Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/01/28

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Chance from R to Nikon?
From: "Patrick G. Sobalvarro" <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 1998 23:28:39 +0000

On 28 Jan 98 at 21:54, Dan Post wrote:
> I think the Elves of Solms Know how to make a superior lens; The
> Japanese do too, but, they opt for a large quantity of lower priced
> lenses, made to standards lower than we expect, and they are made
> by folks on an assembly line who understand too little- only if the
> dial goes into the red, they're supposed to chuck the lens.

I've read up a little on Japanese manufacturing techniques, and I
don't think what you've said is very accurate.  Japanese workers at
most major manufacturers are as well trained as any in the world, and
participate in optimization of manufacturing techniques through the
"continual improvement" process.  These techniques were so successful
that they've been adopted throughout the world to improve
manufacturing.  Ford, for example, has become successful by
wholeheartedly embracing the use of teams, quality circles, and the
Deming method of quality control (which the Japanese were first to
use widely).  In this method a defective product is not simply
"chucked" by an assembly-line droid, which is I think the image you
presented; rather, the entire manufacturing line is stopped and the
fault is analyzed and fixed.  The chucking of defective product
without further analysis was precisely the kind of practice that
occurred in the quality control methods used in the West, and which
got us into so much trouble in the seventies. 

In short, I think that while Japanese lenses may be designed to
lower mechanical standards than Leica lenses, that isn't because
Japanese workers "understand too little" -- it's because the company
has made a decision that the right quality/price tradeoff is lower
than Leica's.  And for the market segment they're in, they're right
- -- they own that market.

- -Patrick