Business Today

Japan's Culture of Craftsmanship

What Indian manufacturing can learn from Monozukuri - the latest import from Nippon.
By Venkatesha Babu   Delhi     Print Edition: April 24, 2016
Japan's Culture of Craftsmanship
(Photo: Raj Verma)

Most people are aware of Japanese business practices, including Toyota's famed Kanban (just-in-time technique) or TQM (total quality management), or Kaizen (continuous improvement) or Muri, Muda and Mura, emphasising on the right way of doing things. These innately Japanese concepts took the world by storm between 1989 and 2003. The latest concept from the 'land of the rising sun' creating a buzz in India, which has been aspiring to become a global manufacturing power under its Make in India initiative, is Monozukuri.

Translated from Japanese, Monozukuri literally means 'production' or 'making of things'. In a broader sense, however, it embodies a synthesis of technological prowess, knowhow and spirit of Japan's manufacturing practices. At a recent Mozozukuri Conference organised by ABK-AOTS Dosokai Tamil Nadu Centre and Nikkei Business Publications Inc. and hosted by Overseas Human Resources and Indus-try Development Association (HIDA) in Chennai, the theme was on 'creating innovation together'.

The gathering was welcomed by Yosuke Mochizuki, Operating Officer of Nikkei Business Publi-cations, in the presence of Consul General of Japan Seiji Baba. The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Konijeti Rosaiah, inaugurated the event. Pointing out that Indo-Japanese cultural relations date back to the 6th century, Rosaiah said the two democracies shared mutual interests. "We share a global vision of peace, prosperity and cultural relations. Both countries strive to develop closer dialogue and collaboration, promote peace, democracy and development." India is the largest recipient of Japan's Official Development Assistance.

Rosaiah also said that India-Japanese trade, which stood at $16 billion in 2013, is expected to touch $50 billion by 2019/20 and Monozukuri will help in creating innovation together. "Monozukuri is now cited often among industry professionals across the world as a technical jargon originated from Japan, describing the flow of manufacturing process from development and design to mass production. It describes sincere attitude towards production with pride, skill and dedication. It is a way of pursuing innovation and perfection," he added.

Mono is the thing that is made and Zukuri means the act of making, but Monozukuri implies more than that. It can be best compared to the word, craftsmanship. However, in craftsmanship the emphasis is on the craftsman, whereas in Monozukuri, the person making a thing is de-emphasised, while the focus is on the 'thing' that is manufactured. This, he said, reflects the Japanese sense of responsibility and their deep respect for the world around them.

Monozukuri underlines that manufacturing should be in harmony with nature and should be of value to the society. When an item or human effort is used, there needs to be a benefit for the society and, at the same time, the balance between production, resources and the society should be maintained. As a result, Japanese manufacturing is not experiencing a slowdown. For instance, Japan is the only advanced country that maintains an annual steel production of over 100 million tonnes, while other leading steel-manufacturing countries are witnessing a slump. This, however, could be because of the slump in iron ore and coal prices, globally.

Monozukuri encourages workers to 'bring their mind to work'. They are fully empowered and trained to deal with different situations to create an elevated sense of ownership. It is about making products as well as about instilling pride and passion about their jobs. It requires creative minds and is often related to craftsmanship that can be earned through lengthy apprenticeship practice rather than the structured curricula taught at traditional schools. Monozukuri represents the maker's philosophy of how to make the product - the philosophy that is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition in manufacturing. It can be said that Monozukuri is a philosophy rather than technique or method. Characteristically, every facet of Japan's life - from architecture, design, food, fashion to social rituals - has an underlying philosophy, and the Japanese people can translate those philosophical ideas into production.

Chennai being an important manufacturing hub for India, the emphasis at the conference was on how to improve the quality of factory operations and productivity, strengthen the performance of design development and R&D, and develop human resources capable of carrying out the tasks. Senior management executives of Indian and Japanese companies participated in the day-long event. The focus was on discussing target markets, products and how they should be manufactured, what was needed to advance capability of manufacturing, the role of emerging companies and what Indian companies could learn from its Asian neighbour.

Senior executives from Renault Nissan, Lucas TVS, IIT Chennai, Virgina Tech India Research and Innovation Center, Yamaha Motors, Carbarondum Universal, Pansonic Welding and Omron participated in the event and addressed the gathering.

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