Kawai Company’s Quality Manufacturing Process


Over centuries, the music industry has grown and evolved due to advancements in technology and changes in human needs. In Japan, the Kawai Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company (Kawai) is one of the music industry companies that have made a significant contribution to the growth and development of musical instruments. Efron (2000) notes that a weak economy, high production cost, and intense competition have compelled Kawai to explore global markets by manufacturing grand pianos. Manyika et al. (2012) advise manufacturers to consider the availability of labor, energy, market, talents, suppliers, and partners when designing and creating new products. The analysis of its operations and competitiveness in markets shows that Kawai performs well because it operates in 18 countries and attains sales of 870 million dollars yearly (Efron, 2000). Owing to its experience, technical expertise, and craftsmanship, Kawai seeks to challenge Steinway by producing luxury grand pianos. In essence, Kawai proposes to utilize quality as a competitive strategy in the local and global markets.

In describing how Kawai wants to venture into luxury, the purpose of this report is to examine the meaning of quality as a competitive strategy in the music industry. From the case study, Kawai aims to design and create grand pianos using conventional craftsmanship, quality materials, and technical innovations. Efron (2000) describes that Kawai combines sophisticated engineering and ancient wood to design and create luxury pianos that meet high standards. Shigeru Kawai plans to use seasoned wood aged 200 years and keyboards made of state-of-art material. Organizations, directors, quality managers, technicians, and designers are the target audience of this report. They play a significant role in the manufacture of quality products, particularly in the music industry. The scope of the report is to define the meaning of the quality and craftsmanship to Kawai and provide a detailed literature review to evaluate findings.

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Literature Review

Critical evaluation and examination of Kawai’s manufacturing processes and operations show that it employs quality in the design and creation of luxury pianos. Quality theories, systems, models, and theorists recognize quality management as an integral aspect of customer satisfaction in different markets. Quality management systems, such as ISO 9000, stipulate principles and values that organizations ought to adopt for them to provide quality products and services which meet consumer needs and expected the level of satisfaction (Anholon et al., 2018). In the modern world, innovation is a major driver of the quality of products and competitiveness. Based on his far-reaching in quality management, Professor David A. Garvin came up with eight dimensions of quality, viz. functions, attributes, durability, reliability, conformance, perceived quality, aesthetics, and serviceability, which provide a comprehensive assessment of the quality of products (Gulc, 2016). The quality of a product depends on how manufacturers adhere to the industry’s specifications, design attributes, attach value, and change customers’ perception. Thus, the literature review undertakes an analysis of Kawai based on the extensive quality dimensions and determines customer satisfaction.

Additional Attributes and Increased Functions

Attributes constitute a significant factor of a product that determines its quality, and subsequently, its ability to satisfy customers’ needs. Besides, attributes dictate the performance of a product because each part has functional significance. Attributes are key factors that determine competitive advantage in the market, for they originate from a manufacturing company’s innovative and creative abilities. Critical analysis of the music industry shows that major manufacturers of instruments, such as Steinway, Kawai, Fazioli, and Schimmel, have designed and incorporated unique attributes to their pianos. These unique attributes act as trademarks, which differentiate them in the market and enable customers to identify their choice brands.

Abdolmaleki and Ahmadian (2016) argue that innovative and distinctive attributes of products influence customer participation in product development and improvement, resulting in enhanced satisfaction. Kawai’s grand pianos have unique attributes that make them stand in the market. These attributes seasoned wood aged 200 years from Ezo Spruce, artificial material that matches ivory, and slam-proof keyboard cover due to advanced fabrication (Efron, 2000). Besides, as craftsmanship provides an intricate combination of wood and cutting-edge engineering, Kawai is a leading innovator in the manufacture of concert pianos. Hence, the implication is that unique attributes offer a competitive advantage to Kawai in the market dominated by Steinway, Fazioli, Bosendorfer, and Schimmel. Kawai challenges Steinway because its grand pianos have additional attributes, which offer superior functionalities and tremendous performance in the music industry.

