The idea of Japanisation has been around for at minimum the last three decades. Since approximately the 1980s the idea has been popularized among UK managers seeking to remain competitive and forward thinking in relation to management and industrial relations. A number of Japanese "transplant" manufacturing companies have entered the UK environment in recent years. These companies are characterized by their more liberalized management systems that traditional incorporate employee friendly practices. Many UK companies currently operating have attempted to emulate their success; some with great fervor and others less so. Those adopting the Japanese model in whole have proven more successful than those who have not. The lack of success of some companies in the UK has been attributed to the failure to adopt the system as a whole; these companies by and large have attempted to synergize traditional British methods, which have been described at the very best by employees as rigid and rule ridden.
The most common model of Japanese management involves a production system where employees are held accountable for their actions, to the same extent that supervisors or manager would be held accountable for the actions of all employees in a more Western or Americanized model. Employees working under such conditions are thought to invest more personal effort and worth into the company at large, in part because their actions affect their chances for success as much as the companies.
Japanisation is also characterized by the idea or proliferance of just in time management, where goods and services are provided on an as needed basis, further increasing productivity by reducing extraneous waste and inventory. The idea of Japanisation and its influence thus far in the UK realm are explored in greater detail below.
Turnball notes that in the current state of employee relations, "all periods are characterized by elements of change and continuity" (Turnbull, 1994). The impact of new management techniques in the workforce of Britain, including changes represented in a broad sense as management based on the 'Japanese model' are being incorporated into aspects of manufacturing management (Delbridge, 1997).
Among the influences Japanisation has had on the manufacturing industry includes the idea of Just in time production or JIT. JIT is most commonly associated with Toyota, and similar manufacturers within the Japanese motor industry (Delbridge, 1998). This notion of management includes managing the "stocks and flow of material," and was spread in part via Japanese writers who published their work in English (Delbridge, 1998; Monden 1983; Ohno 1988). The Toyotal production system "became largely synonymous with JIT and 'Japanese' manufacturing management" (Delbridge, 1998).
A central feature of Japanese production involves the idea of just in time management (Wood, 1992). This package of techniques relies on "human and nonhuman resources" in the manufacturing process that all contribute to producing "high quality, competitively priced products with the minimum of wastage" (Beardwell, 1996). By nature manufacturing techniques relying on JIT principles must be incorporate technologically advanced production and manufacturing methods.
Taiichi Ohno is largely credited with discovering JIT, otherwise referred to as the "fundamental doctrine" of the Toyota production system, which dictates that production should aspire to "the total elimination of waste" (Delbridge, 1998; Ohno, 1988). The Japanese manufacturing model differed from the American version which was largely focused on mass production.
The Japanese model focuses on production driven by market requirements, "as information regarding demand pulls production through the processes" (Delbridge, 1998). This differs from a 'push' approach, which was traditionally used in British and American companies, where output plans are developed based on historical information and production is "decoupled from demand" (Delbridge, 1998).
Some have argued that the Japanese model is more effective because it emphasizes reliable production quality more so than traditional models, and couples well with the idea of total quality management, or TQM. Traditionally JIT production systems "dramatically increase the interdependencies between the actors involved in the production process (Oliver and Wilkinson, 1992). By demanding that all partners be involved in the supply and demand process, new criteria for excellence are established as everyone aspires to produce and manage successfully.
UK systems are also interested in TQM, an idea that traditionally Americans are credited with developing, but the Japanese are credited with actually implementing (Delbridge, 1998). The Japanese model has traditionally stressed the importance of managing quality in the workforce.
The Japanese model supports the combination of 'hard' and 'soft' management skills, which essentially combine process control with employee participation (Delbridge, 1998; Wilkinson, et. al, 1992). The Japanese economic model is often utilized due in large part to the success it has realized over the last two decades. According to Biggart and Hamilton, the Japanese model has been "the leading success story of the past two decades...the tremendous growth and economic development" (Biggart and Hamilton, 1997; Delbridge, 1998). The success of the Japanese economy has led to curiosity and interest particularly in the area of management practices within Japanese corporations, and it is these practices that are the most likely to be incorporated by UK corporations.
HISTORY OF JAPANISATION
The Japanese model first started making an impression during the 1960s and 1970s, but didn't spark extraordinary interest until the early 1980s, when many authors started placing a great emphasis on the natural intertwining of Japanese culture and traditions with management practices in business (Delbridge, 1998). Part of the spread of the Japanese model is due to literary translation of works written by Japanese engineers including Ohno and Shingo who paid particular emphasis to technical aspects of production (Delbridge, 1998). These author/engineers also emphasized the importance of combining technical and social aspects of manufacturing management.
By and large the Japanese model may be described as a combination of many facets of management, including but not limited to operations management, human resources management, human resources management and supply chain management (Delbridge, 1998). Employee involvement is also high on the list of important criteria in the Japanese model.
Many theorists have supported the notion that 'Japanisation' is possible in all industries and in all contexts, regardless of locality (Delbridge, 1998). This is certainly the philosophy adopted in the UK.
Nippon CTV is an example of a Japanese owned factory that is located in the southern portion of England. The factory employs 1,000 people. Recently the factory was the subject of a research study on the shop floor where a majority of the workers are women. There are eight assembly lines operating out of the panel shop, each of which uses an automatic conveyor to carry panels to operators working from their stations (Delbridge, 1997). The assembly teams are run by a team leader, who is responsible for handling any issues which might affect performance including quality control and disciplinary issues (Delbridge, 1997).
No formal job descriptions exist for plant management; rather each member of the organisation at Nippon is expected to do "whatever is necessary to maintain production at the designated levels of efficiency and quality" (Delbridge, 1997). Few external interruptions affect the daily work schedule at the plant; rather the plant is able to deliver its finished products with regular stability well in advance of production schedules on many occasions (Delbridge, 1997). The plant has also been recognized for its reliable quality and delivery from suppliers (Delbridge, 1997). Problem prevention and "first time right" concepts are critical to the success of operations (Delbridge, 1997).
Management provides team leaders with support in the way of uniform responses and formal negotiations related to established rules (Delbridge, 1997). Whereas in traditional corporations managers are held accountable for the actions of their teams, at Nippon the opposite is true; every individual and every worker from production line on up is held accountable for their actions and the quality of product that they produce (Delbridge, 1997). The performance of any one individual at any point in time is publicly displayed.
As of late January 1993 there were 167 Japanese manufacturers working out of the UK, of which employed more than 50,000 British workers (Beardwell, 1996; AJEI, 1992). Often these companies have been hailed as the "vanguard of employers" that are now implementing new industrial relations and manufacturing management practices modeled after the Japan style within the UK (Beardwell, 1996; Basset, 1986; IRS, 1990).
Management techniques developed by the Japanese have been adopted by many UK companies, in part to compete with Japanese competitors, and in part to improve productivity and efficiency (Beardwell, 1996). Contemporary management practices and trends within the UK may be characterized as "Japanised" by nature.
Japanisation" within the UK has been described in various ways. It has been described as operating at two levels, as either a "process or impact" related to investment or as "attempts of British companies to emulate Japanese Practices" (Beardwell, 1996). Ackroyd et. al (1988) perhaps presented the best definition in which he refers to Japanisation as a "mediated" form of management (Beardwell, 1996). Ackroyd claims that "mediated" Japanisation refers to British companies that adopt Japanese practices with the thought that Japanese companies traditionally have honored…