Made in America (Under Japanese Management)

By Richard T. JohnsonWilliam G. Ouchi
1974| Working Paper No. 201

In Atlanta, Georgia, a U. S. electronics manufacturer utilizes an assembly line in which thirty five women assemble transister panels in a prescribed set of steps. Six thousand miles away, an identical assembly line belonging to the same company, with identical technology, the same assembly steps and the same number of assemblers, manufactures the same part. The only difference between the two lines is their productivity; Japanese employees at the plant in Tokyo produce 15% more than their American counterparts.There is little startling in such statistics these days as much has been written about Japanese productivity miracles. But in San Diego, California and in other communities across the United States, evidence is beginning to accumulate that may cause American managers to search for deeper understandings of what lies behind Japanese producitivity. At Sony’sSan Diego plant, for example, 17 and 19 inch color T.V.’s are made by a workforce of over 200 Americans on an assembly line that is in every respect identical to Sony’s assembly line in Japan. The startling finding is that the American workers produce as much for Sony in San Diego as do Sony’s Japanese assemblers in Tokyo. In fact, our interviews with twenty firms in the United States suggest that, in many instances, they are outperforming forming their American counterparts. This paper is for discussion purposes only and should not be quoted in any form.