Japan: Technology investments build strength

On 29 October 2001, during a session on the “Impact of Technological Innovation on Strategic Planning,” John Loose, chief executive officer of Corning, Inc. of the US and Etsuhiko Shoyama, president o…

On 29 October 2001, during a session on the “Impact of Technological Innovation on Strategic Planning,” John Loose, chief executive officer of Corning, Inc. of the US and Etsuhiko Shoyama, president of Hitachi Ltd., elaborated on their strategies to strengthen international competitiveness. Summaries of their speeches follow: Loose: “Quality and the Corning Transformation” Just a few months ago, we celebrated our 150th anniversary as a company. And over those 150 years, we have built our businesses on discovery and innovation. We provided the glass envelope for Thomas Edison“s first electric light. We pioneered the mass production of black-and-white, and later, colour-television tubes. And we developed optical fibre, the strands of glass that revolutionized telecommunications. The essence of our history is a story about new ideas building on old ones – taking the materials and processes we know best and finding new and innovative ways of taking them to market. Over the years, quality has become the foundation upon which our company operates. The commitment to quality paid off as our optical-fibre business began to emerge. Our scientists had actually invented optical fibre back in 1970 and we knew the potential was enormous, but there wasn“t a market yet. For more than a decade, it became an example of what we call a “patient investment.” And it was expensive, too. It“s a well-known fact around our company that we spent more than $30 million over 20 years before we made any money on fibre at all. But by 1983, we had created the telecommunications product business to make and market optical fibre, which few people understood and even fewer believed would replace copper, which wired the world“s telecommunications infrastructure. It was a tough sell because in telecommunications, we had no history, no product line, no customer relationships and no industry connections to smooth the way. We had to show the world that optical fibre was more than just an interesting idea, it was something that would change the world. And we knew we had to infuse the elements of total quality into every step of the chain from idea to application. Without quality, we couldn“t have been a credible entrant into this very competitive market, let alone achieve market leadership. Quality is at the heart of our core values. While our values don“t change, our operating environment does change. We constantly test and adjust it to reflect the world around us. Shoyama: “Integrated Management Inspires Technological Innovations” With the help of advanced information technologies, “a ubiquitous information society” can be built that allows people to easily obtain information regardless of time or space. Such a borderless world, however, has produced negative impacts. They are environmental problems, including global warming, air pollution and waste, as well as food crisis. To dispose of waste, we have to put together technologies to break up waste, catalytic methods to make toxic gas harmless and ways to recycle materials like plastics. To prevent a food crisis, we need to combine biotechnologies to create new species that offer more efficient harvests and methods to analyze data related to biological experiments. As for the environmental issue, Hitachi is already developing technology that fuses combustion and lithium-ion battery techniques to reduce vehicle exhaust. Our firm also aims to add value to existing products by using information technology. To achieve the merger of technologies, it is crucial to solidify the unification of group companies. Hitachi has divided its operations to make individual divisions more independent in terms of management. Now we seek to strengthen group integration. Alliances with other companies are also a crucial option to survive a rapidly changing society. Such tie-ups will be most effective when the partners are both strong players. Hitachi is a forerunner in the development of many fields, including data storage technology, network security techniques, e-commerce systems and intelligent road-traffic systems. Our company invests 6% of sales in research and development, aiming to strengthen our core technologies.