Japans manufacturing industry can be the largest industry that contributes in the Japanese economy. It is admired by the various researchers that the Japanese companies enable to target the aspects of corporate and research strengths. Through the use of the various technologies, which half maybe came from their land, the Japanese companies laid broader approach regarding the idea of product development.
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In general, Japanese approach to the product development has a large numbers of changes. For example, the automobile industry in Japan had radical steps such as the application of the concept of the fuel cells (Masaru and Kazuhiko, 2009). The organization has an aim to provide the quality solution by answering two of the biggest issues in the era of modernization – the environmental destruction and the problem in the oil, gas, and other petroleum products. From this example the organization can have the full opportunity to be the first company that enables to incorporate the use of technology. But the drawback is the cost of the product that might be too expensive for the customers (Masaru and Kazuhiko, 2009). Japan has strength to set the flow of trend in the market and the high level of technology delivers the variety of strategies that can, however, minimize the appearance of the present problems. Japanese culture views technology as a tool for making marketable products (Takahiro and Joe, 1995). Production technology is central to such a view and has become a clear force in developing competitive advantage for Japan’s industrial giants. An effective vision of next-generation products combined with continuous product improvements provides the vision for “upstream” developments (Takahiro and Joe, 1995). Japan’s focus on production equipment and process improvements is directed towards designing for cost and manufacturability: that is, Japan’s focus is on designing processes to improve productivity, increase quality, and decrease cost; designing concurrent engineering methods to speed product introductions; developing software to implement and improve factory automation; and devising effective management methods related to all of the above (Takahiro and Joe, 1995).
On the other hand, the UK has a responsibility in meeting their own set of standards based on the participating companies, research, and government organizations and then, latter develop their product (Sven Haake, et al., 2000). Again, the automobile manufacturing is the example that can be use. The approach of the UK in the product development was prioritized on various concerns such as addressing the organizations participation in terms of security. If the manufacturers followed the innovation of fuel cell, the assurance of the UK’s framework should be also developed for the proper deployment. Such policies like the use of technologies, standards, codes, and infrastructures are the UK’s gateway toward the evolution (Sven Haake, et al., 2000).
Comparison of Product Improvement Techniques:
The Japanese plants have continued to make improvements in terms of labour efficiency and still lead their UK counterparts, by a significant margin. Labour productivity in the UK plants has been more or less static (and actually shows a decline). Although on average production volumes in the plants in the two countries have risen, Japan has managed this with a much smaller increase in headcount than the UK plants, and without a major rationalization of product ranges (Masaru and Kazuhiko, 2009). Plants in the two countries have made significant progress in reducing the proportion of defective products that reach their customers (that is, the car makers, in the case of this study). Japan continues to lead the UK in quality performance by a margin of around 35 per cen. Given the sustained, and in some areas increasing, performance advantage of the Japanese plants, it is precisely in areas such as these that renewed interest should be taken (Masaru and Kazuhiko, 2009). The measures relevant to the closeness of buyer supplier relations largely present a picture of continuity, rather than change, in Japan. The tight logistics symptomatic of close social relations between buyers and suppliers have if anything becomes tighter over the last seven years. Of course it may be that changes in the commercial relations between firms do not affect such operational details, though this would run counter to what has been the accepted wisdom through much of the 1980s and 1990s, namely that it is the very existence of tight social relations that permits and facilitates operational excellence (Takahiro and Joe, 1995). An alternative explanation is that changes in social relations are occurring, but that the lag inherent in any such changes is obscuring this. The economic problems experienced by Japan at a macroeconomic level should not distract from the continuing lessons that may be gleaned from operational assessments of Japanese manufacturers. In difficult circumstances, Japanese plants have continued to improve their operational performance. The concept of continuous improvement is one of the most significant components of the Japanese model of manufacturing; the evidence reported here suggests that this concept remains an enduring feature of Japanese manufacturers and it remains an area where Western manufacturers, especially UK, may have much to learn (Takahiro and Joe, 1995).
Methods of Product Development:
Below are two important methods that are used by Japanese companies:
Prototyping: is the process of building a model of a system. In terms of an information system, prototypes are employed to help system designers build an information system that intuitive and easy to manipulate for end users. Prototyping is an iterative process that is part of the analysis phase of the systems development life cycle (Glenn, et al., 2008). During the requirements determination portion of the systems analysis phase, system analysts gather information about the organization’s current procedures and business processes related the proposed information system. In addition, they study the current information system, if there is one, and conduct user interviews and collect documentation. This helps the analysts develop an initial set of system requirements (Glenn, et al., 2008).
Prototyping can augment this process because it converts these basic, yet sometimes intangible, specifications into a tangible but limited working model of the desired information system. The user feedback gained from developing a physical system that the users can touch and see facilitates an evaluative response that the analyst can employ to modify existing requirements as well as developing new ones (Michael and Mitzi, 2000). Prototyping comes in many forms – from low tech sketches or paper screens (Pictive) from which users and developers can paste controls and objects, to high tech operational systems using CASE (computer-aided software engineering) or fourth generation languages and everywhere in between. Many organizations use multiple prototyping tools. For example, some will use paper in the initial analysis to facilitate concrete user feedback and then later develop an operational prototype using fourth generation languages, such as Visual Basic, during the design stage (Michael and Mitzi, 2000).
