky Pants
Nov 10, 2004
13,971
20
Education. Better engineering, especially engineering geared towards efficient design and efficient manufacturing of said designs.
 

X3pilot

Texans fan - LOL
Aug 13, 2007
5,861
1
SoMD
From what I can understand from what I've read, it seems that work ethic also plays a part in it. They feel loyal to the company they work for and their work performance is tied to their family honor or something like that. There are no unions, they aren't needed because the company respects the worker and understands that without the workers, the company fails.

We learned all this in leadership schools in the military. TQM, TQL, all leading to Six Sigma.

They live and work it while most in this country talk it.
 

J-Dubs

Monkey
Jul 10, 2006
702
0
Salem, MA
One of the things I have noticed about the business practices of the two countries in question is their vision.
The Japanese tend to look further down the road and make longer term projections and goals compared to US companies.
This translates into larger R&D budgets vs profit taking by execs, building for longevity (product and company), and an employee retension philosophy that places value on experience rather than viewing it as an increased labor cost.

I own a Toyota.
 

dante

Unabomber
Feb 13, 2004
8,815
8
looking for classic NE singletrack
not spending a trillion dollars fighting the WoT?
not spendng a large % of it's GDP on a military?
not spending hundreds of millions of dollars in government waste on legislator-sponsored pork projects (I'm looking at you Stevens)
more graduated pay scale from peon worker to CEO, so that the workers can actually buy japanese products?
culture of shame on CEO's that don't perform, so that they don't say "too bad" and take their multi-million dollar bonuses anyway?
focus on quality and protecting that image that "made in japan" means something?
really good sushi?
 

firemandivi

They drank my Tooters
Sep 7, 2006
784
0
a state called denial
From what I can understand from what I've read, it seems that work ethic also plays a part in it. They feel loyal to the company they work for and their work performance is tied to their family honor or something like that. There are no unions, they aren't needed because the company respects the worker and understands that without the workers, the company fails.
We learned all this in leadership schools in the military. TQM, TQL, all leading to Six Sigma.
They live and work it while most in this country talk it.
:stupid:
Why should the average American work harder for a company that will show no loyalty?
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
The company I work for is a partnership between a US corporation and a Japanese company, I get to see both sides to everything. The biggest thing I see is that that Japanese companies are always looking towards the long term while we are only looking for instant results. The American side only works and plans for this quarter, we will do things that kill us next year if we can get sales this year. The Japanese side of the business always is working towards results for next year and 5 years from now, they will take a loss this quarter if it means long term success. We will lay people off to cut costs and improve our stock price next month. Our Japanese side has never fired or layed off a single employee in 30 years. They will replace a factory worker with a robot, if he is smart they will train him to be an engineer, if he isn't smart they'll have him sweep the parking lot. Their employees are fanatically faithful. I know I can be cut loose tomorrow no matter how hard I work, I really couldn't care less about this place.

If you went to Japan and saw how they lived you probably wouldn't agree they have the same quality of life either.
 

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
...I mean all these points brought up here, surely they all add in. We can go on and on about the government wasting money, etc. but alot of the blame simply falls on our culture for allowing it, no? All the debt we rack up, all RM time wasting work efficiency, electing idiotic leaders who dont put education as THE priority...we have no one to blame but ourselves.
 

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
The company I work for is a partnership between a US corporation and a Japanese company, I get to see both sides to everything. The biggest thing I see is that that Japanese companies are always looking towards the long term while we are only looking for instant results. My companies only goals and plans are for working towards the results for the end of this quarter, the Japanese side of the business always is working towards results for next year and 5 years from now. We will lay people off cut costs and improve our stock price next month. Our Japanese side has never fired or layed off a single employee in 30 years. They will replace a factory worker with a robot, if he is smart they will train him to be an engineer, if he isn't smart they'll have him sweep the parking lot. Their employees are fanatically faithful. I know I can be cut loose tomorrow no matter how hard I work, I really couldn't care less about this place.

If you went to Japan and saw how they lived you probably wouldn't agree they have the same quality of life either.
...this is the kind of response Im looking for. I honestly dont know alot about the QOL, just a bit that Ive read and met a few people. Not a destitute place or anything, long lifespans, etc.

I wish some US companies would learn to be more like the japanese.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
...this is the kind of response Im looking for. I honestly dont know alot about the QOL, just a bit that Ive read and met a few people. Not a destitute place or anything, long lifespans, etc.

I wish some US companies would learn to be more like the japanese.
Long healthy lives, good education etc. A lot of the differences are cultural but I think they may have been driven by economic reasons. Our Japanese VP splits his time 50/50 between here and Japan. His home here is a freaking mansion. He has a 600 square foot apartment in Japan. Here he can take a vacation day whenever he wants. Over there he can only take time off on prescribe weeks when the whole company shuts down.
 

