By Megan Nelson
The next stop on the MIM Asia Trip was Hino Motors, which is the trucking division of Toyota. Hino currently has manufacturing plants around the world, with over 10,000 employees. The focus for Hino is on service, then sales, as they want to provide a safe and reliable vehicle for their customers.
Currently, Hino is focusing on environmental technology, with clean air emission systems, pre-crash safety, and continuing to be the world leader in fuel-efficient vehicles. Hino Motors manufactures vehicles based on the Toyota Kanban system of production. Within this system, Hino is pursuing a lower cost through waste elimination in order to increase profits. Kanban is used as a tool for Kaizen, which is improving the motion of workers and eliminating waste time. It was interesting to see a plant with completely different manufacturing practices from Nissan, and it put the differences of global manufacturing into perspective.
We then visited the Bridgestone Museum. Bridgestone, “Your Journey, Our Passion,” opened their first plant in Tokyo in 1960. Bridgestone designs, manufactures, and sells tires for cars, trucks, buses, construction vehicles, and aircrafts. They also create products for everyday use, such as bike tires, sporting goods, seismic isolators, eva film for solar panels, conveyer belts, etc. All of their products are made with rubber technology, which is developed in their state-of-the-art R&D centers.
Bridgestone acquired Firestone Tire & Rubber in 1981, in order to improve on the technology of their brand. They currently operate 178 plants in twenty-five countries. One of the most interesting parts of this visit was seeing the seismic isolators. This technology has revolutionized building in Japan because of the high number of earthquakes that occur there each year. This technology has helped to save a lot of infrastructure and lives throughout the country.
The final visit was to Kao Group, which innovates, develops, and sells consumer goods. Kao has received many honors, including being the World’s Most Ethical Company for seven years straight. They reinvest over five percent of their earnings to R&D and much more than that in marketing. One of their competitive advantages is in their marketing and research. A focus on consumer behavior, lifestyle, habits, and the surrounding market structure all go into the research and has helped the company be continually successful for over 120 years. Kao was a different type of visit because we learned a lot about their marketing techniques and how they leverage this competitive advantage within the market. It was not entirely focused on the supply chain and manufacturing aspects of the company.
For the last day and a half that the MIM students were in Tokyo, we had free time to do as we pleased. A group of students went to Mt. Fuji. It was an amazing experience, seeing this breathtaking volcano from many angles, playing in the snow at its base, and learning about the name. Fuji literally means “fire mountain.”
After the tour around the mountain, there was lunch in Hakone, near the hot springs. The food and the scenery were well worth the four-hour bus ride (round trip). Near the hot springs, it is custom to eat black eggs, which are said to extend your life for seven years, per egg eaten. The eggshells are black because they are boiled in the hot springs, where the sulfur changes the color of the shell. The day ended with a boat ride and a sunset view of Mt. Fuji. Other students wandered around Tokyo, visiting the Tokyo Tower, the Sky Tree, Asakusa Temple, the fish market, and many other locations. There is a plethora of activities to participate in and places to see throughout the city. Tokyo definitely has a personality all its own!