Prior to March 11, 2011, many observers had all but written Japan's economy off; after all, it was said, Japan produced only 10 percent of global manufacturing output. Four days later, the world realized that a good portion of that 10 percent sits at a critical upstream spot in the global supply chain, in many products that we not only like (such as the iPad) but also need (e.g., fine chemicals for lithium-ion batteries, silicon wafers, or microcontrollers). In some cases, more than half of global output in critical input materials was located in the Tohoku region. Remarkably, by May 2011, most of the factories not located in the radiation zone had repaired the earthquake damage and resumed operations.
This presentation explores Japan's role in producing components and materials that are critical in global manufacturing, and then zooms in to analyze the speedy efforts at reconstruction by Japanese business after the Tohoku disaster. It argues that Japan is unlikely to relinquish its leading role in supplying critical components due to this shock, precisely because these "New Japan" companies are competitive, nimble, and fast.
Ulrike Schaede studies Japan’s corporate strategy, business organization, management, financial markets, and regulation. Her book Choose and Focus: Japanese Business Strategies for the 21st Century (Cornell UP, 2008) argues that Japan’s business organization has undergone a strategic inflection so fundamental that our knowledge of Japanese business practices from the 1980s and 1990s is no longer adequate. Her current research looks at “New Japan” companies that have assumed global supply chain leadership in materials and components. She also works on projects regarding corporate restructuring, changing human resource practices, and entrepreneurship in Japan.
Schaede holds an MA from Bonn University, and a PhD from the Philipps-Universtät in Marburg, Germany. She is trilingual and has spent a total of more than eight years of research and study in Japan. She has been a visiting scholar at the research institutes of the Bank of Japan, Japan's Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and at the Development Bank of Japan. Before joining the University of California, San Diego in 1994, Schaede held academic positions in Germany (Philipps-Universtät Marburg) and Japan (Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo), and she was a visiting professor at the business schools of UC Berkeley and Harvard.