Da Peach

Outwitted by a rodent
Jul 2, 2002
12,626
2,001
North Van
This is not AT ALL what I was expecting from this thread.

Is the Japanese stuff really made in Japan? Maybe they sub it out to China too. They're closer together...instant savings!
 

LordOpie

MOTHER HEN
Oct 17, 2002
21,033
1
Denver
Also remember that they've had 10x the amount of time to develop their culture and create a longer view.

For all but the puritans, this country was based on freedom and a melting pot isn't the best way to create a country-first attitude.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
Before this job I worked at a company wholly owned by the Japanese. It was a good compromise between the two different types of companies. I left because they just didn't pay enough and I lived in the Midwest. I would take the pay cut and go back to working for them if I could live somewhere that wasn't horrible.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
One more thing is that the Japanese will really only buy Japanese made stuff. Unlike Americans cost isn't the most important thing when buying stuff.
 

firemandivi

They drank my Tooters
Sep 7, 2006
784
0
a state called denial
The company I work for is a partnership between a US corporation and a Japanese company, I get to see both sides to everything. The biggest thing I see is that that Japanese companies are always looking towards the long term while we are only looking for instant results. The American side only works and plans for this quarter, we will do things that kill us next year if we can get sales this year. The Japanese side of the business always is working towards results for next year and 5 years from now, they will take a loss this quarter if it means long term success. We will lay people off to cut costs and improve our stock price next month. Our Japanese side has never fired or layed off a single employee in 30 years. They will replace a factory worker with a robot, if he is smart they will train him to be an engineer, if he isn't smart they'll have him sweep the parking lot. Their employees are fanatically faithful. I know I can be cut loose tomorrow no matter how hard I work, I really couldn't care less about this place.
If you went to Japan and saw how they lived you probably wouldn't agree they have the same quality of life either.
I would love to see more American companies like this. Sounds like a good idea, if the companies value their employees then the employees will value the company.
 

binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
21,664
413
NC
This is not AT ALL what I was expecting from this thread.
I know. Burly starting a thread about the Japanese and not a scat porn or tentacle rape joke to be seen. What's the world coming to?

Burly, my experiences mirror Westy's. I worked for a large medical device manufacturer and we had a sister company in Japan. Everything we did was to meet the projected profit numbers for the quarter. Everything the Japanese did was to meet anticipated sales figures in 2-3 years, or even more.

There also seemed to be a very strong personal tie to the company. Not just loyalty to an employer, but a vested personal desire to see the company succeed. The equivalent of the CFO and CTO over there both turned down their bonuses one year that the sales figures were very poor, but all of the employees still received a bonus. That same year, our executives all received their bonus, but they did not hand out Christmas bonuses to the employees because we did not meet expected profits - we got a $20 gift check to select local businesses :rolleyes:.

I'm not sure why American businesses haven't figured out that highly trained/experienced and very loyal employees are actually much cheaper in the long run than constantly re-hiring and re-training disloyal employees who will leave at the sniff of a better job offer. And why shouldn't they? The company has no loyalty to the employee either.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
Another big difference I see is how management is promoted. Here upper management are all business majors who typically worked their way up the company through sales. All slick talking con artist types who really don't know the product or customers but they can talk a great game. All of the management of our Japanese counterparts started as engineers, genius engineers who showed a knack for management.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
I know. Burly starting a thread about the Japanese and not a scat porn or tentacle rape joke to be seen. What's the world coming to?

Burly, my experiences mirror Westy's. I worked for a large medical device manufacturer and we had a sister company in Japan. Everything we did was to meet the projected profit numbers for the quarter. Everything the Japanese did was to meet anticipated sales figures in 2-3 years, or even more.

There also seemed to be a very strong personal tie to the company. Not just loyalty to an employer, but a vested personal desire to see the company succeed. The equivalent of the CFO and CTO over there both turned down their bonuses one year that the sales figures were very poor, but all of the employees still received a bonus. That same year, our executives all received their bonus, but they did not hand out Christmas bonuses to the employees because we did not meet expected profits - we got a $20 gift check to select local businesses :rolleyes:.

I'm not sure why American businesses haven't figured out that highly trained/experienced and very loyal employees are actually much cheaper in the long run than constantly re-hiring and re-training disloyal employees who will leave at the sniff of a better job offer. And why shouldn't they? The company has no loyalty to the employee either.

A few years ago our company was on the verge of making record profits. They decided to cancel the employee bonuses because it would be the difference between hitting the record or not.
 

