Major Businesses: Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, LTD.

About the major world business Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, LTD., history, headquarters, size, and leader.




Lay of the Land: Matsushita's headquarters are located in Kadoma City, Osaka, Japan. Its U.S. subsidiary, Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, has its headquarters in Secaucus, N. J.

Size: Matsushita is one of the world's largest manufacturers in the electronics industry. It is the sixth-largest industrial corporation in Japan and the 30th-largest industrial corporation outside the U.S.

Population: 83,000 employees.

Who Rules: Matsushita's day-to-day policy decisions are made by Pres. Toshihiko Yamashita. The company's officers are elected by a 15-member board of directors. The board is elected by 135,000 shareholders owning 92 million shares.

Who REALLY Rules: The company's founder, Konosuke Matsushita, who owns 10% of the company's stock, has absolute power. It was he who was responsible for the appointment of Yamashita as president of the company at the relatively young age of 57.

In 1917, at the age of 22, Konosuke Matsushita quit his job at the Osaka Electric Company to begin manufacturing an electrical attachment plug he had designed. He began business with $50 in savings and $50 in loans and set up shop in the larger of the two rooms in his rented house. The next year, he established Matsushita Electric as an unincorporated business, moved to a two-story house, and converted three rooms on the first floor into a workshop where Matsushita, his wife, and his brother-in-law made plugs and bases for electric fans. By the end of 1918 the company was producing 5,000 plugs a month and had 20 employees.

In 1923 Matsushita designed a dry-cell battery for bicycle lamps that lasted 30 hours, or about 10 times the life of existing batteries. By the end of that year, the company was selling 5,000 batteries a month. By 1929 the company sold 150,000 bicycle lamps a month.

In 1930 Matsushita began producing radio receivers, and the company led the industry in production of radios by 1934. In 1935 Matsushita incorporated the firm as Matsushita Denki Sangyo Kabushiki Kaisha. By that time, the firm was producing, in addition to radios, bicycle lamps, electric fixtures, cooking heaters, storage batteries, phonographs, and motors. The next year, Matsushita began manufacturing incandescent light bulbs.

In November, 1946, Konosuke Matsushita was placed on the Allied Occupation Army's list of industrialists to be purged from Japanese industry, because he had participated in the Japanese war effort. However, by May, 1947, he was removed from the purge list because, he says, his company's employees and others petitioned both Allied headquarters and the Japanese cabinet to rescind the purge.

In the 1950s and 1960s Matsushita expanded its production of consumer products to include transistor radios, television sets, stereo phonographs, tape recorders, microwave ovens, and video tape recorders. At the end of May, 1974, Matsushita purchased the television business of Motorola, Inc., in the U.S. and Canada.

Today the company consists of over 500 subsidiaries and affiliated firms. Major brand names include Panasonic in the U.S. and Canada, and National in Japan and the rest of the world; Quasar (formerly Motorola); and Technics for stereo equipment.

Konosuke Matsushita is referred to as "the God of Management." He has devised techniques that give the appearance of worker solidarity with management and have the effect of making employee revolt difficult.

Workers at Matsushita plants begin the day with calisthenics and then recite the company's seven commandments, which include "Seek progress through hard work," "Industrious work is the key to national prosperity," and "Be just, cheerful, correct, and broad-minded at all times." This is followed by the company song, which includes phrases such as "For ever increasing production, love your work, give your all" and "Sending our goods to the people of the world, endlessly and continuously, like water gushing from a fountain."

The company sponsors classes in flower arrangement, sports, and Buddhist meditation. Even the lowest-level employees are expected to provide suggestions for increasing productivity and quality control. In one year, Matsushita's employees made 800,000 suggestions for improving the company, or about 15 suggestions per employee.

In at least one factory, Matsushita has set up a "self-control room," in which workers use bamboo staves to take out their aggressions on a stuffed dummy of Konosuke Matsushita. The room also has distorting mirrors to encourage workers to relax.

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