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OM in the News: Japan’s Offshoring is Restructuring Its Economy

October 25, 2010

If you think outsourcing (transferring in-house processes to another company) and offshoring (which we define in Chapter 2 as moving business processes to another country, but retaining control) are a problem only in the US, think twice. Today’s Wall Street Journal (Oct.25,2010) reports that more and more Japanese companies are transferring their manufacturing abroad, creating a major restructuring of that country’s economy.

The reasons: too strong a yen and high wages, both of which make their goods more costly and less competitive in the global economy.

Toyota, for example, will make 57% of its cars abroad this year, including its flagship hybrid, the Prius, which it starts producing at  a Bangkok plant. Nissan will hit 71% offshoring this year. And Sony is skyrocketing from 20% abroad in 2010 to 50% in the next fiscal year.

As Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn recently stated: “sourcing more and more products outside Japan–there is no other way to compete”. Only 10.3 million Japanese now work in manufacturing, down from over 12 million in 2002.

Discussion questions:

1. Although controversial, why is Japan not fighting outsourcing/offshoring as much as the US does? (See our blog of Oct. 12th for some background on the battle against outsourcing in the US).

2. Why is Japan finding it necessary to go abroad?

3. Japanese are consumers are reluctant to spend. Why?

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