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28 February 2024

Japan's reputation for quality takes a battering

By David Robertson

One of the more alarming stories of the past week came from Japan where a company called Koito Industries admitted that it had falsified safety test results for 150,000 aircraft seats. Apparently, the dynamic load tests that simulate a human body being thrust into a seat at high speed were fabricated and the Koito products did not, in fact, meet the necessary standards.

The government believes that no product recall will be necessary but carriers such as Singapore and All Nippon Airways are seeking clarification. Let us hope that this does not turn out to be a serious incident because Japan's hard-earned reputation for industrial quality has taken quite a battering recently. Instances such as this as well as Toyota's ongoing dramas have begun to call into question the very culture that turned Japan into an industrial powerhouse.

The problem is that the system of seniority in corporations means that it becomes very difficult for underlings to give their superiors bad news. Mistakes or potential failures are, therefore, covered up to save embarrassment – at least until the faults are discovered.


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