Love in Tokyo...and Oita
“Le gayi dil, gudiya Japan ki, paagal mujhe kar diya.....”
Yes, you got it right. The last two days (and nights) I have been in Japan. And though the Japanese maidens and damsels have still not intoxicated me completely (they are enchanting enough if you take a visit to Tokyo’s Roppongi district night life), what is really already bowling me out is observing the famed Japanese competency first hand, especially in manufacturing and retail.
Today morning, I had gone to visit the manufacturing plant of a world-renowned electronic giant in Oita city in Kyushu island. Japan, incidentally has five islands, with Tokyo being in Hokkaido, the largest of them. The visit to this plant was an eye opener—forget India, I have visited factories in Europe (Finlnd, Dublin, Bristol), US (Boston, Chicago) but this Oita plant beats them all hands down. Be it in terms of clockwork precision, disciplined production sequence (following Kaizen) or workforce efficiency, Japanese manufacturing is miles ahead of its global counterparts. Just see these numbers: in one of the SMT lines, the daily production capacity is 11,000 with 640 people. Just imagine the levels of productivity. And this efficiency is achieved keeping in mind even issues like proper disposal of electronic waste as well as social norms like hiring people of different diverse backgrounds.
While I know it would more of a pipedream to even imagine India would ever come close to Japan in manufacturing in the near future, at least we can look at some of the biggest constraints. At the risk of angering a large part of our populace, I will say it is our social norms and so-called ‘obligations’ (more so created out of political largesses) that is holding us back. While in principle, I am for natural justice for workers, I absolutely do not buy the idea of militant trade unionism in India, largely to appease and as a mask for political goals and ambitions. That in turn only encourages abundance of unskilled workforce which in turn brings down productivity as well as efficiency. And while I agree in a largely populated country like us, we cannot go for large scale automation, the fact of the matter is that we cannot compromise on efficiency at the cost of giving more people jobs. And mind it, even in the Japanese plant only the routine processes are automated, all finer things like inspection, testing, checking, quality control and mending do require human intervention. However, that requires development of specialized skilled workforce, a principle which is alien in the Indian manufacturing scenario.
Talking of another pain area, in Kyushu island itself, I visited a large electronic retail chain and was amazed at not just the huge quantity of products displayed, but also how they were displayed. After all in retail, customer experience is of the utmost essence and unfortunately our retailers seem to care little about that. The convenience of shopping or even browsing through well categorized shelves with detailed explanations as well as knowledgeable salespersons is another area that is practically foreign to us in India.
Well as a true patriotic Indian, I can say only that one day things will change and even India will match up to Japan in all aspects. After all
“Gudiya Japan ki dil le jaa sakti hai, phir bhi dil hai hindustani”