Some Advantages of Prototyping:
Reduces development time.
Reduces development costs.
Requires user involvement.
Developers receive quantifiable user feedback.
Facilitates system implementation since users know what to expect.
Results in higher user satisfaction.
Exposes developers to potential future system enhancements (Gerri, 1999).
Some Disadvantages of Prototyping
Can lead to insufficient analysis.
Users expect the performance of the ultimate system to be the same as the prototype.
Developers can become too attached to their prototypes.
Can cause systems to be left unfinished and/or implemented before they are ready.
Sometimes leads to incomplete documentation.
If sophisticated software prototypes (4th Generation Language or CASE (computer-aided software engineering) Tools) are employed, the time saving benefit of prototyping can be lost (Gerri, 1999).
Because prototypes inherently increase the quality and amount of communication between the developer/analyst and the end user, its’ use has become widespread. In the early 1980’s, organizations used prototyping approximately thirty percent (30%) of the time in development projects. By the early 1990’s, its use had doubled to sixty percent (60%) (Juha, 2005). Although there are guidelines on when to use software prototyping. Prototyping will grow even bigger in the future especially in the UK as it will reduce time and cost and will help by pushing the economy as the new products will be available to consumers in lesser time.
Time-Based Concurrent Engineering:
Despite the fact that Japanese manufacturers have led the way in compressing time by speeding up product development, Toyota’s unique adaptation of concurrent engineering appears a contradiction of universal thinking. Instead of pursuing design decisions as early as possible by marshalling the energies of all team members, Toyota uses a method best described as “set-based” concurrent engineering (Sotiris, 2005). Designers at Toyota work with sets of design alternatives instead of systematically carrying one basic idea through progressive iterations. The sets are gradually narrowed until a final solution is agreed upon. Toyota uses a relatively unstructured development process in which decisions are purposely delayed, so that suppliers are not provided with final specifications until very late in the process. Another unique aspect of the process is that numerous prototypes are built and evaluated. Many automobile industry experts feel that prototyping and subsequent testing are two phases of the product development process that greatly extend cycle time. However, tile paradoxical system employed by Toyota is undoubtedly effective. Toyota is recognized as the world leader in fast and efficient development of vehicles (Sotiris, 2005).
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In general, Japanese companies have been ahead of almost everyone in adopting fast product development tactics. Some Japanese companies, however, found in the 1990’s that despite committing more emphasis and capital to Time-Based Competition (TBC) strategies, they were not achieving competitive advantages, higher margins, and more profit (A. Al-shaab, et al., 2009). It was difficult to gain an advantage when every other company was employing the same strategy. Further, it appears the Japanese made their companies time-based in terms of efficiency, instead of embracing a more encompassing strategy. These Japanese firms failed to carry TBC beyond the initial phases of implementation. They neglected to recognize that TBC strategy is a constantly evolving exercise that must focus on the needs of customers. The lesson to be learned is that time compression is not a cure-all. Time reductions that are not tied to viable business strategies can dramatically reduce profits by unnecessarily increasing costs (A. Al-shaab, et al., 2009).
One Japanese design and development methodology that helps enable quality planning throughout the concurrent engineering process is Quality Function Deployment (QFD). Unlike other quality methods originally developed in the West, the QFD methodology was born out of Total Quality Control (TQC) activities in Japan during the 1960s. Development was motivated by two issues : how to design a new product that meets customer needs, and  the desire to provide QC process charts (control plan) to manufacturing before initial production (Nick, et al., 2002). The QFD methodology provides a structured framework for concurrent engineering that propagates the “voice of the customer” through all phases of product development. Concurrent-engineering is one of the best methods in developing a new product. It involves many small and big companies in contributing towards the product at the same time. The future of this method is great as it will involve more engineers and companies in producing the product, hence, it will reduce the time to produce a new product.
Conclusion and Future of UK Product Development:
The Japanese tend to recruit scientists primarily within basic research and if one compares Japan to the UK, the latter has many more people in basic research reflecting the concept of “creativity in invention” inherent in the British economy. Japan however has its focus – and thus its advantage – in applied research (A. Al-shaab, et al., 2009). Japanese manufacturing companies recruit far more engineers and integrate them across the whole company. When comparing the number of engineers in product development and design in the UK to those in Japan, the latter tends to actively invest and nurture more resources, and hence create better capability. If the Japanese manufacturers have strength in setting the trends in the market, the UK manufacturing industry has strength by following the governmental policies.
The UK needs to invest more in engineers and make new products research easier to develop by given scientist less tougher rules by the government and much more funds and investment from both companies and the government. They also need to integrate more engineers in the manufacturing area so they could be in equal place with Japan.
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