Masa’s Message

Masa’s Message

This editorial website includes personal observations by Masa Eto on an array of topics, from world affairs to business. Mr. Eto is the managing executive officer of the International Division at A&D Company Limited


Striving for “Honmono”

“Why can't we write down the same specifications in our catalog?” was a frustration expressed by our salespeople when we began marketing our weighing products in the United States in the 1980's. We knew our scales and indicators performed as well as our competitors' products, if not better, but the specification sheet in our competitors' catalogs presented much better figures. The salesman continued, “We should be able to at least show the same specifications. Nobody has doubts about our products' performance. We are too naïve!” I understood the frustration of our salespeople and I later provoked an argument with our R&D.

One example was the operating temperature range. In Japan, the operating temperature range required by Weights & Measures Authority at that time was -5 to 35 degrees Centigrade, while in the U.S. it was -10 to 40 degrees (23 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit). We were very well aware of the fact that our products were being used in the same environments and performed well. “They may have no problems when subjected to the same environment, but guaranteeing such specifications is a different story. I am sorry but we have not designed nor tested our products under such conditions as our design criteria were set for Japan's regulations,” said Mr. Murata, the head of R&D for Weighing. “If so, just test and verify them,” I retorted.


After a number of fruitless arguments, I came to realize that we had invested our pride in our analog to digital conversion technology and had disciplined ourselves to work sternly under very rigid definitions of accuracy. Relaxing the operating temperature meant the electronic components we selected must be guaranteed to work in such environments. For instance, if the LCD supplier did not guarantee the operating temperature below minus 5, then we had to either change it to a better one or come up with our own means of guaranteeing it. Because of the cost constraints our engineers worked with, they had to select the right components from the overall cost requirements as well as from the performance requirements. Thus, changing the specifications meant a total review, beginning at the component level.

In terms of the manufacturing, this would require us to change the procedure concerning the temperature coefficient adjustments in order for the finished product to perform within our design specifications for a wider temperature range. In other words, changing the specifications or writing better specifications than those set by our design criteria affected all areas of product development and manufacturing. That is the very reason why Mr. Murata could not easily agree to let us change the specifications in the catalog even when the actual performance of the products in the field met such requirements.

Compatible products manufactured by our competitors in many cases had superb or sometimes unbelievable specifications even in critically important areas that directly compromised accuracy. Often we found that the actual performance of those products was poorer than our catalog specifications when we evaluated them. I also discovered that some of our competitors who were aggressive in their catalog specifications had a way of stretching their catalog specifications by adding the term “typical” to the specifications data. For instance, instead of stating the 10ppm/degree for temperature drift, they would say 2ppm/degree (typical). To our engineers, this was not acceptable because the accuracy of the specification was rendered ambitious and it gave no guarantees to the end user. “Typical” meant that if you were lucky, you would have a product that met its specifications.

In terms of marketing, our commitment to absolute accuracy hindered us from creating an eye-opening data sheet and was in fact a limitation on our promotional activities, especially when our competitors' products appeared better based on their catalog specifications. However, I believe that our engineers' stubbornness contributed to a core competency that has today become an advantage and set us apart from the competition.

A survey conducted during the Management Innovation Project, which was led by one of our directors, Mr. Morishima, three years ago, revealed an underling belief that A&D employees have possessed since the foundation of the company in 1977. The questionnaire was engineered to identify A&D's corporate culture, its nature and roots. For most of our engineers, Mr. Furukawa's insistence on accurate and high performance measuring instruments evidencing state-of-the art technology has been the motivation and the driving force for them to work long hours and tackle tough technological challenges. That philosophy embedded in a simple phase, “Don't give up. Work for Honmono,” has also become instilled in our people in sales and manufacturing. In retrospect, I can say that the frustration I shared with our U.S. salespeople came from this philosophy. “Honmono” is not created in a day, thus Murata-san and his people knew that rewriting catalog specifications was not the answer.

“Honomono” is best understood as “real” or “genuine” when translated literally into English. It consists of two Kanji, though to my surprise this combination of Chinese characters don't form a word in Chinese; “Hon” meaning origin and “Mono” means thing or material. However, what was revealed through the survey was a bit different and encompassed a broader implication. For A&D employees especially, when we talk about “Honmono” in conjunction with a product, a work assignment or a particular output, it encompasses:

Accurate measurement, superb performance
Value to customers
Value to the company
Technological advances, process improvement
Innovation, originality, differentiation
Overcoming difficulties
Persistence in vision and success
Strengthening of corporate culture and vision
Demonstrating integrity, pioneering spirit and depth in thinking

In other words, mere output or a product is not Honmono. It involves “People,” “Philosophy,” and then “Output.” “Honmono” has a unique significance to people and their relationship to the philosophy or vision that forms an indelible print on their work, and makes output possible. It is a pyramid created by a people with a vision that has become a symbol or dedication. I have reconstructed this pyramid so that it will be easier for us to remember what “Honmono” is to us here at A&D with the hope that it also works for you to be successful in your business.


We strive for “Honmono”, welcome challenges, and are relentless till we deliver solutions.

PS: This will be my last editorial as our company's exposure has become too great for me to write freely from my personal perspective. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to you for taking the time to read my writings. I will try to post my writings whenever I feel appropriate.

Masatake Eto, Editorial writer for the past 10 years

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