Functioning is an aspect of quality that measures the functional and operating properties of a product. In the competitive manufacturing industry, designers strive to improve the functions of a product, for they increase organizations’ capacity to meet customers’ needs and satisfy them. Tang and Zhao (2016) recommend applying additive manufacturing as a strategic method of improving the performance of products. The first aspect of additive manufacturing focuses on increasing functions, whereas the second aspect centers on practicability and cost-effectiveness. The exploration of the case study indicates that Kawai focuses on improving the performance of grand pianos. A loyal customer confirms that Kawai’s grand pianos function better than Steinway’s pianos in the quality of sound they produce (Efron, 2000). The improved functioning exhibited emanates from the design and materials used in constructing Kawai’s grand pianos. The use of seasoned wood obtained from Ezo Spruce and aged for 200 years, coupled with the maturing of pianos for 5-20 years, contribute significantly to the enhanced functioning of Kawai’s grand pianos (Efron, 2000).

Additionally, a keyboard made of superior material provides ivory touch and absorbs sweat, whereas keyboard cover is slam-proof to withstand constant use. To guarantee effective functioning, Kawai manufactures grand pianos like lithographs and allows experts to test them before releasing them to marketing. As an implication, the enhanced performance of grand pianos offers Kawai a competitive advantage, which effectively challenges Steinway and other competitors, such as Fazioli and Schimmel, in the global market.

Competitive Durability

As an important dimension of quality, durability determines the lifetime of a product. Given that durability of products decides their competitiveness, manufacturers ensure that materials are long-lasting. According to Bobba, Ardente, and Mathieux (2015), economic and technical aspects determine the durability of manufactured products, especially equipment designed for long-term utilization. The economic aspect of durability involves the ability of a product to perform its functions without necessitating major and expensive repairs. A durable product from an economic perspective requires minimal and cheap maintenance services. The critical analysis of grand pianos’ design features indicates that their economic durability is low because of the high costs of maintenance services.

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Kawai offers very expensive maintenance services because its technicians have to fly from Japan to the United States to provide customers services. The cost of traveling and inconvenience caused shows that grand pianos are not economically durable for customers. However, from the technical perspective of durability, grand pianos are competitively durable. Seasoning of wood, hardening of soundboards, creating resilient keyboards, and fabricating slam-proof keyboard cover make Kawai’s pianos durable. According to Efron (2000), Kawai uses a rare wood developed from the Ezo tree and seasoned for 200 years and designs superior soundboards by seasoning them for 5 to 20 years. Moreover, using a forged material like ivory enhances the longevity of piano keys, for they absorb sweat and ensure persistent usage. The examination of the prospects of grand pianos as Kawai envisages shows that they are durable because they do not only adhere to industrial standards and specifications but also customer needs.

Conformance and Aesthetics

The conformance dimension is critical in evaluating the quality of products, for they determine their competitiveness in the markets. Essentially, conformance is the degree to which a particular product’s features are consistent with conventional standards and specifications. Market leaders often define and establish traditional standards and specifications based on their experiences of understanding customer needs and satisfaction trends (Escobar & Morales-Menendez, 2018). In this view, designers and companies’ role is to ensure that products they manufacture conform to the predominant standards, which offer a competitive advantage. Shigeru Kawai appreciates that the company has made significant progress in the music industry since the rich experience, expertise, and craftsmanship have boosted the capacity for conformance with required standards.

Kawai recognizes that Steinway has established standards and specifications because it is the leading manufacturer of luxury pianos worldwide. As it plans to challenge Steinway, Kawai focuses on conforming with the standards and practices of aging wood, improving the quality of materials used in making soundboards, keyboards, and keyboard covers, and evaluating the performance of pianos. Kawai uses Ezo wood-aged for 200 years, hardened board aged for 5-20 years, a unique keyboard made from a patented material, and a slam-proof keyboard cover made using a high-tech process (Efron, 2000). Therefore, high conformance to established standards and specifications implies that Kawai is competitive in the luxury market for features and performances exhibited by grand pianos are compliant.

