While the United States may be a nation of explorers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors who have developed products like the airplane, TV, personal computer, video tape machine, and cellular phone, the United States has had difficulty maintaining leadership in many of these industries. Being "first to market" has not guaranteed success in developing next-generation products. It has been Japanese companies with expertise in miniaturization technologies and manufacturing equipment that have garnered the competitive advantages in developing next-generation products.

The Japanese companies look for new growth markets where they can apply their miniaturization and manufacturing skills to next-generation products. By identifying and solving difficult technical problems, the Japanese have been able to outperform U.S. firms in many industries. Motorola is one of the few U.S. firms that has been able to maintain its market position by continuously miniaturizing its products and applying advanced manufacturing technologies to cellular telephones.

In electronic packaging, Japan's vast supplier base is constantly working to solve the technical problems related to next-generation products. Thanks to leadership at the national level and ongoing, industry-wide communication and cooperation, everyone understands the technical requirements, and the microelectronics industry is focused on solving the most difficult technical problems. Clear market orientation, nurturing of intra-industry and industry-public sector interdependence, good communication, and on-going research and development of component and process technology as well as new technology all seem to be critical components of Japan's microelectronics industry infrastructure.

Published: February 1995; WTEC Hyper-Librarian