In a world where the word “innovation” is overused, it is easy to forget that some of the best ideas come from old traditions that have stood the test of time. This is why Japanese companies have a long history of creating high quality products and a leading role in sustainable business
By applying the principle of Monozukuri, Japanese companies create products that are not only functional, efficient and reliable, but also aesthetically pleasing, timeless and, most importantly, durable and sustainable. One of the best examples is the electronics giant Epson.
Although Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet, tradition is woven into every part of modern business. Connoisseurs of Japan are familiar with the Monozukuri principle, known as the “art and science of manufacturing”, which for centuries has been the core of all craft production, and often the guiding idea for modern techniques. The name itself consists of two Japanese words, “mono”, the object that is made, and “zukuri”, the act of making it. The Monozukuri concept focuses both on tools for continuous improvement of production and on the culture of making, and throughout history it has been associated with a work ethic based on broad knowledge, many skills and a deep passion for achieving perfection. All of this is accompanied by pride in an achievement, a sense of responsibility and a deep respect for the materials used.
As the Japanese first focus on the longterm vision, and only then on the short-term results, Japanese companies are strongly committed to sustainable development, adhering to the old principles of manufacturing and its contribution to society. Whether it is cars or electronics, this country is synonymous with quality, and commitment to this is reflected in every product made in Japan.
MONOZUKURI RESTS ON THREE PILLARS
We live in an era where companies’ attitudes towards social and environmental issues, from global warming to plastic pollution and human rights, are being tested on a daily basis, and now we expect initiatives for environmental and social sustainability, and a contribution to environmental social corporate governance (ESG).
In manufacturing, the Monozukuri concept dictates that great care should be taken in the use of resources, so as not to be wasteful. Everything should be in harmony with nature and be beneficial to society, while maintaining a balance between manufacturing, resources and society.
Monozukuri rests on three pillars, each of which exists to achieve the least expensive, most sustainable processes while accelerating continuous improvement. For businesses, this means three key areas. The first covers the product and its development in the design phase, focused on reducing resources and costs to a minimum by standardising processes, optimising transparency and teamwork. The second area is manufacturing, where the goal is to eliminate or reduce waste, and the third is the supply chain, where it is important to reduce the overall impact and costs.
MONOZUKURI AND THE IMPACT ON BUSINESS
By adopting the Monozukuri concept, businesses can focus on eliminating waste and streamlining processes to ensure sustainable cost reductions, leaving the opportunity to reinvest profits and effort into employees, society and the planet. This holistic approach not only results in a positive impact on the business and its customers, but also ensures sustainable growth.
Many Japanese companies exemplify this, Epson in particular. Epson’s core values rest on a sense of duty to contribute to the development and well-being of society as a whole by delivering innovative products that reflect the needs of customers today. Epson is dedicated to its users and employees, but it is also dedicated to preserving the world in which we live.
This is also confirmed by the platinum status of the Responsible Business Association (RBA) for responsible manufacturing, awarded to a factory in the Philippines in November 2022. RBA is the world’s largest industry coalition dedicated to corporate social responsibility in global supply chains, whose aim is to support the rights and well-being of workers and communities.
There are many lessons we can learn from the Japanese and the way they manage business. Innovative technologies are not the only way to success, because traditional methods that have stood the test of time can still be applicable, and it is always essential to achieve harmony with the entire environment.
MONOZUKURI’S FOCUS IS ON THE USER
Although a vision is important, both for an individual and for a business, it must be realistic and meet the needs of those around us. Putting users first is part of the Monozukuri concept, which helps Japanese companies think for the long term. Care is taken of what the user might want and what is needed for manufacturing itself, and in return this concept brings the best quality products and services that win the trust of the user.
In Japan, great importance is attached to the choice of materials and it is believed that a product should be made to last. Monozukuri holds several basic principles that differentiate it from other forms of manufacturing. To begin with, all manufacturing processes strive for perfection. Everything the company does should be directed towards a higher goal so that even when challenges arise, this approach contributes to the preservation of the business. Essentially, the ultimate goal is to achieve the highest quality product created in the most efficient way that generates original value and really makes a difference in people’s lives, all without having a negative impact on the environment around us.
MONOZUKURI ENCOURAGES ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Monozukuri encourages a company’s staff to freely contribute their ideas and express themselves as much as possible. It empowers and trains them to deal with various situations so that they feel belonging and responsibility. This is not only about making a product, but also about instilling pride and passion in what is done. For Monozukuri, you need to open the creative mind. Since it is all about people who make things, manufacturing is impossible if people do not have support. This is where the Hitozukuri concept comes into play, the organisation’s commitment to the lifelong development of the skills and knowledge of all of its staff. It is a continuous process that allows people to mature along with their work, to achieve success in all fields and in all skills.
Epson, for example, has a special programme for new employees. The first year of employment is considered to be a training period in which new staff learn about the company and adopt its business philosophy. The new staff gather for group training, where they are encouraged to practice Monozukuri, which is the foundation of Epson’s efficient, compact and precise technologies.