The critical analysis of Kawai shows that it manufactures pianos with magnificent aesthetics. As Kawai targets high-end customers, it has ensured that it designs and creates grand pianos with magnificent attributes, making it stand out in the global market. Somoon and Moorapun (2016) explain that customers typically use basic senses in determining the aesthetic attributes of products. Aesthetic features significantly influence customers’ purchasing intentions because appealing products tend to register higher sales than ordinary products. Kawai has made piano keys using a special material that bestows ivory touch and feels. A loyal customer asserts that an exhibition of Kawai’s grand pianos depicts them as superior to Steinway’s pianos owing to artistic features that technical experts have incorporated. Besides, the use of a special wood obtained from the Ezo tree gives artistic attributes, resulting in improved grand pianos aesthetics. The existence of magnificent aesthetics implies that a grand piano effectively challenges Steinway’s standards in the music industry.

Low Serviceability and Reliability

As an important dimension of quality, serviceability refers to the availability and accessibility of customer care services, such as repairs and maintenance. Customers consider serviceability as a quality of their products or equipment because failures and breakages are likely to occur. In their study, Syahrial, Suzuki, and Schvaneveldt (2017) established that assurance and responsiveness of serviceability are major factors that customers consider when choosing products to get the best level of satisfaction. The analysis of Kawai’s procedures and operations involved in the maintenance and repair of grand pianos shows low serviceability. Since all technical experts are in Japan, Efron (2000) reports that Kawai has to fly them to the United States when requested by customers within one year. The unavailability of technical experts in the United States implies that Kawai cannot provide essential services required by its customers. Moreover, the distance and logistics that technical experts have to cover to provide basic repair and maintenance services cause a great deal of inconvenience, making customers incur many losses. This analysis implies that the challenge that Kawai poses to Steinway, a dominant market leader, is weak because the serviceability of grand pianos is low.

Since Kawai manufactures luxury pianos and targets the high-end market, reliability is a critical attribute of quality. Customers prefer reliable products because they achieve optimal benefits and satisfaction, which are commensurate with premium prices. Even though uncertainties and failures are prone to occur, reliable products are less likely to experience major challenges that reduce their level of utility over time. Michalakoudis, Childs, Aurisicchio, and Harding (2017) aver that improvement of reliability reduces costs and augment the efficiency of manufactured equipment. The utilization of hardened and seasoned wood in the manufacture of soundboards and adequate duration assigned for maturity guarantees the reliability of Kawai’s grand pianos.

Efron (2000) asserts that Kawai seasons Ezo wood and soundboards for 200 years and 5-20 years, respectively. Moreover, advanced engineering and artistry enable Kawai to design and create a strong keyboard cover that endures pressure and prevent it from crashing. A combination of cellulose, plastic, and acetic acid creates a special material, which ensures that keyboards are not only durable but also reliable when musicians and pianists use them. The adjustment of the tone and pitch using high-tech artisanship provide is a quality control procedure that makes sure that grand pianos produce superior sounds that are reliable for a long period. However, the absence of accessible maintenance services reduces the reliability of grand pianos as failures may occur and takes long for Kawa’s technicians to repair. Thus, Kawai’s grand pianos have lower reliability than Steinway’s pianos because of inaccessible critical services for repair.

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The Concept of Craftsmanship

The concept of craftsmanship is apparent in the way Kawai manufactures its grand and concert pianos. Since its inception, Kawai has been concentrating on the manufacture of family pianos, which do not require craftsmanship due to the nature of attributes and features that they possess. However, following the need to venture into the global market and focus on high-end customers, Shigeru Kawai decides to incorporate craftsmanship as an integral strategy of creating competitive grand pianos. Manyika et al. (2012) assert that resource and labor intensiveness of craftsmanship creates a competitive opportunity in the manufacturing industry. Through craftsmanship, Kawai ensures that the marriage between high-tech engineering and ancient Ezo wood creates competitive grand pianos that are exclusive and meet assorted customer needs (Efron, 2000). Owing to the need to sustain culture and experiences, Steinway and Kawai have committed to their manufacturing processes to craftsmanship (Cattani, Dunbar, & Shapira, 2017). Comparatively, other manufacturing companies have focused on the high-tech manufacturing process in the mass production of pianos at reduced cost and improved efficiency. Consequently, ordinary pianos do not attain the required quality for high-end customers who prefer unique and competitive products manufactured using superb skills.

