Japanese companies saving money and energy by crowding the elevators, turning out lights

Bill Murray
Video screen capture Bill Murray in Lost in Translation

Bill Murray would have trouble finding room in the elevator these days because of the yen pinching; according to Reuters, companies are shutting elevators down to save money and energy.

While previous bouts of strength in the yen have pushed Japanese manufacturers to shift production overseas, exporters are coping with the recent currency stresses by penny-pinching - turning off lights and cramming elevators in the hope that nothing more drastic will be needed before the tide turns.

Toyota shut down two elevators at its headquarters;

"It’s not clear how long the latest period of yen strength is going to last, so the company tries to promote a mindset where employees are always conscious of costs," said spokeswoman Shino Yamada. The elevator savings were to show solidarity with the rest of the company, she added.

It really is more about solidarity than savings, given that elevators are a pretty efficient mode of transportation. But hey, it's the thought that counts, and the connection that is made between money and energy, something that is kind of lost these days in North America.

Other companies are taking bigger steps; At Sharp, employees are not allowed to set the air conditioning below 28 degrees Celsius (82.4°F) and half of the lights in the corridors have been removed. At Panasonic, office lights are turned off during the lunch breaks.

The writers note that "at least for now, workers will be comforted that the corporate response has largely consisted of minor inconveniences" rather than layoffs. It apparently applies to everyone in the company as well; at Panasonic, "even the company president needs approval to raid the stationery cupboard."

American companies used to try and emulate companies like Toyota and Panasonic. Perhaps it's time to learn from them again.

Japanese companies saving money and energy by crowding the elevators, turning out lights
How much of a difference it makes is another story, but it's the thought that counts.

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