Why standards make it easier for companies to compete
IEC Global Visions recently interviewed Dr Tamotsu Nomakuchi, former CEO of Mitsubishi Electric and currently President of the most important industrial research centre in Japan, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) as well as Chair of the Technology Council of JISC (Japanese Industrial Standards Committee). In the interview we tried to find out what had changed Nomakuchi’s outlook on standards over the course of his career, and why he thinks today that they are very important for companies to compete globally
Quality – built into the DNA
When asked why Japanese companies have such an affinity with standardization, Nomakuchi explained that Japanese companies are traditionally very comfortable to manufacture high quality products. Historically speaking, the internal quality control system allowed them to manufacture products that could easily be sold anywhere in the world. The delivery of “higher than expected” quality allowed Japanese firms to achieve good customer satisfaction and build a competitive advantage.
Speed is now very important
In the interview Nomakuchi underlined that if he had been asked thirty years ago about the usefulness of standards, he would have replied that standardization is not necessary and that it hinders technological advancement. However, today competition has become fiercer and is accelerating globally. Speed is very important and technology progresses very fast and many different technologies are merging. As a result companies need to move very fast.
A tool to measure competition
Today, to stay internationally competitive Japanese enterprises need to compete under the same conditions as their competitors. International Standards are one of the tools that allow them to measure competition. Additionally, by participating in the standard setting process in all areas that are of interest to them, Japanese companies are able to broadly position their technologies. In short, International Standards help Japanese companies to compete more efficiently and to promote their innovations. In this context assessment and certification are also crucial and Nomakuchi believes that this aspect of standardization needs to be even more promoted.
Promoting broad cooperation
But competition is only one side of the coin. Increasingly companies need to work together to address some of the major global challenges including energy, resources and the environment. Individual companies may have many different views and ways to do things. However, when dealing with these major issues, individual company, industry or government efforts will not be enough. Humanity needs to develop major technological innovations and this requires extensive cooperation and research. International Standardization bodies such as the IEC will play an important role. Since the IEC is represented in both developing and developed nations, it is able to promote standardization globally to address these challenges.
The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology is a public research institution funded primarily by the Japanese government. It has over 40 autonomous research units in various innovative research fields, which are located at nine research bases and several other sites all over Japan. About 2400 resident researchers and thousands of visiting scientists, post-doctoral fellows, and students from Japan and abroad are working at AIST. They are supported by over 700 permanent and temporary administrative staff.
Japanese Industrial Standards Committee is a national standardization body under the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. JISC engages in activities designed to promote both international and domestic standardization in order to enhance economic development and social welfare. More than 500 experts representing academia, manufacturers and service providers work in JISC to develop consensus based standards.