In Focus: The Japanese Manufacturing Process

(Almost) all roads lead to Japan.

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All over the world, Japanese manufacturing practices are emulated and admired by a lot of industrial countries. From American companies producing high quality San Diego flooring to German Stromanbieter (electricity supplier or provider) firms, Japanese manufacturing processes and principles serve as guide to which a lot of industrial companies rely on to ensure an efficient, highly productive work force.

It is therefore interesting to learn what makes Japanese manufacturing processes such effective models. This is so since a lot of everyday items that we use these days can somehow be traced to Japan–from topnotch eCommerce software to C9 Christmas lights and custom t-shirts.

Here’s a quick rundown of the best-known Japanese manufacturing processes and principles:

1. Toyota Production System (TPS). This system can be traced to former Toyota executiveTaiichi Ohno and respected engineer and consultant Shigeo Shingo. TPS is actually comprised of several manufacturing techniques, with the just-in-time (JIT) production or “lean manufacturing” principle as its finest.

Among the most salient points of this manufacturing mantra are effective cost reduction through waste elimination (the same way car dealers dispose of second hand cars or used cars that can’t be sold anymore), which includes staff time, materials, and other resources; reduced overproduction risks and low labor costs by maintaining low inventories and using minimal manpower, respectively; faster production cycle time through means like the Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) system; and order-based production which guide production decisions and processes involving product orders. In principle, TPS’ JIT principle works like an HCG diet plan in that it is designed to achieve a healthy production environment by minimizing risks and maximizing the resources available.

2. Total Quality Control (TQC). This principle puts premium on correcting errors where it is committed, and assuring top quality during the various stages of manufacturing and production. Unlike most manufacturing facilities with a separate quality assurance team, most Japanese companies that use TQC has their own employees perform quality assurance tasks in their respective work stations. This fosters an atmosphere of responsibility over one’s total output, and is a highly effective time- and cost-saver. Other Japanese plants even maintain display boards where top performers are recognized and where quality factors that are measured are on display for visitors and workers to see.

3. Investment in efficient manufacturing infrastructure. Japanese people are big on technology, that’s why they invest huge money in production equipments that fast-tracks production and minimize human involvement. Once in place, such production facilities churn out thousands, even millions of consumer products daily–from plates to electronic parts like the camera parts used by people from as far as America to a contemporary wedding photographer York. In Japan, automation is king.

So the next time you hold something in your hand, like a cigarette lighter, a PSP, or a sterling silver you bought at some auction sites, take a long, hard look–it could be another of those wonderful Japanese industrial creations.

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