Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963

Crossing Boundaries to International Production

Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963

Getting Started - Without the Know-how

Becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to initiate production operations in an EEC country, Belgium Honda now found itself in the limelight, both in Japan and throughout the world.

Getting Started - Without the Know-how

On May 27, 1963, the factory went into operation. The first Super Cub rolled off the production line.

Even so, many difficulties lay ahead for the Japanese associates stationed at Belgium Honda, as well as the 180 or so local people who worked with them at the factory. At that time, Honda Motor had just begun to employ knockdown parts for its export products. Accordingly, there was as yet no thorough system for knockdown operations, so no one could call themselves an expert. Therefore, at Belgium Honda, they had to build a knockdown production system from scratch, developing as they went their particular form of expertise. Daily production activities would serve as their guide.

"At first," Iwamura recalled, "some parts we received were found to be defective. And often we weren't able to operate the line because the parts hadn't come in on time. Once, when the parts didn't arrive because of a strike at Customs, we even went to talk with them directly. We had to plead with them to end the strike."

Many of Belgium Honda's local associates had no experience in mass-assembly operations, further complicating matters. Therefore, the number of motorcycles produced per day was initially a very small number. Under instructions of the Japanese staff, the associates would repeat the process of assembly and disassembly over and over, thus enhancing their skills. And eventually production activity got under way on a respectable level.

"The problem of maintaining quality was the first thing we had to deal with, once we had started factory operations," Okayasu said. "But we also worked hard to create a friendly, trusting environment in which the Belgians and Japanese could work together."

The greatest hurdle for Belgium Honda's Japanese staff, in fact, was the difference in customs and languages. Given that Belgium was, and still is, a country with two national languages - French and Flemish, the latter being the Dutch-derived dialect of northern Belgium - the regional culture was an equal mix of those traditions. Thus, it was not at all like the situation in Japan. Moreover, the capital city of Brussels was the dividing point between the two languages. Flemish was spoken mainly in the area north of Brussels, including Aalst, while French was spoken in the south. This considerably affected communication among the associates. In addition, most Japanese staff spoke only a little English, and only one of them was fluent in both English and French. Business instructions from the Japanese staff, both at the production site and sales office, were conveyed to the associates through English-speaking Belgian managers. Therefore, it was not long before the Japanese staff began to experience the frustration of not being able to communicate their opinions freely. They were constantly aware that extra time and effort would be needed in order for them to communicate through interpreters.

The Japanese staff also had difficulty understanding the local way of thinking which was based on a contract-oriented social structure and age-old hierarchal class system. Accordingly, opinions and perceptions would often be at odds during the process of cooperative work. Such issues were always resolved, though, thanks to the mutual efforts and discussions of all involved.

"Even if there were differences in languages and ways of thinking, we couldn't make great products without conveying our thoughts to one another," Iwamura said, looking back at the period. "I'd always told the [Japanese] staff in the field to discuss what they wanted to do with the local people, no matter how long it might take."

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

1990 - 1999
  1. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
  2. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  3. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  4. Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992
  5. Hosting Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991
  6. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
1980 - 1989
  1. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  2. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  3. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
  4. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  7. Formula One Entry / 1983Formula One Entry / 1983
  8. Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982
  9. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  10. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  11. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  12. City / 1981City / 1981
  13. The F200 The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
  14. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
1970 - 1979
  1. The Oval Piston Engine / 1979The Oval Piston Engine / 1979
  2. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  3. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  4. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  5. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  6. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
  7. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  8. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  9. Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973
  10. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  11. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  12. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
  13. Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970
1960 - 1969
  1. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  2. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  5. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  6. Formula One Entry / 1964Formula One Entry / 1964
  7. Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963
  8. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  9. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  10. Employing the Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
  11. The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960
1950 - 1959
  1. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959

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