Regrettably, there is yet another quality specification tampering incident involving a major Japan based supplier.

On Friday of last week, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. disclosed that three of its supplier subsidiaries, Mitsubishi Cable, Mitsubishi Shindoh Co. and Mitsubishi Aluminum Co. had each tampered actual quality specifications related to components shipped to respective customers.

The company indicated that the Mitsubishi Cable incident involves more than 200 customers in airplane, automobile and power-plant sectors, mostly in Japan, but foreign based as-well, including China and the United States.

According to reporting by The Wall Street Journal, less than a fifth of affected Mitsubishi Cable customers had been formally notified as of Thursday of last week, and that thus far, no safety concerns had been identified for any of the products impacted.

This incident comes on the heels of the October disclosure by Kobe Steel Ltd. one of Japan’s largest aluminum producers, indicating that workers had doctored or altered product quality certification paperwork involving multiple produced aluminum, copper, and steel metal products. Similarly, Nissan Japan had disclosed improper automobile inspections that prompted the recall of more than a million cars in Japan.

In the case of Mitsubishi Cable, the problem was reportedly discovered in February, but an internal investigation was not launched until May. Product shipments continued until October, after a five-month audit of products shipped since April 2015 revealed deficiencies in stated quality specifications among shipped products. The division’s President indicated to the WSJ that the challenge was to grasp how much product had deviated from specifications before having a conversation with customers.

Mitsubishi Shindoh reportedly altered inspection data on the strength and conductivity of copper strips used in the electrical systems of automobiles and electronic devices involving 29 customers. Mitsubishi Aluminum reportedly shipped non-specification product to 16 customers but with no known safety issues.

Mitsubishi Materials corporate executives indicated that its business subsidiaries operate with broad autonomy.  That statement is a likely a disclosure of an obvious systemic problem of Japanese corporate culture and in saving face.

As Supply Chain Matters noted in our October blog commentary, of far broader global supply chain significance is a growing concern that multiple Japan based manufacturers have exhibited a systemic culture of doctoring material and component specifications. The most visible prior incident involved automotive air bag inflator supplier Takada which prompted the largest automotive recalls in history and have subsequently led to the supplier filing for bankruptcy protection in Japan and the United States.  Supplier quality and integrity is sacrosanct in a supplier relationship and patterns of product specification altering do not make for a long-term relationship. When such incidents take on a systemic pattern involving multiple suppliers and industry supply chain impacted, the issue obviously becomes far more concerning as to implications of systemic shortcomings in saving face in reporting component deficiencies.

Japan’s manufacturing executives need to interpret these disclosures that such deficiencies in reporting exist and that they must be corrected to insure ongoing competitiveness and openness with customers.


Bob Ferrari

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