In November of last year, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. was hit with one of the largest quality scandals in Japan’s manufacturing industry. The scandal started when Mitsubishi admitted that workers had been doctoring quality data to make it appear like the low-quality products were hitting customer standards when they were not. Mitsubishi is made up of a number of subsidiaries that produce cement, copper, and electronic materials such as airplane and car parts. Many of Mitsubishi’s subsidiaries were part of the quality scandal. False data reports include reports made by Mitsubishi Cable Industries on rubber sealants used in automobiles and reports made by Mitsubishi Motors on fuel efficiency tests. These products are shipped to over 200 customers, which means the scandal will have far reaching affects.
This case shows the importance of good quality management. First, in actually ensuring products are made well and are made to customer standards. A company is nothing if it does not live up to its quality promise. Still, sometimes even the best run companies make mistakes and the quality isn’t everything that it should be. If that failure happens, then quality management can be used to identify the problem and fix it. Mitsubishi clearly did not have a quality management program in place. When Japan’s Economy Minister asked Mitsubishi why it took so long for them to report the quality problems, Mitsubishi responded that while they were aware the products were not meeting standards, they did not know exactly how off the mark they were. Basically, they did not know where in the process they were going wrong, so they had no idea how bad the problem really was or how to fix the problem. Mitsubishi was hesitant to tell customers that there was a quality issue when they didn’t have any further details. They thought telling the customers only half the information would have been confusing instead of helpful, so instead they said nothing at all. Obviously, once the fake quality data was revealed to be false, customers were angry that they were sold low quality products and that Mitsubishi lied to them. This is especially dangerous because Mitsubishi sells parts that are used in heavy machinery such as airplanes and cars. Mitsubishi is still claiming that none of its quality mistakes are safety hazards, but since the quality reports were lies it is hard to know when to trust the company. It is especially worrying that the same mistake was made in multiple of the subsidiaries, suggesting this is a widespread problem for the parent company that needs to be addressed. As a result of the scandal, Mitsubishi is suffering in the public eye. Their shares fell 8% after the scandal broke and many orders were cancelled.
In order to regain customers’ trust and a good reputation, Mitsubishi will need to think of ways to improve their quality management. In class we talked about how Japan has faced quality issues in the past but was able to come back from those problems with the use of kaizen, or continuous improvement. Where do you think Mitsubishi went wrong and do you think Mitsubishi can still fix its own problems using one of the methods we talked about in class?