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The Discipline of Organizing: Core Concepts Edition, 3rd Edition by Robert J. Glushko

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11.3. Smarter Farming in Japan

Overview. Unlike the first two case studies, this is an actual case rather than a hypothetical or composite one. It shares with the first two cases a focus on preserving valuable resources but in the radically different domain of farming.

This case concerns an initiative by Fujitsu, a Japanese technology firm, to apply “smart computing” and lean manufacturing techniques to the agricultural sector, which lags in technology use. Fujitsu is testing a “farm work management system” at six Japanese farms. In this case study we will focus on the farm highlighted in a 2011 Wall Street Journal story.

This test farm is located in southern Japan. It has 60 different crops spread over 100 hectares (about 250 acres), an area slightly larger than the central campus of the University of California at Berkeley.

What is being organized? Sensors are deployed in each of 300 different farm plots to collect readings on temperature, soil, and moisture levels. Video cameras also monitor each plot.

The 72 relatively unskilled workers on the farm are also managed resources. Each of them carries a mobile phone for communication, transmission of pictures, and GPS tracking of their location.

Why is it being organized? The highest-level goal for Fujitsu is to expand its reach as a technology firm by applying the concepts of lean manufacturing, statistical process control, and continual improvement to new domains. Farming is an obvious choice in Japan because it is a relatively unproductive ...

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