Challenges and barriers abound. But the fact remains that Japan is one of the most important business venues in the world. The country's economy is rebounding. Its commitment to quality has always been exceptional. Its reverence for R&D is nearly unsurpassed. The extent of governmental regulation is not excessive by international standards. And from a supply chain perspective, its importance as a business gateway to the East is inestimable.
However, the keys to leveraging Japan's value by improving supply chain performance differ between Japanese companies and extra-national organizations. To excel in supply chain management, most domestic entities must improve their integration of (traditionally separate) supply and demand operations. Applying metrics-based, continuous improvement programs to the supply chain should be another high priority. Japanese companies also must become more receptive to outsourcing.
International companies seeking to expand their supply chain presence in Japan have a different set of mandates. Building Japanese cultural considerations into their global strategies is particularly vital. One way to do this is to work more closely with intermediaries such as trading agents, which have a great deal of "pull" in Japan. More disciplined transportation operations may also be required, since extremely tight delivery windows are common in Japan.
For both sides, Japan's value is exceeded only by its potential. And any strategy seeking to maximize the latter must include a commitment to supply chain excellence.
About the Authors: Masahisa Inagaki is managing partner, supply chain management Japan, at Accenture. He has more than 19 years consulting experiences and a varied background in global supply chain consulting. Kazuyuki Kuroda is a partner, supply chain Japan, at Accenture. More information available at www.accenture.com.