Learning from Japan's Technology Management
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Helping America compete in a global economy is the long-term goal of the Japan Technology Management Program (JTMP). Established in 1991 with a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the JTMP helps American industrial managers learn how the Japanese manage technology and to educate students in Japanese language and culture so they are prepared to do business with the Japanese. "Japanese management techniques can and do work in the United States," JTMP director Jeffrey Liker said in the University Record. "Japanese culture places a high value on relationships and teamwork—factors that are particularly crucial in today's technology-based industries." Getting faculty and students to Japan to see how the Japanese manage technology is a prime mission of the program; over the past three years, the JTMP has sponsored ninety trips to Japan by faculty and students. Housed in the Center for Japanese Studies, the JTMP is a joint program of the CJS, the College of Engineering, and the School of Business Administration. It has received more than $2.5 million from the government. Co-directors of the program are John Campbell, Professor of Political Science, Brian Talbot, Professor of Operations Management, and John Shook, Visiting Assistant Research Scientist in Industrial and Operations Engineering.
During the first round of the grant (1991-93), the program focused on research, lending major support to eleven different research projects. These projects, involving faculty and graduate students in the School of Business, College of Engineering, Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, and LSA, examined various aspects of the product development process, global technology strategy, and cross-cultural learning at the industry level. Research support for some of these projects continues in the second round grant (1993-95), and several projects on Japanese manufacturing methods in the United States and on the ecofactory have been added. Faculty involved in JTMP-supported research not only take the information they have learned into the classroom, but disseminate it to industry as consultants and to colleagues at academic fora.
The JTMP sponsors short courses at the U-M for technology managers, as well as on-site instruction and consultation in private companies and government laboratories. Activities include a three-day seminar through the Summer Engineering Conference, a one day seminar broadcast via satellite by the National Technological University to off-site users, and a sessions led by Jeff Liker at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City. Other faculty include the findings of their JTMP-supported research in other continuing education and consulting activities. The program plans to expand these activities during the current grant period with the help of a new staff member, John Shook. Shook, named Co-director of Educational Programs, worked for Toyota for twelve years, most recently at its Supplier Support Center in Kentucky. An expert on lean manufacturing, Shook plans to offer on-site workshops to small and medium-sized companies on the Toyota Production System. He will also teach a graduate course on lean manufacturing in the Industrial and Operations Engineering Department in Winter 1995.
While the focus of the Japan Technology Management Program is on understanding the processes used by the Japanese to develop products and manufacturing systems, the program also encourages faculty to look more deeply at Japanese research trends, technological innovations, and management practices, as well as strengthen ties with Japanese research institutions.
The JTMP also supports the University research community through its new information search service. The program maintains a list of scholars and their research interests, and actively searches technical sources—many originating in Japan—in various fields. In addition to scanning publications explicitly devoted to Japan science and technology information (JSTI) dissemination, the service also uses on-line resources to access technical databases, mail groups, and distant sources of JSTI. Commercial and government databases, as well as public files (accessible via the Internet) at other universities have yielded useful materials in a wide range of technical fields. In the short term, the aim is to get useful information in timely manner for scholars at the University. The long-term goal is to introduce researchers to a new set of resources available through the Internet. A brown bag lunch on accessing JSTI is planned for fall term.
As part of its mission to build a force of Japan-knowledgeable managers, the JTMP offers summer, academic year, and research support fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students and has worked with the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures to develop two courses in technical Japanese taught by Keiko Unedaya. Unedaya is also collaborating with colleagues at Tokyo University and Tsukuba University to develop a computer-aided instruction program and textbook on technical Japanese. Fellowships are available to US citizens studying engineering, science, or business, or who are incorporating the study of technology management in a social science. About 18 fellowships are given each summer for students to study Japanese language. Most fellowship recipients study at the U-M's summer intensive Japanese language program, but a few are sent to language courses in Japan. Summer fellowships are available to students from any institution, not just the University of Michigan.
Academic year fellowships are primarily for graduate students in technological or scientific fields or operations management to cover one year of Japanese language and area training at the University of Michigan in addition to their regular course of study. About five fellowships are awarded each year. Fellowships to support engineering students taking advanced-level Japanese are also available. Students choosing to focus on Japanese technology management issues in dissertations or other major research projects can apply for funds for direct research expenses, such as printing and mailing of surveys. The program has also been instrumental in working to establish a graduate-level certificate program in Japanese studies for engineers and one in manufacturing management for Japan specialists.
Ultimately the best way for students to learn about Japan and encourage a long-term commitment to involvement with Japan is through internships. The JTMP has placed 16 students in Japanese firms, research centers, or university laboratories so far. Internships have typically been for 10 - 14 weeks in the summer, but the program is exploring the possibility of longer placements during the academic year. While placing graduate engineering students is a priority, the program strives to place any qualified student and has found positions or supported internships for students in business, economics, public policy, political science, and Japanese studies. Students have found positions at Toyota, Aisin Seiki, Sumitomo Metals, Hiroshima University, Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, and the Nihon Keizai Koho Senta, among other places.