Social Sicence Field

Automobiles in the Society

Research Contents

In Social Science Field, we provide education focusing on various problems concerning automobiles and auto companies, and students study how to analyze these problems using social scientific methodologies. Some lectures such as Environmental Economics, Economics of Ecology, Economics of Transportation, and Analysis of Market Systems are given from perspective of economics explaining the effects of automobiles on the society and the environment. Some lectures such as Corporate Management, Corporate Strategy, Innovation Management, and Production Management, are given from perspective of management focusing on the challenges faced by auto manufacturers and part manufacturers. Master course students in the ordinary Japanese course take part in internship in their first year. It is not compulsory for master course students in Global Course. After taking core lectures, students have to finish their papers for graduation under supervision of professors in the field. All students are required to make oral presentations on their researches once a year at Seminar on International Communication.

Economic Analyses of Environmental Issues Concerning Automobiles

In Fujita Laboratory, research topics of papers for graduation include regulation policies on auto industry, recycling of used vehicles, consumers’ evaluations on next generation vehicles, and cost-benefit analyses of EVs. We conduct both theoretical and empirical (data) analyses.

1) The Modular Product Development Strategy & Management

Takefumi MOKUDAI, Assoc. Professor (Ph.D)

 The product architecture of passenger cars has long been integral, where the functions and components of a car are intertwined. This has made the product development process extremely complex. In order to address the product design complexity a number of best practices have been invented: the heavyweight-product manager, the overlapped product development processes, the front-loading problem-solving, higher level supplier engagement in product development projects, and so on.
The modularization is one of the alternatives to mitigate this vehicle design complexity. The Volkswagen Group paved the way for modularity-in-design through the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB in German). Shortly after VW, other carmakers followed suit: Renault-Nissan announced Common Module Family (CMF), Mazda started Common Architecture, Toyota released the new Prius based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), and Daimler introduced MFA, MRA, MSA, and MHA.
This research project studies the mechanism and logic of the modular product development strategy, influences to the product development processes and organizations, impacts on supplier management, and consequences on management performances.

2) Lean Transformation of Production Systems

Takefumi MOKUDAI, Assoc. Professor (Ph.D)

The lean production system pursues a smooth flow of production activities, maximize the value-adding-time ratio, and minimize inventories within the processes. The transformation to the lean from non-lean status requires a series of changes in the production processes, the mindsets of production workers and managers, and organizational culture.
First, this project attempts to visualize the production processes by utilizing mapping tools, such as the Value Stream Map (VSM, also known as “Material and Information Flow Chart”), the Metrics-based Process Mapping (MBPM), and the Cost-Time Profiler (CTP). Second, the project defines a set of metrics to evaluate the “leanness” of the production processes. Third, the project develops an analytical model to evaluate the outcome of the lean transformation. In collaboration with Ms. Zuhara Chavez, an AMS Doctoral student, we have been researching automotive suppliers both in Japan and Mexico since 2015.

3) The Automotive Industrial Clusters and Regional Economies

Takefumi MOKUDAI, Assoc. Professor (Ph.D)

The automotive industrial clusters, one of the largest employers in many regional economies, have faced with multifaceted and often conflicting challenges. The clustered location of suppliers allows the carmakers to gain the operation efficiency through the lean delivery. The declining domestic production and the globalization of carmakers’ production sites, however, have made the suppliers retain their production capacity in their homeland, which leads to f employment opportunities in the regional economies.
This project has surveyed the automotive clusters in Kyushu, where Kyushu University locates, Hiroshima, and Tohoku, the Northeastern part of Japan. What challenges do they face with? What are the driving forces to build and/or undermine the cluster? How do the regional suppliers react with the globalization of the carmakers’ production strategy? How do the compete with overseas suppliers in the emerging economies, such as China, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Mexico? How can the industrial policies support the suppliers to sustain the cluster? With these research questions in mind, the intensive interviews and factory site visits have been underway since 2011.

Student's Voice

Zuhara ChavezD2
1.What are you studying now?
I’m studying in the Automotive Science Department in Kyushu University, currently on my 2nd year of the Doctoral course – International program. My research is related to Lean manufacturing and production systems adaptation with the use of mapping tools.
2.What are the recommendation points in this field and fun research?
My recommendation for those who are choosing this field would be to have an open mind and willingness to learn and awareness of the fact that practical knowledge can vary from what is learned in Academia; for new students of this program who jump into the program directly from finishing an undergraduate program to a master degree without any work experience, a lot of concepts could be new and overwhelming but the program is complemented with Industry exposure which it’s a huge help to understand and see concepts and knowledge in real environments. I believe this is the extra component that this program has that other may not. On the other hand, for those people with previous work experience, it’s a way to depict the already learned techniques and understand them with a different set of lenses, also having the opportunity to observe applications in different environments helps to create a better understanding and sense of analysis which will be with you forever in any situation of your life.
3.Message to juniors and examinees
I truly recommend persuading a graduate program if your wish it’s to be more competitive professionally but also if you want to expand your knowledge as a person, it is required a lot of auto learning and persistency because at this level the professors and your advisor, are there as a guide but it’s our responsibility how far or how great our research journey ends up being. You will learn a lot, but also you will discover many things you still need to know to achieve success in your area of interest, the awareness is a great part of this journey. I’d like to add for those who already have an area of interest or defined topic, indeed the most important thing I can think about, its being passionate about your topic, because that is what will make you enjoy your time as a researcher, master or doctoral student and what will keep you working hard for it.

Teaching Staff

Faculty Members Lab Location Graduate Faculty Education and Research Area
Prof. Toshiyuki Fujita Hakozaki Campus Faculty of Economics Environmental economics,mathematical analysis of environmental policies
Assoc. Prof. Takefumi Mokudai Hakozaki Campus Faculty of Economics Production operations Management, Management of Technology, Corporate Strategy
Assoc.Prof. Schroeder Martin Ito Campus Faculty of Engineering Economic geography,Area studie,Corporate strategy
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