When you think about a multicultural/international working environment I believe most of you agree with me that a multinational Japanese company would not pop up in your mind. Gradually Japanese companies seem to move towards a multinational approach due to market demands that cannot be met locally.
For example Uniqlo (major apparel company) and the chemical maker Toray Industries Inc. are expanding their business alliance for joint development of Heat Tech. (Heat Tech: Rather thin thermo clothes or underwear, which became a huge sales hit locally.) Heat Tech is presented as advanced fiber technology in Japan, but it was actually developed by Chinese researchers abroad at a center Toray set up in Nantong in China. It seems that Chinese universities generate more competent workers for the textile industry, which are then hired at the Toray research center, who has 200 such graduates working with them.
Another example of a more international approach is IHI Corp., who started hiring young South Koreans graduates, because the basic academic skills of Japanese science and engineering majors have weakened. So far they are employing 12 South Korean, who are working on designing automobile parts and developing information systems. Further at Sasebo Heavy Industries Co according to Tae-Jin Kwon, a previous South Korean managing executive officer, who was surprised about the gap he found in Japan at the use of information technology at work. In order to turn business around the goal is to become as cost-efficient as the South Korean rivals amid rising steel product and other materials prices.
In order to keep up with the global speed of development of optical technology-based diagnostic devices, Nitto Denko Corp. had set up a R&D center in Singapore, because development and operations are progressing much faster outside of Japan compared to the local R&D centers. The major difference achieved seems to be based on the use of the leadership skills of a nuclear physicist from Thailand, who graduated from a U.S. university.
Based on my experience with life science instruments from a global perspective Japan has no choice but to catch up in some sectors, because the common local standards cannot measure up anymore to the global needs. I truly hope more Japanese companies understand the urgent need for keeping up with global standards, especially as most likely the end-user or potential patient is not even aware of the actual risks involved due to different standards.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)