By Megan Nelson
During the first leg of the trip, the Master of International Management students are visiting Tokyo, Japan. We are staying at the Grand Prince Takanawa in downtown Tokyo. It seems that the most exciting part of the hotel, for most students, are the toilets. It sounds funny, but the toilets in Japan have heated seats, deodorizers, built-in bidets, and sprayers—some might even sing to you! As you would expect, the rooms are small, but they are clean. And the toilets make up for the rest.
On our first day of company tours, we visited the Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory. After a brief lunch and introduction to the company, we were given a tour of their mayonnaise and salad dressing production lines. The Kewpie Goka plant opened in 1972, and it was the fifth Kewpie plant opened in Japan. It serves the area of Eastern Japan’s mayonnaise and salad dressing demands. Aside from five areas of product manufacturing, Kewpie owns their distribution system. Kewpie’s competitive advantage comes in the form of quality—this is the manufacturer’s main focus and the reason that they developed OITEC, a process control and traceability system, and Muda-Tori.
The management team at Kewpie was very friendly and answered many questions from the MIM students. It was evident that their employees were very satisfied with their positions and valued their work. We took many pictures with them, some students bought salad dressing and mayonnaise to bring home, and then we engaged in our first “waving ceremony” of the trip. All of the people with whom we engaged with stood outside of the door and waved as we drove away, and we waved back from inside the bus.
The second day, we visited the Yokohama Nissan Production Plant and the Ricoh Headquarters in Tokyo. The Nissan Oppama Plant opened in 1961 as a production facility. Today, this plant produces four different Nissan vehicles: the Leaf, Sylphy, Juke, and Cube. They also have a research center and logistics area, as well as a test-driving area called “Grand Drive.” There are 3,100 employees that work on a one-shift system, from 7:00 am—4:00 pm. Nissan has a flexible production system, meaning that they can produce any of the four vehicles, in any order, without changing the set-up or slowing down production.
Nissan also runs a sequence process called “Douki-Seisan.” This production process runs throughout their supply chain, in a just-in-time (JIT) format, but without maintaining an inventory. Nissan offers their customers timely production and delivery for any car. Production is based upon customer orders. Once an order is placed, it goes into the sequence for production, and the information is shared throughout the supply chain. Each area produces the parts needed for a particular car and sends them to the final production plant for manufacturing.
Ricoh has created and sold cameras, copiers, printers, fax machines, and more, but their core business and competitive advantage lies in the production and commercial printing sectors. Ricoh has continued to prosper in the areas of production and commercial printing, while maintaining a strong strategic partnership with Heidelberg of Germany. Their biggest competitor is Xerox. However, both companies maintain a large market share worldwide.
Ricoh is also focusing on building global leaders within their company through training and leadership programs. Their leaders develop attributes like adaptability, vision, global super-generalist, wide-open curiosity, aggressiveness, delegation, and growth. This is a fantastic company with amazing technology on the horizon, such as the Theta360 camera, which provides the user with a 360-degree picture.
Each of these companies has a unique perspective on business, but one quality that has stood out for Japanese companies is the focus on quality. This is very important and what drives most Japanese companies to become so sustainably successful. The trip has been a blast so far, and there is only more to come!