Kao Japan Company Kao Worldwide

HOME > Community > Product quality management

Product quality management [PR1]

Based on the consumer-driven principle of Yoki-Monozukuri spirit, Kao manages and assures the quality of products according to its own strict standards and rules at every step, from raw materials procurement through to production, distribution and sales.

2015 activities
A new test method for eye irritation developed by Kao was approved as one of the OECD Test Guidelines for an alternative animal testing in the safety evaluation procedures.
In addition, through effective utilization of Global ECHO, a system for the integrated management of the voices of consumers and customers, we have realized a higher level of collaboration among relevant divisions globally.


The foundation of Kao quality management activities is Kao’s heartfelt Yoki-Monozukuri commitment from the perspective of its consumers/customers as expressed in the Mission of the Kao Way. Based on this, Kao has implemented quality management activities since its establishment with the participation of all employees in all phases, from raw materials procurement to product development, production, distribution and sales, with the aim of achieving the basic goals set for quality management activities.

Basic Policy for Quality Management Activities
  • Consumers/customers decide on the quality of the products
  • Providing products that users wish to continue to use
  • Ensuring safe usage for consumers/customers
  • Legal compliance
  • Transparency and accountability

Kao has established the Quality Management Committee to assess the reliability and validity of the corporate quality management system. The Quality Management Committee forms part of Kao’s Internal Control Committee; its chair is the Executive Officer responsible for Product Quality Management Division, while committee members represent the business, consumer care, research & development, supply chain management, procurement, and other related divisions, their function on the committee being to set corporate-wide goals and policies concerning quality management.
Based on the policies set by the Quality Management Committee, Quality Management Meetings are held at the business unit level to assess each unit’s quality management policies, quality issues, and progress with quality management activities.
Each month, the respective business units also sponsor Quality Improvement Study Meetings to assess quality issues with new and improved products prior to the launch.
Each meeting is attended by representatives from both the respective business units and the functional divisions, with perspectives from both sides exchanged to promote matrix management. Product Quality Management Division provides corporate-wide promotion and supervision of these quality management activities.
Kao strives daily to achieve Yoki-Monozukuri, but unforeseen problems and accidents can potentially affect product quality. Information from customers, external organizations, and distribution sources is accumulated at Consumer Communication, which, in the event of any potentially serious or critical situations (from the consumer perspective), delivers a report to Product Quality Management Division. The division has its own system in place for responding to critical or serious quality issues, through which it performs its own quick assessment of the potential for hazard or escalation of the problem, informing top management and related internal divisions of any emergencies and/or serious quality issues. Further, in order to fulfill its social, quality management, and disclosure responsibilities as a manufacturer, Kao strives to establish a close relationship not only with related in-house divisions, but also with government, related agencies, and distribution sources.

Product quality management system

Product quality management system


Company-wide quality management initiatives

Kao’s Basic Policy for Quality Management Activities was established based on our consumer-driven principle that consumers/customers decide on the quality of the products, and Product Quality Management Division supervises our product quality management system. We have established strict policies governing every stage of a product, from raw materials procurement through to product development, production, distribution, and sales and usage by consumers, to storage and disposal, promoting product quality management across the product lifecycle.

Kao’s new SOFINA iP brand

English-language product category information on the package for international tourists visiting Japan

In 2015, as Kao worked towards the realization of the Kao Group Mid-term Plan 2015 (K15) and towards the next stage in the Kao Group’s development, Kao promoted quality management activities while also aiming to utilize assets with maximum efficiency and expand the global scope of the group’s operations.
Product Quality Management Division implemented pre-launch safety and quality verification and post-launch follow-up in relation to the launch of Kao’s new SOFINA iP brand, the creation of which represents a revolutionary step forward in Kao’s cosmetics business. Particularly with regard to the introduction of the new SOFINA drink (the brand’s first beauty drink product), Product Quality Management Division has made effective use of the resources available to it, adopting a quality management system based on the system previously used with Healthya brand to ensure that safety and high quality standards are maintained at every stage from the raw materials through to the finished product.
Also, Kao has implemented a new initiative targeting the steadily rising number of inbound tourists visiting Japan (reflecting the globalization of our business), promoting the inclusion of English-language product category information on Kao products alongside the Japanese-language information. With respect to products that have large numbers of Chinese purchasers, information regarding products’ special features, claims, all ingredients, instructions for use, and precautions is being made available on the Kao website in Chinese (using Simplified Characters).


Safety assessment and management

Striving for the wholehearted satisfaction and enrichment of the lives of people, Kao uses cutting-edge technology to create high product value. In realizing that value, we consider ensuring the safety of all of our products as our primary social responsibility. To ensure that its consumers can feel confident in using its products, in April 2014 Kao Group reevaluated its safety standards, establishing a new and even more extensive set of safety standards which have since been made available not only internally but also on the Kao Group website.

Kao will continue to ensure safety based on updated safety information, pursing alternatives to animal testing, and conducting final safety verification on humans, and will reevaluate its strict corporate standards governing the safety of products for human use and the effect of products on the environment.
Furthermore, we will take responsibility for verifying the ingredients, features, directions for use, warning labels, and advertisement wording to ensure that products can be used safely. Whenever products feature new uses or significant improvements, Product Quality Management, Consumer Communication, and Research & Development including safety and other related divisions liaise to evaluate not only how consumers actually select and use our products, but also to perform evaluation in terms of environment, lifestyle practices, national origin, ethnicity and other social science perspectives.
Once products are on the market, Kao works to deal sincerely with, and thoroughly investigate and respond promptly to consumer feedback. With regard to post-launch safety management, Kao continuously conducts ongoing, detailed checks of product safety and works with a network of medical personnel, government agencies, and other parties to manage safety.
Regarding the revised adverse reaction reporting system for quasi-drugs and cosmetics that was introduced starting from April 1, 2014, Kao group is taking appropriate measures to maintain and improve the post-launch product safety management system.