Overall, the analysis of the case study establishes that Kawai has committed hardening of wood, the design of soundboards, construction keyboards, and tuning of grand pianos to craftsmanship to ensure that they produce quality sound and last long for users to get value for their money. In their extensive analysis of the global manufacturing trends, Manyika et al. (2012) identified energy-intensive commodities and labor-intensive tradables as two segments of craftsmanship in global manufacturing. The materials that Kawai uses, for example, seasoned wood and forged ivory, fit into these segments for their production, are energy and labor-intensive. Hence, based on the trends of manufacturing across the world, my standpoint is that Kawai is competitive in the aspect of craftsmanship because it challenges Steinway by conforming to critical trade requirements in the music industry.

Conclusion

Kawai is making significant strides in the luxury market due to the high production cost of family pianos and the low purchasing power of Japanese. Critical analysis of strategic decisions and operations demonstrates that Kawai has captured various dimensions of quality in the manufacture of its grand pianos. From the perspective of Kawai, quality lies in the additional features it has added on the grand pianos for them to produce superior sounds and last long. Thus, Kawai ought to improve its manufacturing process to produce advanced grand pianos with distinctive attributes. Given that Kawai performance poorly in product perception, provision of service, and reliability, it should advance these aspects of quality to gain competitive advantage. Besides, craftsmanship contributes to the additional features for it to make sure that Kawai produces quality and unique grand pianos that meet and satisfy high-end customers. The implication is that additional features and craftsmanship are major factors that promote the competitiveness of Kawai’s grand pianos in the global market. Therefore, this report recommends Kawai to employ craft authenticity to differentiate and market its grand pianos.

References

Abdolmaleki, K., & Ahmadian, S. (2016). The relationship between product characteristics, customer and supplier involvement and new product development. Procedia Economics and Finance, 36(1), 147-156.

Anholon, R., Rampasso, I. S., Ordonez, R. E. C., Silva, D., Quelhas, O. L. G, & Filho, W. L. (2018). Observed difficulties during implementation of quality management systems in Brazilian manufacturing companies. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 29(1), 149-167. Web.

Bobba, S., Ardente, F., & Mathieux, F. (2015). Environmental and economic assessment of durability of energy-using products: Method and application to a case-study vacuum cleaner. Journal of Cleaner Production, 137(1), 762-776. Web.

Cattani, G., Dunbar, R. L., & Shapira, Z. (2017). How commitment to craftsmanship leads to unique value: Steinway & Sons’ differentiation strategy. Strategy Science, 2(1), 13-38. Web.

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Efron, S. (2000). How will Kawai’s hand-built grand play against Steinway? Los Angeles Times. Web.

Escobar, C. A., & Morales-Menendez, R. (2018). Machine learning techniques for quality control in high conformance manufacturing environment. Advances in Mechanical Engineering, 10(2), 1-16. Web.

Gulc, A. (2016). Models and methods of measuring the quality of logistic service. Procedia Engineering, 182(1), 255-264. Web.

Manyika, J., Sinclair, J., Dobbs, R., Strube, G., Rassey, L., Mischke, J., … Ramaswamy, S. (2012). Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation. New York, NY: McKinsey Global Institute.

Michalakoudis, I., Childs, P., Aurisicchio, M., & Harding, J. (2017). Using functional analysis diagrams to improve product reliability and cost. Advances in Mechanical Engineering, 9(1), 1-11. Web.

Somoon, K., & Moorapun, C. (2016). The roles of aesthetic and cultural perception affected by window display of Thai crafts products to increase purchasing intention. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 234(1), 55-63. Web.

Syahrial, E., Suzuki, H., & Schvaneveldt, S. (2017). The impact of serviceability-oriented dimensions on after-sales service cost and customer satisfaction. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 1(1), 1-25. Web.

Tang, Y., & Zhao, Y. F. (2016). A survey of the design methods for additive manufacturing to improve functional performance. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 22(3), 255-264. Web.

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