Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Couple's Book Calls Japanese Product Superiority a Myth

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Couple's Book Calls Japanese Product Superiority a Myth

Article excerpt

Many American consumers are interested in buying Japanese cars and video recorders, but what if the Japanese exported washing machines?

They dare not, according to Ray and Cindelyn Eberts, a U.S. couple who spent time living and working in Japan recently. The machines in Japan not only shred clothes on a regular basis, they say, but help destroy a carefully manipulated image that Japanese have worked hard to foster in America.

After assimilating the business and culture of Japan, the authors are ou t to shred that pristine image of quality and productivity in their book, "The Myths of Japanese Quality" (Prentice Hall, $24.95, 338 pages).

The couple paint a unique picture of Japan by combining the business aspects of the nation with its culture.

Ray Eberts is an industrial engineering professor at Purdue University who was invited to be a visiting professor at one of Japan's elite research institutions.

Cindelyn Eberts holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology and experienced the culture of Japan with her two young sons.

The book reads like a personal journal with day-to-day details of their lives at work and home and takes a look at the Japanese that is not often written about in business books.

"Previous books about Japan have explored the culture or how to manage people to produce quality products, but rarely both," the authors write. "Our family's unique situation allowed us to experience a side of Japan outsiders are rarely allowed to see."

So whether the reader is with Ray while he attempts to lecture to Japanese businessmen about quality-control when his overhead projector catches on fire, or with Cindelyn as she tries to shield her young son's eyes from the pornography pervasive in the country, you are experiencing Japan.

The picture they paint is hardly flattering. Living conditions border on the Third World, the authors contend, while Japanese business practices are far more quality-driven in image than in reality. …

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