Human resources are certainly a key to advancing the art of manufacturing, and people constraints are becoming a problem for Japanese metal casters. Most of this panel's Japanese hosts report that it is difficult to hire college talent because the best graduates go to larger companies and then generally to nonfoundry jobs.
Since the Japanese recognize and value the contribution of engineers (Toyota has one engineer per five production workers), the hiring difficulty severely constrains their chosen method for making improvements.
It is also difficult to get young production workers to enter the casting field, although hiring has not been a recent priority because of the current low volume.
The difficulty in recruitment has resulted in more emphasis on training and development. Representatives of one gray iron plant stated that since recruitment was nearly impossible, all of their emphasis was on training. They consider their only avenue to continuous improvement and maintaining their ISO9000 certification to be training and improving the existing work force.
The firms WTEC visited were quite unanimous in the endorsement of training. All considered it a high priority. One firm presented a matrix that listed all levels from president to the lowest ranking job. It detailed prescribed training for each job ranging from leadership, management, planning, technical, and engineering topics to finally job safety and work instructions.
Other examples of commitment to training are the nearly two weeks of training that are scheduled each year for everyone at Komatsu. New hires at Ryobi are trained for three months before they work alone.
Technical people are generally encouraged to join and participate in professional societies. As a result, there is probably more sharing of technical advances between companies in Japan than is the case in the United States.