December 14, 2011

Industrial Engineering and Scientific Management in Japan

Japanese scholars and business men embraced scientific management, efficiency movement, and industrial engineering right from the inception and excelled in implementing it and reaped great rewards in economic as well as academic spheres. In the process there were many innovations in the subject on the Japanese soil.

Early Adoption of Scientific Management by Japan

Late nineteenth century Japan was a rational shopper for products, technology and organizational models[1]. Scientific management of F.W. Taylor was quickly spotted by Japanese and was translated into Japanese in 1912, within one year of its publication in USA in 1911 [1]. It is an astonishing fact that one million copies were sold to workers in a special edition for workers. Yoichi Ueno and Araki Toichiro were enthusiastic supporters. Yoichi Ueno was responsible for organizing the Industrial Efficiency Research Institute (Sngyo Noritsu Kenkyujo) in 1921.

Motion analysis techniques were used in Japanese companies in starting in 1913. Firms like Mitsubishi Electric and Nippon Electric took the lead. In the area of textiles, Kannebo and Toyobo took the initiative.

Industrial engineering was organized as a subject that increases the education and skills of workmen in Japan. Improving the education and skill of a workman is a dominant concept in Japanese industrial set up compared to the slogan of deskilling in US systems. Also, the Efficiency Research Institute was an initiative of Harmony and Cooperation Society (Kyochokai) formed in 1919 by the state and leading corporations of Japan. Industrial engineering has a more welcome environment in Japan to deliver its scientific potential.

Zenjiro Imaoka [3]  explained Industrial Engineering as a concept for improving the efficiency of production and is the driving force that brings success in mass production today. OR (Operations Research) is an approach to explore optimization using statistical figures and linear programming. Both of them are included in supply chain flow [2].  IE (industrial engineering) is a concept that was first structured as a concept to enable the improvement of production efficiency. Various scientific approaches started by Taylor were tried out to improve production efficiency by various companies. During the Civil War, the U.S. promoted the standardization of firearms and parts of munitions. As a result, the U.S. succeeded in the mass production of parts by realizing low-cost and short-lead time production. The engine of the further success of mass production was the concept of IE. IE was employed by Henry Ford for producing the Model T Ford and that was a starting point of growth for auto industry.  The base of business administration and management consulting methodology of today started with IE. We can also say that IE is a technology that combines manufacturing techniques and product technologies or it synchronizes management resources. If IT (information technology) can be used together with IE (manufacturing technologies), information and communication will be combined with production systems, leading to the efficient flow in supply chain management which resulted in supply chain innovations such as CALS, BPR, ECR, and QR.

Contribution of JMA in Promoting and Using IE and Scientific Management in Japan

Scientific Management began in 1880s and spread quickly around the world. In Japan, this concept evolved into the pursuit of efficiency, and in 1942 the Japan Management Association (JMA) was established as an organization to promote that concept, based on IE and other management methods.

JMA set three basic principles to govern all its activities.

1. Japan-oriented strategy toward efficiency.
2. Execution than vacuous theory
3. Priority basis than all-round policy

Contribution of Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo

An interesting point is that Taiichi Ohno did not accept the present method as the best method. He advocated that it can be improved today or tomorrow. It is only a present standard operating procedure subject to improvement today or tomorrow. He wanted every body to believe in progress and improvement of methods.



1. Oxford handbook of work and organization, OUP 2005
3. Zenjiro Imaoka, Understand Supply Chain Management through 100 words,



Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan
By William M. Tsutsui, Princeton University Press, 2001

Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan - A Review

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