Comparison of American and Japanese Firms' Approaches to Achieving High Productivity

B-205135: Published: Mar 23, 1983. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO attempted to compare several Japanese and American semiconductor firms to determine what differences exist in their approaches to achieving high productivity and product quality. GAO had planned to compare five Japanese with five American-owned companies in the United States to determine whether significant differences exist in corporate structure, capital availability and cost, and production processes. GAO selected the semiconductor industry for study because: (1) this technology is at the core of the microelectronics revolution; (2) technology leadership in this industry is considered vital to national security; (3) Japanese semiconductor competition has increased dramatically; and (4) GAO considered this industry to be among the most efficient in America. The Japanese firms which were asked agreed to work with GAO. To gain the cooperation of the American-owned firms, GAO solicited the help of the Semiconductor Industry Association which requested participation from its member firms; however, the American firms declined to participate because they were sensitive to answering questions or furnishing data which risk compromising proprietary information and other information. In addition, they feared that the study would involve a substantial commitment of manpower. The Association did offer to work with GAO if its proposal were reformulated to eliminate disclosure of proprietary operating information. However, the areas they considered most proprietary were the areas which GAO believed most essential to fulfilling the congressional request. Although GAO has not gained the support and cooperation of American semiconductor firms, it stated that it would be glad to explore whether further dialogue with the companies might lead to some agreement on how to conduct the proposed study.

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