日本の製造業 成長市場の攻略で巻き返しを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 7, 2012)
Japan's manufacturers should focus on growth markets
日本の製造業 成長市場の攻略で巻き返しを(6月6日付・読売社説)

Japan's manufacturing sector faces serious challenges. The nation must urgently review its strategies to regain the industries' overall competitiveness.

The government has compiled this year's White Paper on Manufacturing Industries, which examines the pressing issues of a sector often described as "losing in business projects despite winning in technological prowess."

Panasonic Corp., Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp. have all posted record deficits primarily because of poor results in their flat-panel television businesses, while semiconductor manufacturer Elpida Memory, Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Automakers have been lagging behind their U.S. and European rivals in China, the world's largest market.

It is a serious situation in which Japan's entire manufacturing sector--once the nation's forte--has nearly crumbled due to the yen's hyperappreciation.

Why have Japanese manufacturers lost their competitiveness so rapidly?

It is primarily because they "responded slowly to international structural changes," as the white paper put it.


Time to shift from all-in-one system

Japanese companies used to enjoy the advantage of a system in which they covered the entire production process from planning and developing to manufacturing.

But today, companies in emerging countries have boosted their competitiveness as they have become able to mass-produce goods at low cost. Many overseas firms--with Apple Inc. of the United States as a good example--focus only on planning and developing products, while commissioning their assembly to manufacturers in emerging countries.

Japanese manufacturers' lack of similar focus has them trapped--they cannot make profits despite their technological advantages because their indecisive stances have caused them to lose global market share.

To make matters worse, Japanese companies have been failing to promptly respond to changes in demand in emerging markets, which have an exploding number of middle-income households.

The white paper poses a question: "Whom should manufacturing serve?" This seems to encourage manufacturers to discover needs in growth markets and apply their management resources to meeting such needs.

We urge Japanese makers to accelerate their efforts to develop low- and mid-priced products for emerging markets, such as other Asian countries. They also should establish an appropriate system of international division of labor to quickly assemble products in places close to target markets.

It is surely important for Japanese manufacturers to select business projects and concentrate their resources on them. It is difficult, however, for them to turn their fortunes around if they only focus on downsizing their operations. These firms should keep a sharp eye out to identify fields in which they can demonstrate competitiveness.


Strengthen advantages

If Japanese companies relocate more and more of their manufacturing functions overseas, however, it will accelerate the hollowing-out of domestic industries and declining employment. There is also concern that Japanese industrial culture--characterized by achieving goals and solving problems--will deteriorate.

In this regard, it is appropriate for the white paper to call for the nation's manufacturing sector to strengthen its "mother factory" function to support overseas production sites. We urge manufacturers to establish strategies to boost their research and development divisions, as well as their flagship factories.

The government also has an important role to play in reviving the nation's manufacturing industry. It should overcome its delay in signing bilateral economic partnership agreements. It should also decide to take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational trade framework as soon as possible.

To maintain domestic manufacturing functions, moreover, it is crucial for the government to ensure a stable electric power supply by accelerating efforts to reactivate idled nuclear reactors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2012)
(2012年6月6日01時29分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-06-08 06:38 | 英字新聞

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