Japan Worried About Quality Declines

I’ve previously recommended the Project X manga books, which explore the effort it took to create new Japanese projects.

I was surprised to see the TV show they spun off from mentioned in the NY Times. This article starts off by talking about how unusual it was for a show about product quality to be so popular. It’s a lead-in to worries that “a recent surge in recalls of defective products” may indicate that “Japan may be losing its edge at a time when South Korea and China are breathing down its neck.”

World-leading craftsmanship became so central to the nation’s self-image that many Japanese seem to have trouble imagining their country without it. The recalls are discussed here in the same breath as Japan’s rising rates of crime and juvenile delinquency and other signs that the country’s tightly woven social fabric may be starting to fray. In the news media, Sony’s and Toyota’s quality problems have frequently topped coverage of wars in Iraq and Lebanon.

I’m waiting on a new Sony laptop battery for my Powerbook myself.

Various reasons crop up as possible explanations for declining quality. Universities bemoan that new students are more interested in literature and the liberal arts than engineering…. Others have begun to blame recent American-style management changes, like the end of traditional lifetime job guarantees.

I work in the software quality field, and it’s easy for people to overlook one or two small things that come back to bite them when it’s all the customer notices. Admittedly, a computer catching fire isn’t a small thing, but I can envision a set of circumstances that follow the “for want of a nail” principle.

In the comic field, quality has never been job one — once upon a time, timeliness was much more important, and now it’s sales. What’s on the page doesn’t matter if you’re at the top of the direct market chart.

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