Once a company begins its development process, putting products into the market as quickly as possible to get a return on investment is the fundamental corporate activity. A product’s time to market can be categorized into the development time for the product and production processes and production ramp-up time. Existing studies have focused on reducing development time by primarily increasing efficiency. However, no matter how much a company shortens its development time, there may be a delay in the return on investment if production ramp-up takes too much time. This paper analyzes the processes of Hyundai Steel, a major Korean steel manufacturer. Moreover, it examines the process of its implementation of blast furnace technology through mass production. The company used a strategy that maximized the learning effect by implementing three blast furnaces with the same specifications in succession and without delay. They planned to implement the blast furnaces with no overlap in the implementation schedule, which enabled the same ramp-up team to start up production successively. Thus, the team was able to leverage the experience gained in ramping up one blast furnace for ramp-ups of subsequent blast furnaces. This learning effect enabled them to successfully reduce the ramp-up time linearly, as shown on a semilog graph.
The Tokaido Shinkansen began operating in 1964 and ran at globally unprecedented speeds of more than 200 kmph. Comparison with the operating speed of aircraft necessitated further improvement of the operating speed of Shinkansen. Nevertheless, there was no improvement until 20 years. During that period, the maximum speed of test cars, the highest technically feasible speed, improved. Rather than technical factors, the following social and organizational factors impeded the improvement of the operating speed. (1) The social factor was the prioritization of environmental countermeasures to improvements in speed because of the noise pollution lawsuits and noise regulation. (2) The organizational factor was the need to secure the slack time due to frequent strikes and delays when Shinkansen was managed by Japan National Railways (JNR). However, around the time of the splitting and privatization of JNR in 1987, noise regulation was relaxed and lawsuits were settled. Furthermore, the labor movement settled down with the privatization of JNR; consequently, labor unions were dismantled. These events resolved preventive factors and led to the improvement of operating speeds.
This paper employs data on patent applications for the glass industry’s float process from 1954 through 2015. Furthermore, it assesses whether the S-curve of technological progress emerges. Assigning time to the horizontal axis, something like the S-curve emerges in the US and Europe but not in Japan. The S-curve represents the physical limits of technology. Specifically, Foster (1986) defined the S-curve as the function that expresses the relation between the amount of effort expended toward performance improvement and its outcome. The magnitude of the effort expended depends on the company as well as social factors. This paper performs company-level analysis using actual data to examine (1) the extent to which companies respond to the demands of the market and (2) the effect of the grant-back clauses in licensing agreements suggested by Ogami (2015).
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