Evaluating the safety of alternatives to animal testing

Moves to eliminate animal testing are now global. Kao and Kanebo Cosmetics support this approach, and since the late 1980s have been proactively working to explore technologies that provide alternatives to animal testing, and to adopt such technologies.
In July 2015, a new test method, a cell-based short time exposure (STE) eye irritation test that was independently developed by Kao as an alternative to animal testing, was approved as OECD Test Guideline 491. In the future, this type of STE test can be used in REACH applications in Europe and for evaluation of eye irritation during cosmetics product development; it can be anticipated that the test should make a positive contribution towards reducing animal testing on a global level.
With regard to alternative skin sensitization testing methods, as of December 2015 the human Cell Line Activation Test (h-CLAT) jointly developed by Kao and Shiseido Co., Ltd. was undergoing final international review with the aim of having the new technology incorporated into the OECD Test Guidelines. Kao has also developed EpiSensA, an alternative skin sensitization testing method that uses a cultured human skin model, and which permits testing of poorly water-soluble substances that existing testing methods are not suitable for; the reproducibility of the research results has already been confirmed at multiple research facilities. Kao has also participated in discussion meetings organized by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) regarding alternative testing method guidance in relation to safety testing methods for quasi drugs; additionally, Kao is also participating—and maintaining a key role—in a project exploring alternatives to animal testing being pursued by Cosmetics Europe.*
Kao believes that alternatives to animal testing should involve publicly-available methods that can be used worldwide. To that end, we continue to cooperate with global industry groups, our competitors and others toward the establishment of international testing guidelines, and toward furthering the development of alternative testing technologies and other global initiatives.

  • * Cosmetics Europe (The European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association)
    An association of the European cosmetics industry. Established 1962. Members include over 16 corporations and organizations from over 25 nations.


Consumer-driven quality management activities

Kao has pushed ahead with the implementation of its Global ECHO system, which provides global, integrated management of consumer/customer feedback, not only in Japan, but in our consumer products and chemical businesses throughout Asia, Europe, and Americas. At the same time, to promote company-wide quality management activities aimed at overall quality improvements, we have introduced and begun using a global data analysis system, named QMMplus, which is capable of organizing and analyzing such global data. Working with our subsidiaries and affiliates, we are strengthening our efforts to provide consumers and customers with more timely responses.

The utilization of the Global ECHO system is helping to further strengthen linkages between related divisions. Despite the fact that business has been growing, the total number of complaints received from consumers and customers in 2015 was lower than in 2014 for both the Consumer Products Business and the Chemical Business.
In the Chemical Business, activities to enhance quality have been put on a more systematic basis, with the SCM department playing a key role, supporting by the Asia Quality Leaders Meeting, etc. Besides leading to a decrease in customer complaints, the results obtained in these activities have also made a positive contribution to human capital cultivation at Kao’s business locations.


Conducting quality management audits/self-checks

Product Quality Management Division thoroughly understands Kao Group product quality management activities and implements audits and self-checks.
Kao Group companies in Japan as well as in Asia, Europe and Americas also underwent audits by certification bodies for the ISO9001 and GMP standard, maintaining their certification, and conducted audit and product quality meetings with internal and external auditors, contract manufacturers and suppliers of raw and packaging materials.
In addition, the quality management audit and self-check systems have been strengthened, new auditing items have been established, and quality audit promotion meetings have been launched to drive audit activities forward. Quality audit promotion meetings are attended not only by representatives of the Product Quality Management Division, but also by representatives of other departments; these meetings are helping to promote the adoption of effective PDCA processes in the Kao Group’s quality auditing activities.


Implementation of thorough product quality management for food products

Kao’s functional food products, the result of extensive research on lipid nutrition metabolism and other attributes, contribute to healthy, satisfying lifestyle habits. We conduct the following product quality management activities so that these delicious foods can contribute to the health of the customer.

  1. Evaluations of the safety and effectiveness of products are conducted both independently and in cooperation with external experts, and even after launch, products are subjected to numerous evaluations.
  2. Kao practices thorough quality management of all aspects of our work process from raw materials to manufacturing, and ensures traceability*1 that spans the entire course, from original materials*2 procurement outside Japan to the final shipping destination.
  3. Kao focuses on managing product freshness through its production and distribution phases, including the management of best-before dates of raw materials, based on a system that prevents shipment of items exceeding a set post-manufacturing period.

Products in the Healthya series, which are designated Foods for Specified Health Uses, are checked for radioactivity in line with management standards adhering to new values indicated by the Food Sanitation Act.

In regard to Econa cooking oil, assessment of Econa’s impact on human health was carried out by a working group of the Food Safety Commission of Japan, and compilation of the assessment report was completed in March 2015. In response to the assessment results, Kao has updated its “Report on Econa Cooking Oil.” More detailed information can be found at this link:

  • *1 Traceability
    Verifying the origin, use, manufacturing history, and location of products and raw materials using records.
  • *2 Original materials
    Primary agriculture, livestock, and fishery products. For example, soybeans are an original material of cooking oil.


Disclosing information on country of origin and allergenic substances

Kao actively provides information regarding food product safety. On its website, Kao lists the ingredients of each of its products, as well as providing component analyses and warnings regarding allergenic substances. We are also prepared to respond quickly to inquiries about the country of origin of major ingredients and original materials. In response to frequent requests, Kao has provided additional information on specific countries of origin on our website as a matter of course.

Country of origin information etc. regarding the new SOFINA iP brand beauty drink launched in 2015 can be found on the Kao website.

Copyright © Kao Corporation. All rights reserved.
Kao Group