Mitsubishi Electric Essay

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Mitsubishi Electric is one of the world’s largest industrial electronics companies. The firm conducts its business through  six business segments: energy and electric systems, industrial automation systems, information  and communication systems, electronic devices, home appliances, and others. Mitsubishi Electric offers a range of products, from security systems to circuit breakers to air conditioners. In the fiscal year ending March 2007, the company employed over 102,000 workers and recorded  sales of over $30 billion.  Based in  Tokyo,  Japan, Mitsubishi  Electric operates primarily in Japan with overseas business in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas.

Mitsubishi   Electric  is  most   commonly   associated with the Mitsubishi group of companies, one of Japan’s largest corporate groups. Member firms of the Japanese corporate  groups  have been credited  with playing a major role in Japan’s economic development. Despite its prominence  as a leading integrated industrial electronics manufacturer, however, the Mitsubishi Electric name  is not  widely recognized  beyond Japan. This is largely because Mitsubishi Electric has grown much more from a national rather than international  base—and still derives most of its business from the Japanese market.

Mitsubishi  Electric evolved out of the Mitsubishi shipping business founded  by Yataro Iwasaki in the late 19th century.  This shipping business developed into a family-owned conglomerate  (zaibatsu)  in the years up to World War I, as the company diversified into coal mining, shipbuilding, and electrical equipment. Mitsubishi Electric itself was spun off in 1921 as an independent company.

The firm grew rapidly during  the interwar  years, mainly through  imports  of technology from foreign firms. Perhaps most prominent was Mitsubishi Electric’s alliance with the American electrical firm, Westinghouse Electric, in 1923. As might be observed from Toshiba’s alliance with General Electric or NEC’s alliance with ITT, it was a time when Japanese firms tried to develop their own modern  industries  by learning from  Western  firms. Building upon  foreign knowledge, Mitsubishi Electric produced  its first hydraulic generator  in 1924, followed by an elevator in 1931, and an escalator in 1935. By 1937, the firm had listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Like many zaibatsu firms at the time, Mitsubishi Electric began to provide  supplies for the  Japanese military during World War II. As a result, the firm’s operations were suspended during the Allied occupation of Japan between 1945 and 1952. But Mitsubishi Electric reemerged  after the occupation  as part of a more  loosely affiliated group  of firms that  featured interlocking shareholdings and were centered around a main bank (keiretsu).

Much  like  the  interwar  years,  Mitsubishi  Electric  rebuilt  its  postwar  business  through   technology imports  from  foreign  firms.  In  fact,  many  of these imports were based on relationships  formed in the prewar era. Over the 1950s and 1960s, the firm launched its first television, computer,  and domestic satellite. Equipped with a strong product  range, Mitsubishi Electric then  began to expand into overseas markets, such as the United States, Britain, and Germany. The firm also began to collaborate with foreign firms to codevelop and distribute  original products. These  included  projects  with  leading  global  firms such as AT&T, Westinghouse, and Siemens.

Mitsubishi Electric is unique among the former zaibatsu firms in its continued  business of military procurement. The firm has been a major provider of Japan’s Self Defense Forces, in products  such as avionics and radars—which has been useful in developing civilian industrial products such as for air traffic management.

Mitsubishi Electric struggled to adjust to competitive pressures stemming from globalization and the information  technology revolution in the 1990s. The firm  still featured  many  traditional  characteristics of Japanese business, such as lifetime employment and consensus-based  decision making. Facing a new business environment that demands greater flexibility and swift responses, Mitsubishi Electric has been pushed to reform.

Mitsubishi Electric faces intense competition from domestic firms such as Hitachi and Toshiba as well as foreign  firms such  as Schneider  and  Solectron. Rising raw material prices have also placed a burden on the firm’s finances. The company’s future lies in its ability to capitalize on its research strengths  and diversified product  range  and  expand  further  into global markets.

Bibliography: 

  1. Mitsuru Kodama, “Innovation and Knowledge Creation Through  Leadership-based  Strategic Community: Case Study on High-Tech  Company  in Japan,” Technovation  (v.27/3, 2007);
  2. Mitsubishi  Electric, Mitsuishi Denki Shashi [A History of Mitsubishi Electric] (Mitsubishi  Electric, 1982);
  3. Sol W. Sanders, Mitsubishi Electric (Penguin  Books, 1996);
  4. Takeuchi,  Mitsubishi Denki Henshin no Himitsu [The Secret Behind the Transformation  of Mitsubishi Electric] (Nihon Keizai Tsushinsha, 1980).

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