By Tom Davis
Tokyo, Japan — November 13, 2017 — Kobe Steel has blamed a focus on profits and a rigid organizational structure as the reason behind its quality control scandal.
A 27-page document released by the company – the result of an internal investigation – said inadequate quality control processes, as well as a deficient organizational system, lead to improper conducts.
The scandal saw Kobe Steel’s aluminum and copper business supply thousands of tons of materials to OEMs that did not meet the required specifications. Inspection certificates had been “improperly rewritten” for 19,300 tons of aluminum products, 2,200 tons of copper products and 19,400 units of aluminum castings and forgings between September 1, 2016 and August 31, 2017.
The report read: “We sincerely and deeply apologize for the enormous trouble we have caused to our customers, suppliers, shareholders and others in respect of the improper conducts by us and our group companies.”
It added: “The fact that management failed to detect and deal with such a major situation that happened at plants itself is a big issue. We recognize that it is management’s responsibility to find out the real cause of this situation, and come up with and implement measures to prevent such a situation from recurring.”
Kobe Steel has promised to reorganize its quality control systems and automate more of its operations.
The impact of the scandal on OEMs is currently uncertain. A spokesperson for Subaru told Collision Repair magazine that the company was investigating the situation but it couldn’t say more. Other OEMs were either unwilling to comment or unavailable at time of publication.
Toyota confirmed in a statement that aluminum plates supplied by Kobe Steel with falsified quality data have satisfied safety and durability standards.
Kobe Steel claims that 474 out of 525 affected customers have found no safety issues, or their products have been found safe by Kobe Steel.
Meanwhile, the United States Department of Justice has demanded that Kobe Steel provide documentation in regards to the scandal. Kobe Steel confirmed its US subsidiary, Kobe Steel USA, had received a document from the US judicial administrative authority requesting the production of documents related to “non-conformity with the specification of products sold by the company.”