Fumio Kodama has identified five emerging "techno-paradigm" shifts that are apparent in Japanese companies (Kodama 1991); these were seen in the polymer composites area by the JTEC team as well:

  1. manufacturing companies -- from producing to thinking organizations
  2. business dynamics -- from single to multiple-technology base (diversification)
  3. R&D activities -- from visible to invisible enemies (competition from other industries rather than from industries within the same industrial sector)
  4. technology development -- from a linear to a demand articulation process (a focus on how to put existing technology to the best possible use)
  5. technology diffusion -- from technical to institutional innovation

It would appear that these shifts have been accepted by the leading Japanese companies who are now working on a very different level from that seen a few years ago.

The JTEC team drew the following overall conclusions concerning product and process development in Japan:

The JTEC group felt that although the state of technology was about the same in both countries, Japan would seem to hold a lead in bringing products rapidly to market. Some reasons for this have been given in this chapter, while others relate directly to the socio-political and economic conditions prevalent today. Although much has been made of the methods used by the Japanese and the critical need for their acceptance by the U.S., it is this author's opinion that blanket copying of approaches will not solve problems, nor will it narrow the perceived gap in competitiveness. The methods used by the Japanese are largely rooted in their cultural background and psyche, and it is improbable that the approaches would find successful applicability in regions where the culture and people are in many cases asymmetrically aligned. However, we would do well to learn from them in aspects related to precompetitive collaboration, worker education, and in what may loosely be termed "individual responsibility."

Published: April 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian