January 1, 2024
By: Shu Yasumi
Editor-in-Chief, SEISANZAI Japan
“What, are you really doing this?“
I was having lunch with N, a reporter in our newsroom. When I muttered, “I should go to Tsujiura (an ancient Japanese fortune-telling method of interpreting words overheard at a crossroads) soon,” N replied, sounding genuinely surprised. No, no, no, I really do Tsujiura fortune-telling every year to predict the FA industry for the next year. It’s not fiction in my mind.
Now the pandemic is far away and people are talking loudly in the streets. But it is still difficult to understand what they are talking about. After standing in the city center for about five minutes, pretending to look at my smartphone, a man of about 30 years old walked past me and said clearly,
“I’m just expecting…”
I see, it’s an “expectation”. As usual, I had no idea what he meant. So I looked it up in the trusty and reliable Wikipedia and found a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail. This is certainly true. Heraclitus, by the way, is famous for his theory of “flux,” in which all things flow through conflict and harmony.
In retrospect, the 2010s have been an economic era. After the financial crisis of 2008, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and the Great East Japan Earthquake in Japan, the world’s attention was focused on China, whose economy was growing remarkably. Japan and other Western countries, whose growth had plateaued, rushed to invest in China, “the world’s factory” and “the world’s market”. Companies that entered the Chinese market too late were even criticized. The underlying reason was the faint hope that China would develop the same values as Western countries and harmonize with them once it achieved economic development. Soon, however, the United States and China found themselves at odds. Perhaps the 2020s will be a political era.
There is always a gap between ideals and reality. Everyone knows that environmental responsibility and sustainable development goals are important, but there are things that can be done and things that cannot be done, and even agreeing on a timetable is difficult. The world will never be all about electric vehicles, but neither will everything be excluded. The investment strategies required in the semiconductor industry are many times more dynamic and have shorter cycles than those in the automotive industry. Artificial intelligence (AI) will not dominate humanity, but it will certainly have an impact. While birth rates are declining and populations are aging in the developed world, there are a number of countries in Asia and Africa where population explosion is a concern. Conflicts and wars continue to break out in many parts of the world. All things repeat conflict and harmony endlessly.
In this ever-changing world, the optimal solution for the manufacturing industry at this stage may be to respond to variable-mix, variable-volume production. Machining is done with multi-purpose, process-integrated machines, and robots are used to automate handling and assembly. With the data obtained, production efficiency can be infinitely improved. Digital transformation (DX) is indeed a “flux”. Paradoxically, this flow requires a chain of confrontation and harmony.
As many of you probably already know, the end of the “lost 30 years” of structured planned harmony has already begun in Japan. Personally, I expect the year 2024 to be, quite problematically and troublesomely though, a year of “conflict” in many ways. I wish you, dear readers, a seamless year in which you will find the unexpected through expectation.
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