The Quality of a Strawberry?
by Michael Hay on Feb 28, 2010
Due to the fact that Toyota has been going through the ringer I have been reluctant to publish this post, but as the weeks have gone on I’ve decided it is actually better that I do. To those reading this article I encourage you to remember the ringer that the US Congress put the US automakers through when they were asking for bailout funds. Let’s also not forget the ringer that the press like Frontline and 60 minutes put the whole auto industry through related to SUV stability. The point I want to make here is that the US Congress feels justified in asking really hard questions to people and industry a like and the media in the US likes to report on the hard questions asked.
So to my Japanese colleagues a message to you: the US Congress is tough on everyone from US Automakers to Microsoft to US Governmental Agencies. Please do not take this personally or as an attack on Japan from the US. In fact I’ve had friends of friends who have experienced the problem on Toyotas and have said that the repair was done quite professionally. Further other friends of friends have also experienced the problem on Audis and Nissans. In all of these cases I think that the issue was mechanical. I know from second hand experience that the Audi has devices to secure the floor mats to the floor as do the Toyotas. So yes I think that Toyota needs to do the right thing here and will, and we will explore why later on in this post.
Tasting Japanese Quality
I recently hosted a customer in Japan, and for dinner I had hoped that we would have had fruit for our sweets at the end of the meal. However, that was not in the cards we had sweet potato instead. For those of you who have had fruit for dessert in Japan you will know that consistently they are super good and some would say the best you’ve ever eaten. (Although strawberries from Louisiana are really good as well, they are an exception in the US not the general rule.) What this means is that the filtering criteria for serving quality fruits in Japan is quite stringent, leaving only the best for consumption as raw fruit. Now mind you they are expensive, because you have to pay for the stringent quality checks and you have to help the agricultural industry make up for lessened volume. My reason for wanting the fruit for dessert for my customer is that I wanted them to taste Japanese quality. I think because there is an emotional response or at least one in your gut, visitors to Japan can finally understand the Japanese passion for quality when they eat a strawberry in Japan.
A Little History
Japan’s modern passion to achieve the highest quality began in the 1950s with W. Edwards Deming teaching Japan about Statistical Quality Control. However it started well before the 50s in my opinion and I think that the famous Japanese sword called the Katana is a great example of Japanese craftsmanship and quality all in one. For an idea on how strong and high quality a Katana is take a look at the video embedded below. Basically it is a 9mm bullet versus a Katana, and the question is can the Katana split the bullet in two?
If you’ve watched the video you can see that indeed the bullet lost the battle and was split in two, while the Katana only had a few scratches. Pretty impressive and a great example output from the Japanese passion for quality. I think that this also shows the attention to making quality products started long before the 1950s.
One of the reasons that our customers keep coming back to us is the quality of our products. From earth movers to storage we are quality wizards. To quote a partner of ours, they in fact don’t hear enough about Hitachi because we don’t break as much as our competitors. As a reader and a potential customer I would surely be somewhat skeptical up to now, but if you have used a Hitachi product you will know that indeed we have quite an investment and cultural backing for expressing quality in all of our endeavors. Just to show that the phenomena for quality is not isolated to storage take a look here at some of the customer testimonials about our earth moving equipment.
So now back to my point about Toyota coming out of this well actually better in the long run. Toyota has announced the deal in New York for recalling their products for repair including trips to and from the nearest repair center. The are paying for the repairs out of their profits, in short they are doing the right thing. This is also because the concept of Total Quality Management is been absorbed into not just the manufacture of products but also into the services that the producers supply to their customers. In this same way Hitachi also treats its customers to top quality with both product and service, it is in fact in our corporate DNA.
Note that Intel recently honored 10 companies for their Supplier Continuous Quality Improvement. Of the 10 companies two of them were Hitachi group companies: Hitachi Kokusai Electric and Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation. Their award announcement link is here.
Comments (13 )
Your posts on Hitachi and Hitachi innovation have been interesting reading but how do they relate to Hitachi Data Systems? How about some information regarding TQM at HDS, or HDS innovation?
HDS has always been involved with our sister organization here in Japan where I work called RSD. We have also spent a lot of time working with the group that builds the Hitachi Storage Command Suite and in the past 3 years we’ve been involved with HitachiSoft for the creation of the Data Discovery Suite. In all of these cases the Product Management team at HDS has always been instrumental in defining where the products need to be to meet customer and market requirements (use case creation, mockup creation, requirements enumeration and prioritization, mapping customer needs to requirements, etc.). If I could talk to you in person I relate some stories to you, but for that you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Now moving on, in 2007 we purchased Archivas which brought a bevy of developers to HDS/Hitachi for the area of cloud storage and archive. Since some of the IP is in publicly filed patents I can talk a bit about it: namely the test automation software which we internally call Grinder. This system has been and is being adopted in several divisions that HDS regularly interacts with, and is an example not just of product innovation but of quality innovation coming from one Hitachi division, HDS, to others. Around the same time that we purchased Archivas we also took over development of the 6920 from SUN, and along with it came several engineers. A team of these engineers was actually dispatched to BlueArc in the UK and were the key developers behind the XVL feature within HNAS/Titan today. So here are two examples.
