The area of product development, although a "soft" area in terms of technology (especially in a field such as composites), is however perhaps all the more important due to the changes in paradigm necessary for a successful completion of the product realization process. Not only does the development effort need an integrated team, but it also depends heavily on team dynamics, procedures, and even intangibles such as trust and team loyalty. In addition to technological and software based advances, developments in cultural attitudes will also play a large part in the success of this area. It is interesting to look at some data from the American Quality Foundation that compares the commitment of over 500 companies in the automotive, banking, computer, and health care industries to five strategic quality elements as in Table 7.4. For ease, numbers have been rounded to the nearest five percent.
Commitment to Five Strategic Elements of Quality
It is interesting to note that the Japanese outscore all others in three key areas: time- based competition, process simplification and performance evaluation, all of which are of critical importance to the rapid and successful completion of the product realization process. Again, it has to be understood that the development of composites will only be successful if taken from an integrated perspective which includes marketing, finance, materials, manufacturing, design, and supporting elements, all of which are already present in the Japanese keiretsu but not in the cultures of the west. While considering aspects of the PRP it is important to note that the keiretsu structure (Figure 7.16) allows the Japanese to be far more flexible than their Western counterparts because of ready made markets within close-knit keiretsu groups.
Figure 7.16. Structure of the Mitsui Keiretsu
In this report we will not expand on the role of the keiretsu, but will present, for the sake of completeness and understanding, the structure and interrelationships between companies within two of the keiretsu (Figure 7.17 and 7.18), and a schematic of the overall structure and interaction between the six major keiretsu.
These six major keiretsu are linked as shown in Figure 7.19 and coexist with a number of smaller and minor keiretsu.
Figure 7.17. The Sanwa Group
Figure 7.18. The DKB Group
Figure 7.19. Interactions Between Major Keiretsu and Other Groups
It is emphasized that this structure allows companies to speed up the PRP because of the presence of vertically and horizontally integrated teams, very often presenting both the developer, marketing arm, and customer as different companies within the same keiretsu.
In overall terms the approach to product development followed by the Japanese can be described by the following:
Figure 7.20. Percentage of Sales for a Typical Japanese "Heavy Industries" Company (after M. Ashizawa)
Most companies aggressively pursue the search for new markets, even going as far as creating a demand for a product through aggressive demonstration projects, such as is currently being done in the infrastructure rehabilitation area. Very often the keiretsu structure is used to find the initial customers and create the acceptance. There is an increasing search for new partners with the emphasis being on increased sharing of development costs and risks, as well as the need for new ideas through technology fusion. Of late there has been a significant increase in alliances and long term agreements between Japanese and International firms; the trend is seen in the composites area as well with Tonen, Toray, JAMCO, and KHI being examples. The increase in collaborative R&D, as well as in joint ventures, is also an attempt to lock in their customer base. For further details the interested reader is referred to the excellent collection of papers in a book published by the National Research Council (1992).