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Steelmaker Under Fire for Falsifications

Thursday, October 26, 2017

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One of Japan’s largest steelmakers is facing questions after recent reports revealed data on the strength of some of its aluminum, copper and steel products was falsified.

Kobe Steel, which supplies steel for automobiles, trains and airplanes, among other products, revealed earlier this month that the misleading specs stretch back a decade. Japanese officials have ordered safety checks at a facility where aircraft components are manufactured, and the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the matter as well.

Kobe Steel headquarters
Mr.?????, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kobe Steel, headquartered in Kobe, Japan, is under fire over falsified certifications given by employees to some aluminum, copper and steel products.

Kobe is the third-largest steel manufacturer in Japan.

Company Acknowledgement

As of Wednesday (Oct. 25), Kobe’s website prominently featured a statement apologizing for what the company calls “improper conduct.”

“The Kobe Steel Group, together with its suppliers, is quickly working to determine how its products have affected safety and other factors,” the company says. “We are thoroughly analyzing the cause and are engaged in developing countermeasures to prevent a reoccurrence from happening.”

According to reports, Kobe employees certified products leaving the plant as meeting specifications that they in fact had not passed.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles

Customers of Kobe that may have been supplied incorrectly labeled products include automakers Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru and General Motors, as well as Hitachi, which used Kobe steel for trains shipped internationally, including to the U.K.

Toyota, Mazda and Honda said last week that while they were investigating the Kobe-built components used in their vehicles, they do not believe there are any safety concerns with their products, because the components still met their safety standards. According to the BBC, Toyota used the steel in doors and hoods for some cars.

Authorities are also looking into the potential implications of the Kobe scandal on the Mitsubishi Regional Jet project, a long-delayed passenger jet production project based in Japan. Kobe was producing aluminum components for the project. Boeing has contracted with Kobe steel but reported that it has not found safety issues related to the components.

Kobe’s stock prices tumbled about 40 percent in the days following the revelation.

U.S. Investigation

On Oct. 16, Kobe announced that the U.S. Department of Justice was looking into non-conformity with specification in products made by the company’s U.S. subsidiary and for U.S. customers. Kobe Steel U.S.A. is headquartered in Livonia, Michigan.

U.S. businesses owned by Kobe include Pro-Tec Coating Company (Leipsic, Ohio) and KOBELCO Advanced Coating (America); neither company has been implicated in the scandal, but Kobe says all of its U.S. subsidiaries will cooperate with the DOJ investigation.


Tagged categories: AS; Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Latin America; NA; North America; Quality Control; SA

Comment from Jeffrey Smith, (10/26/2017, 6:42 AM)

Quality is: The degree to which an inherent set of characteristics fulfills requirements.

Comment from Alan Murray, (10/26/2017, 11:13 AM)

Sadly another indication of why there has been a dramatic fall off in trust levels in Institutions/Businesses by the public worldwide.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/30/2017, 9:27 AM)

I wonder if this was the company who was supplying steel struts to SpaceX and caused that failure (ie rocket explosion) a couple of years ago. Only a few out of a thousand were substandard, and their QA spot checks hadn't caught it until they tested 100% of their onsite struts after the failure. The supplier was supposed to be testing 100% of all struts shipped.

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