TOKYO -- U.S., Japanese and European government officials concluded yesterday two days of talks designed to set up what could be the largest technology transfer project in history.
The program, called IMS (Intelligent Manufacturing Systems), was first proposed by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry after a study it commissioned warned of global fears that Japan might monopolize key technologies.
IMS has three major objectives:
* To document existing manufacturing technology in Japanese, English and other languages.
* To standardize manufacturing processes so that software can be developed to allow robots, machine tools and computers from different systems to operate with identical instructions.
* To develop more sophisticated production systems, with advanced software that can link manufacturing to the rest of the sales process, including inventory, ordering and sales, and accounting.
"The key result of these meetings was that the Japanese seem to want to make this project equitable," said Jim Martin, director of Rockwell International's Asia-Pacific Technology Liaison Office in Tokyo.
Earlier reactions to the MITI proposal were much more skeptical.
IMS would give the Japanese "a road map of advanced manufacturing technology work being done in America," charged Commerce Department official Deborah Wince-Smith in congressional testimony earlier this year.
Following a series of meetings between U.S. companies and Department of Commerce officials, who are leading the government negotiations, emotions apparently cooled.
"There are clear risks to participation in any such project," said Stan Krueger, president of United Technologies Corp.'s Japanese subsidiary. "But we feel the risk is low, especially in the early phase. Besides, we can opt to drop out any time we want."