Over-Engineering Problems: Most of the Japanese Companies Go Too Far

A shrine tower with many modern buildings in its background

Using a chainsaw to cut butter

The above words are a wise saying by Barry Commoner, an American biologist, to express the inefficiency of nuclear power generation. By the way, the topic of this article is not about energy policies; don’t worry. I interpret the point of his saying is adequacy rather than efficiency. In terms of adequacy, our production may have a problem.

I think it would be quality that best features our products. Sometimes we have faced requests or advice, like “It’d be better to sacrifice quality a little bit to save costs.” Indeed, our production sometimes goes excessive: making a flush surface even in out-of-sight parts, for example. We are always too serious to be sloppy and may have to be a little more permissive. For example, the only 20-second delay of a train is subject to apology here in Japan, and we’re surprised to see it is reported overseas with astonishment.

Our chainsaw is craftsmanship

What is the basis of our high quality product is strong technical capacity or craftsmanship. A large thing will serve for a small one. Indeed, our production could make low-priced and ordinary things. If we continue to make such things only, however, we will end up losing craftsmanship ‘” chainsaws. It’s not only about techniques but also about morale. Different from machines, craftspeople cannot adjust themselves so easily, such as being in energy-saving mode for this; serious mode for that. They will lose their motivation and ambition.

I think our product quality sometimes goes too far, but we shouldn’t sacrifice it in order to survive the market competition. We just need to keep on using our chainsaws adequately.

A corporate logo, the letters of C and H are combined to look like a tree in a circle

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.