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.

Photo

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."

Photo

Assembling products at Belgium Honda

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

A System that Fosters Expertise
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  3. Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification  / 1960Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
A Dream Come True: Car Builder for the World
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  2. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  3. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  4. Introducing N360 / 1967Introducing N360 / 1967
  5. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  6. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  7. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  8. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
Marketing Globally, Producing Lacally
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  2. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959
  3. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  4. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
A Refreshing New Development
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Products Emerging From Technology and Innovation
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  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  7. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  8. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  9. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  10. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  11. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  12. Road Pal / 1976Road Pal / 1976
  13. City / 1981City / 1981
  14. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
  15. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  16. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  17. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  18. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  19. The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
Production Technology: The Essence of Creative Manufacturing
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  2. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  3. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  4. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  5. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
A Neverending Passion for Racing
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  3. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  4. Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964
  5. Formula One Entry: The Second Phase / 1983Formula One Entry: The Second Phase / 1983
  6. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  7. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
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  3. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  4. Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991

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