As to what kind of innovation reaches products like the USP-V from other areas of R&D: well HiStar is taken from our telecommunications unit, cooling from R&D in the nuclear power area, when Hitachi sold mainframes we also borrowed some ideas for water cooling from nuclear power to help cool our mainframe processors, etc. I know that some of these may be known if you have sat through an EBC visit at HDS or in Japan, but they are worth citing again.
For the thoughts behind quality unfortunately I cannot comment on the specifics, they are confidential. However there are two points that I want to mention. The first is that I want you to take a look at the English version of the Hitachi handbook (http://www.hitachi.com/csr/csr_images/handbook_en.pdf) the second is that within our joint venture with GE we build nuclear power plants. In that sense the spirit of high quality has a different meaning, dealing with nuclear materials requires extreme attention to detail.
I hope that this helps. Please feel free to contact me directly and I’ll be happy to respond.
That information is interesting and good to know as a customer – yes I am a customer.
As a customer I would have to say that the depth of interactivity between Hitachi and HDS is not well communicated/marketed by HDS – the Halo effect of Hitachi only goes so far.
Sim, I agree, and I’ll be flagging this for our marketing team which is here in Japan next week. This is one of the reasons why I’m here in Japan is to continue the linkages between the various divisions and R&D groups related to the global storage business. I’m also finding a rich innovative spirit with plenty of R&D that we can take advantage of moving forward — well if not us then perhaps we can help our customers get to our IP that helps them with their business activities. I think that I recently posted on Hitachi’s Super Resolution technology which came from the Central Research Laboratory and I learned about by hosting a customer at the CRL. There are some other cool innovations here related to video which I cannot share just yet, but they will be announced and I’ll make a reference to them accordingly.
In a very real sense the Hitachi group is like a family and we share innovation and IP both to meet market needs. Hitachi’s capabilities in Japan are really about bringing all parts of a solution together and then getting it running for a customer. You are already seeing a little of that cross pollination from us with HCP and HDDS using Hitachi storage at the backend and I think you will be seeing more in that same light over time.
Again Michael all interesting information but why do I have to prompt for it?
HDS has some good technology but sometimes I think customers buy your products in spite of the marketing. While HDS has lifted its marketing game recently the company doesn’t really seem to know how to interact or engage with its customers let alone potential new ones.
Where are the HDS engineers and implementers blogs that give insight into your work and that of your partners? Where is the twitter presence beyond just an RSS feed? Where is the visible and proactive HDS presence in your own Forums?
One area which really lets you down is the post-sales online experience. While it appears that internally you have some great resources available when was the last time you logged into the customer support portal? Yes you have made some improvements recently but compared to your competitors it is still years behind the game. Where are the customer friendly Engineering Change Notices? Where are the organised and maintained technology sections? – no search is not the answer to everything. Why is it so slow and unreliable?
The support portal experience as a customer is not one designed to empower or educate but comes across as a disorganised paternalistic after thought.
Your feedback and thoughts are much appreciated – keep them coming. Over the last year we’ve been implementing changes to our blogs and other social media activity and continue to do so. That said, we are still in the midst of implementing our approach to some of the key sites, so stay tuned for changes and more interaction from HDS.
Hitachi Data Systems consistently receives very high marks on support through ongoing customer satisfaction surveys. In fact, our reputation is unparalleled in the industry.
Regarding the Customer Support Portal, please keep in mind this is only one element of our entire support infrastructure. However, it is a critical piece and the first phase of a long list of improvement begins in mid-April. Your comments are much appreciated and I’d be happy to put you in touch with the right folks to learn more about the current Customer Support Portal roadmap and what to expect in the near term. We’d also like to hear more about your user experience specifically – just let me know and I’d be more than happy to have that conversation.
Mary Ann Gallo
Sr. Director, Corporate Marketing and Communications
Hitachi Data Systems
Thanks for responding and more importantly responding publicly.
I have no problems with your support at all beyond the Customer Support Portal. I’m sure that your customer satisfaction surveys are very high but I’d be interested in what they have to say about your communication and feedback.
As happy as I would be to have the Customer Support Portal roadmap explained to me I would be even more impressed if you publicly announced what your plans are. If you want to attach specific time frames to the improvements even better – but more importantly if the schedules slip communicate that.
