Japanese metal manufacturer faked specifications to hundreds of companies


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Holy moly! Kobe Steel, a major Japanese supplier of steel and other metals worldwide, has admitted that it faked the specifications to metals shipped to hundreds of companies over the past decade.

Last week, Kobe Steel admitted that staff fudged reports on the strength and durability of products requested by its clients—including those from the airline industry, cars, space rockets, and Japan’s bullet trains. The company estimated that four percent of aluminum and copper products shipped from September 2016 to August 2017 were falsely labelled, Automotive News reported.

But on Friday, the company’s CEO, Hiroya Kawasaki, revealed the scandal has impacted about 500 companies—doubling the initial count—and now includes steel products, too. The practice of falsely labeling data to meet customer’s specifications could date back more than 10 years, according to the Financial Times.

For rockets the concern is less serious as they generally are not built for a long lifespan, but for airplanes and cars this news could be devastating, requiring major rebuilds on many operating vehicles.

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13 comments

  • eddie willers

    Oh my. I never really cared about VW fudging their software because who was hurt? CAFE goals were unreasonable.

    But this?!

    I worked for JVC (Victor Company of Japan) in the 80s and I greatly admired their work ethic and their ethics, period. I do not believe this could have even been considered, much less implemented, back then.

    But with this and the Takata airbags, something has obviously changed. In 1850 all these guys would commit seppuku. Today they not only need to resign, they need to go to jail.

  • wayne

    eddie–
    good stuff.

    (I just got my recall notice last week, for my Nissan, with its Takata airbag.)

  • Garry

    I saw this last week, and it’s horrifying! Japan built its whole economy on quality and reliability, and this goes directly in the face of all that.

    This is going to cause a lot of havoc among the steelmaker’s customers, and in the next few months I expect to get a flurry of work from car companies, etc. explaining that they followed proper receiving procedures to ensure that all steel received met specifications. I fear that some companies may have skipped acceptance inspections, which may lead to failures of a lot of different products.

    I wouldn’t rule out the modern version of seppuku (suicide without the rituals).

  • Cotour

    Art imitating life?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_My_Sons_(film)

    Probably most certainly art imitating life.

  • “Holy moly! Kobe Steel . . ”

    Was that a purposeful pun?

  • Blair Ivey: Honestly, I don’t see the pun, nor was it intended. And I realize if you need to explain it is a failure, but I don’t get it, and I wrote it.

  • Joe

    Moly is a type of steel, holy would be a defect in said steel.

  • Joe. Heh. I wish I could claim credit but that was a total accident.

  • Michael Dean Miller

    Joe,
    I appreciate punnery but I think you might have meant “holey” not holy.
    Just trying to clarify without being metalsome.
    Mike

  • diane wilson

    Considering that Falcon 9’s in-flight failure was due to a structural part that failed to meet specifications certified by a subcontractor, yes, I’d say that rockets could be at risk.

    Japan is not the country that it used to be. With its demographic collapse, long-term economic doldrums, and decline of marriage and birth-rate, this could be another sign of cultural implosion.

  • Mitch S

    Wow this is a big scandal.
    Another blow to Japan’s reputation.
    Not only the Takata airbags, but there was the scandal with Mitsubishi Trucks (they didn’t recall trucks with defective hubs and a woman and her baby were killed when a wheel came off and hit them).
    And the various financial scandals (Toshiba of particular note).

    Kobe Steel had a particular reputation for quality.
    I remember when Indy Car required engines use steel valve springs (Formula 1 uses pneumatic springs to allow high RPM), engine builders first went to Sweden to get the special, high-purity steel needed to handle high RPM, but found the ultimate quality steel from Kobe Steel.

    Why would someone pay more for “Made in Japan” when it can no longer be trusted?
    Might as well buy from China and do in-house quality checks.
    (PS Mitsubishi Trucks is now part of Daimler-Benz)

    PS I also thought “holy moly” was a pun on molybdenum.
    Robert, you’re clever even when you don’t know it!

  • Joe

    Mitch S, molybdenum is a key ingredient in chrome moly steel used extensively in the aerosoace industry, maybe not so much in rockets but in structural areas where lightweight strength is required.
    Michael Dean Miller, great pun!

  • Chris

    Yeah, count me among those who thought it was a pun intended! :-)

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