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
I know. Burly starting a thread about the Japanese and not a scat porn or tentacle rape joke to be seen. What's the world coming to?
Well the deal is that I really do care about my country quite a bit, which is, for some reason practically a joke today, tantamount to having an american flag or "support the troops" decal on your car. I would personally like to help stimulate the american economy by buying american goods, but when it turns out to be impossible to do so, I just have to wonder why. I have classes with japanese/chinese/indian people often and I find they're not in general smarter, they just work harder. Working hard is supposed to be a blue collar american trait, but more and more it is just the opposite, and Ive been somewhat guilty of adding to that myself on occasion, I admit.
We talk all the time about our economy, the mortgage crisis, etc. and the more I consider it, the more I begin to think we just have a cultural flaw of overt materialism and back it up with moments of instant gratification and laziness. What do you do?
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
27,273
2,119
- japanese are smarter on average, and education is highly stressed (no joke: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v297/n5863/abs/297222a0.html )
- people take pride in what they do: in the smallest towns you will see shopkeepers sweeping their stoops at 6 AM, since they want to do things the right way. contrast this with the filthy sidewalks in front of your typical american store, etc.
- this pride is found in those along the whole spectrum, from those doing menial jobs to those doing brain surgery
- individualism does not trump all, unlike in america
 

Da Peach

Outwitted by a rodent
Jul 2, 2002
12,626
2,001
North Van
We talk all the time about our economy, the mortgage crisis, etc. and the more I consider it, the more I begin to think we just have a cultural flaw of overt materialism and back it up with moments of instant gratification and laziness. What do you do?
Yep. Apathy is then next step. I guess that's another North American trait.
 

ohio

The Fresno Kid
Nov 26, 2001
6,640
4
SF, CA
I have classes with japanese/chinese/indian people often and I find they're not in general smarter, they just work harder. Working hard is supposed to be a blue collar american trait, but more and more it is just the opposite, and Ive been somewhat guilty of adding to that myself on occasion, I admit.
I'm going to toss in a rare (for me) pro-American voice to this mix. I was an engineer, so also shared classes with lots of Asian and South-Asian folks and similarly found them to be hard workers. Harder workers than first-gen or more Americans. What I did not find them to be was creative.

Working hard is supposed to be an American trait, but that is not the real engine of our economy. Innovation is. Using the engineering example, if my goal was to refine and optimize an existing product, I would absolutely trust a japanese engineer first. If my goal was to create something entirely new, I'd grab an American. Not to say Japanese can't innovate, but they tend to do so incrementally or in an evolutionary manner. That's the reason so many Japanese companies have US-based design houses.

Unfortunately, we're losing this advantage. The American primary education system used to have more emphasis on creativity, more tolerance for risk-taking, and more emphasis of big-picture over details than any other system in the world. We've stopped investing in our education system, and we've certainly stopped investing in teaching creativity. India is rapidly learning the value of creativity and under-taking a major cultural shift. Japan isn't shifting, but have learned to outsource to fill that creative niche.

As an aside, there are also some great exceptions to the American manufacturing decline: Buell motorcycles, Caterpillar, Hypertherm plasma cutting tools, and errrr us-based Toyota and Honda plants.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
I'm going to toss in a rare (for me) pro-American voice to this mix. I was an engineer, so also shared classes with lots of Asian and South-Asian folks (for purposes of discussion I'm including 1st gen Americans) and similarly found them to be hard workers. Harder workers than second-gen or more Americans. What I did not find them to be was creative.

Working hard is supposed to be an American trait, but that is not the real engine of our economy. Innovation is. Using the engineering example, if my goal was to refine and optimize an existing product, I would absolutely trust a japanese engineer first. If my goal was to create something entirely new, I'd grab an American. Not to say Japanese can't innovate, but they tend to do so incrementally or in an evolutionary manner. That's the reason so many Japanese companies have US-based design houses.

Unfortunately, we're losing this advantage. The American primary education system used to have more emphasis on creativity, more tolerance for risk-taking, and more emphasis of big-picture over details than any other system in the world. We've stopped investing in our education system, and we've certainly stopped investing in teaching creativity. India is rapidly learning the value of creativity and under-taking a major cultural shift. Japan isn't shifting, but have learned to outsource to fill that creative niche.

As an aside, there are also some great exceptions to the American manufacturing decline: Buell motorcycles, Caterpillar, Hypertherm plasma cutting tools, and errrr us-based Toyota and Honda plants.

I've been to the Ky Toyota plant, a very impressive place. It is ran as a Japanese plant. They certainly didn't apply American fear of litigation when they started the place up. All of the women working there are c-cups or larger. The uniforms are white and see through. I think they settled a huge class action lawsuit a few years ago.
 

Mike B.

