Mitsubishi Electric has admitted to widespread cheating on its internal quality control efforts.
The Japanese giant makes datacenter-scale power supply products, uninterruptible power supplies, high-end optical networking kit, plus plenty of electronics and semiconductor products – so this scandal is of concern to Reg readers. Buyers of other Mitsubishi Electric products, covering building operations, railways, and space systems, also have reason for concern.
One more thing: the company’s motto is “Changes for the better.” We can’t make this stuff up.
Mitsubishi Electric (ME) first admitted to what it has termed “improper quality control” in June 2021, when it revealed staff had been lax when testing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems on some rail cars. The sprawling company commissioned an investigation that has now published three reports into its quality control practices, with the latest installment landing on May 25.
The reports detail a culture in which staff, and managers, often fudged test results to get products out the door. While the cheating did not see life-threatening flaws left in products, the investigation has found that lax quality control is pervasive across the company and its many subsidiaries.
For example, the corporation’s power distribution systems unit didn’t properly conduct partial discharge tests – for 15 years, meaning 4,448 units went out the door in unknown condition. Tests to determine that units could withstand lightning strikes were skipped, too.
The latest investigation report, out this week, found 101 new instances of cheating, taking the total to 148. 16 ME facilities in Japan have now been found to have cheated on quality control – out of the 22 the company operates in its home nation.
ME’s original investigation timeline suggested it could be wrapped up by April 2022. The company now states the probe is open-ended, with at least one more report to follow in three months.
The situation is so serious that ME yesterday nominated new directors who are felt to be best positioned to sustain the ongoing investigation, and drive culture change.
A new corporate slogan – “Changes for the Better start with ME” – is already being promoted internally.
The probe also recommended investment in IT as one way to address the cheating culture, with digitization of test results proposed so that data is recorded in ways that make it harder for figures and outcomes to be fudged or ignored. The most recent report does not recommend any application or suggest a timeline for implementation.
The Register imagines that ME customers hope the company is better at implementing software than it is monitoring quality, or its culture. ®