Thursday, July 5, 2007

Japan's Shift -- from Team Players to Superstars

A cultural emphasis on teamwork has always made Japanese companies reluctant to single out employees for recognition. Now, after years of toiling in obscurity, Japan's most highly-skilled, specialized workers are officially recognized as a key factor that has given Japan a manufacturing edge for decades.

The Japanese government recognizes the contributions of industrial workers with a title: supaa ginosha, or "super technician." Each of the laureates - 3,800 so far with hundreds of more added every year - receive a certificate and flower-shaped silver lapel pin stamped with a character meaning "technique."

Super technician’s hold jobs in industries ranging from semiconductors to shipbuilding. One 56-year-old Toshiba worker makes semi-conductor molds just one-10,000th of an inch thick. An employee at (Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co.) works as an expert at the craft of metal-coating, able to discern surface variations most people can neither see nor feel.

With a large demographic of employees set to retire by 2015, Japanese companies need to get more productivity and skills out of a shrinking labor force – but robotics technology won’t offer any quick fix. “Robots can assemble products or do the heavy lifting, but the work has to be repetitive, simple, and precise,” says Yasushi Tomita, an executive of Yaskawa Electric Corp., a major robot maker. “It will be years before they will be able to do the work of most skilled technicians.”Read the full article from Business WeekFor more info on industrial robots For more info on Japan’s labor force

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