On your current portal you have three lines:
“* Revised portal user interface
* Improved user registration
* New Portal Features and Tools”
These have no explanation at all – no hyperlinks to more information, nothing. This is a missed opportunity.
I have posted a little about my specific experiences elsewhere but I have communicated them directly to HDS over a year ago with very little feedback beyond some platitudes – this is not a new problem. Why did I as a customer have to resort to this brinkmanship in order to get a response?
The fundamental problem that I perceive HDS has is one of communication, both with your customers and I suspect internally. I’m not expecting that this will be changed overnight but I ask what sort of relationship does HDS and Hitachi want to have with its customers and partners?
My apologies Mary Ann. I made a mistake and called you just Mary in my previous post.
No worries! Look forward to talking with you soon.
I have to agree with Sim on the topic of communication – there is huge room for improvement there.
I am actually surprised to hear that your customer satisfaction with “support” is high. For Severity 1 issues on core platforms such USP V then yes support when escelated to Japan is outstanding. However, for lower priority issues and issues with non-core products (I would define as products like Device Manager, Tuning Manager…) then my experience tells me that support is dire. Its a long standing joke among many customers that the stock answer from HDS is “it will be fixed in the next release”. Only problem is….. they’ve been saying that for the last 10 releases and its still not fixed. How many customers out there reboot their HDvM/HTnM server every day because its like a dog!?
Also, having something escelated back to Japan is pulling your own teeth out without any pain relief. And once it eventually gets back to the factory they will not take any customer input and will suggest you do things that you have already tried several times – and the assigned HDS support technician does not appear to be allowed to tell Japan that the customer has already tried this several times. If I tell HDS that we have tried this several times and that they (HDS) also know this because we have fed back to them in the past, HDS will respond along these lines – “Yes I know youve already tried this many times and yes I know this will add at least another day until we can progress this…. but Japan have asked you to do this, so we have to”
forums.hds.com also had huge potential when Jeremiah first set it up but it has not progressed a single micrometer since then – and that was several years ago now. In fact some of your good internal guys are unaware that you even have forums. There is no HDS community! When I used to write on my site about the USP V people would email me thanking me from the bottom of their hearts for explainng how something worked – people are starved and desperate for GOOD technical info!
Product documentation is also an area where there could be HUGE improvment. How much of a quick win would improving your documentation be. Compare HDS documents to IBM RedBooks.
10 years ago people would say that core HDS technoogy was rock solid, but software and support was poor by comparison. I still hear people saying it today. This is my honest opinion….. USP V is arguably the best enterprise storage array on the market for core features and performance. However, the tools to manage it and accompanying documentation and the likes are possibly the worst on the market. It was like this 10 years ago and is no different today. What is there to suggest this will not be the case in another 10 years time?
The competition are also open and available via blogs and twitter and the likes. I can openly and in private talk to senior folks at the competition and build professional relationships with them. I feel I know them and have even met several of them in person. As a result Ive learned about their technology, probably to a similar extent to which I know the USP V…. and Im not even a customer of theirs! Yet Ive been working with the RAIDx00 range from Hitachi for years and trying to become proficient and an expert has been – again – like pulling my own teeth.
Im ranting now, but from years of experience I see very little changing. Loads and loads of great people at HDS doing great stuff in the background with great ideas and working hard… but for some reason (possibly Hitachi culture and rules) things never seem to change.
Dont get me wrong, I love HDS kit and the company – lots of friends and people I respect there – I would love it if things could change for the better.
Again, we really appreciate your feedback and would actually like to discuss this more with you personally. We are always looking for ways to improve our customer service and have quite a few exciting things in store that we’d like to share with you. If you’re open to it, please let me know as I’d like to continue this conversation with the right folks here at HDS and bring you in the loop on what we’re doing and to also get your feedback. Please contact me directly if you’re interested.
Taking this comment further as a example :-
“How many customers out there reboot their HDvM/HTnM server every day because its like a dog!?”
HDS advises customers to run HiCommand on Windows since it is more scalable.
We found the opposite to be true. We were on Windows 2003 for more than 4 years.
We got tired of failed upgrades and constant reboots.
We moved to Solaris 10 as a HiCommand Platform and have had fewer issues since then in terms of speed and stability. There are a lot of things that you can do to make it faster, tune the java heap size, etc.
Unfortunately it remains a mystery to me why HDS does not want to put its best foot forward by publishing information openly on how to put their software to the best possible use. I learnt everything the hard way by opening case after case with HDS. At many sites customers do not know that the java heap is at 256M maximum for HDvM by default. They just add 4GB RAM and expect everything to be fast. This to me is like shooting yourself in the foot from day one.
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