Turbo Monkey
Oct 5, 2001
1,522
0
State College, PA
I'm with Westy. I spent a great deal of time working with large Japanese companies on some special projects at one of my previous jobs. Fierce loyalty and a different way of life goes a long way. Some Hitachi engineers I worked with on a particular project lived on-site in the company dormitory, were available 24/7 for the company, and would do anything for them. You just won't find that here. Can you imagine all the employees of a US company showing up in their matching uniforms an hour before the regular start time to work out, in unison, in the parking lot of said company?

From a manufacturing perspective you can trace it back to Deming and his 14 points. When he presented his ideas in the US the companies pretty much told him to get lost but when he took them to Japan in their post-war rebuild phase they embraced the concepts and tweaked them into today's Toyota Production System among other things. Why they adopted the methodology comes down to deep rooted cultural differences and their desire to rebuild properly to position themselves for long term growth as someone else mentioned above. Applying similar principles here in the form of TPS, lean manufacturing, six sigma is often greeted with skepticism and outright backlash - I know because of been there. Unions are part of the problem but so are the entrenched (and vested) old timers that don't care above improving something if they don't see the immediate result of another unit going out the door. Live for today!
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
I'm with Westy. I spent a great deal of time working with large Japanese companies on some special projects at one of my previous jobs. Fierce loyalty and a different way of life goes a long way. Some Hitachi engineers I worked with on a particular project lived on-site in the company dormitory, were available 24/7 for the company, and would do anything for them. You just won't find that here. Can you imagine all the employees of a US company showing up in their matching uniforms an hour before the regular start time to work out, in unison, in the parking lot of said company?

From a manufacturing perspective you can trace it back to Deming and his 14 points. When he presented his ideas in the US the companies pretty much told him to get lost but when he took them to Japan in their post-war rebuild phase they embraced the concepts and tweaked them into today's Toyota Production System among other things. Why they adopted the methodology comes down to deep rooted cultural differences and their desire to rebuild properly to position themselves for long term growth as someone else mentioned above. Applying similar principles here in the form of TPS, lean manufacturing, six sigma is often greeted with skepticism and outright backlash - I know because of been there. Unions are part of the problem but so are the entrenched (and vested) old timers that don't care above improving something if they don't see the immediate result of another unit going out the door. Live for today!

We use all of Demings points and have twisted them to the point that the man is surely turning in his grave. One person I know worked on a 6 sigma project to determine how many people we could lay off and still get the same amount of production.
 

Mike B.

Turbo Monkey
Oct 5, 2001
1,522
0
State College, PA
We use all of Demings points and have twisted them to the point that the man is surely turning in his grave. One person I know worked on a 6 sigma project to determine how many people we could lay off and still get the same amount of production.
Is that the American creativity ohio is talking about? :busted:
 

ohio

The Fresno Kid
Nov 26, 2001
6,640
4
SF, CA
Is that the American creativity ohio is talking about? :busted:
Don't get me started on all of the things that are wrong with American corporate culture... it's a much longer post than my previous. As far as I'm concerned (largely because of that individualist streak), we only function properly in the form of a start-up or client-service outfit.
 

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
...so is the consensus here that their system is better and more proficient because of fundamentals/ethics that they base their businesses on? Rather than say, government standards, laws and trade issues that US businesses are always blaming?
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,637
3,454
Sleazattle
...so is the consensus here that their system is better and more proficient because of fundamentals/ethics that they base their businesses on? Rather than say, government standards, laws and trade issues that US businesses are always blaming?
It is a tough call. It could be that Amercian business is best set up to work with American workers. It is possible that if an american company woke up one day and acted all Japanese the employees would either all quit or burn the place down.
 

LordOpie

MOTHER HEN
Oct 17, 2002
21,033
1
Denver
...so is the consensus here that their system is better and more proficient because of fundamentals/ethics that they base their businesses on? Rather than say, government standards, laws and trade issues that US businesses are always blaming?
Unions.
 

DirtyDog

Gang probed by the Golden Banana
Aug 2, 2005
6,599
0
The way our corporations are run, with modern pirate CEOs that take massive payouts even when the company is doing ****ty, and upper management that shifts the consequences of poor performance to the workers in the form of layoffs - makes me wonder if we wouldn't all be better off working for Japanese companies operating in the US.

US Corporations - Good Ole Boys Club

Japanese Corporations - Get the Job Done Right Club
 

BurlyShirley

Rex Grossman Will Rise Again
Jul 4, 2002
19,183
1
TN
What about unions opie? No doubt they get more from the companies than the companies want to give, but it's not like the US middle class has it so much better than anyone else due to the fruits of the unions' labor. People are only just "fairly" compensated, IMO.