Photo/IllutrationKYB President Yasusuke Nakajima, center, and other executives apologize at a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 16. (Shogo Koshida)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A hydraulic parts manufacturer has admitted to falsifying inspection data and shipping substandard anti-earthquake equipment, sending shock waves among owners and operators of buildings around Japan, including Tokyo Skytree and Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka.

Executives of KYB Corp. on Oct. 16 said the data falsifications go back to at least 2003, and the numbers were fudged for hundreds of anti-quake products to save time and avoid delays in delivery.

KYB President Yasusuke Nakajima apologized and pledged to replace all products found to have been shipped based on false data.

The Tokyo-based company mainly manufactures shock absorbers for all kinds of vehicles. But it also produces oil dampers used to control vibration and reduce shaking from earthquakes.

The anti-quake equipment was initially produced by KYB, but it is now exclusively manufactured by a subsidiary, Kayaba System Machinery Co.

KYB officials said an internal investigation confirmed 410 cases in which inspection data was falsified. Data fabrication was suspected in an additional 576 cases.

The total of 986 possible cases represents about 70 percent of all shipments of oil dampers by the two companies. The shipped products in these cases can be found in all 47 prefectures of the quake-prone nation.

Infrastructure ministry officials said no safety problems will likely emerge from the products sent with fake data but acknowledged that their ability to reduce shaking from quakes might not be as effective as products that pass the ministry standards.

KYB’s oil dampers have also been installed at Roppongi Hills Mori Tower in Tokyo as well as local government buildings, hospitals and condominium complexes.

An official at Tokyo Skytree confirmed that the tallest structure in Japan contains oil dampers from the KYB group, and that a study was continuing to determine if the specific product was delivered after inspection data was falsified.

KYB officials declined to divulge the names of the facilities where suspect oil dampers may have been sent, saying they have not received permission from the owners.

However, operators and owners around Japan are now scrambling to contact KYB officials to find out if their facilities contain substandard anti-quake equipment.

If a product does not meet standards set by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as well as specifications ordered by the client, it will normally be taken apart and re-assembled for another inspection. That process takes about five hours to complete.

KYB officials said the data from the initial inspection was falsified to meet the ministry’s standards and avoid the five-hour delay.

Company officials said at least eight individuals were involved in the data falsifications. A committee of outside lawyers will check to see if other company officials were aware of the practice.

The data falsifications came to light when an employee at Kayaba System Machinery pointed out the rewriting of inspection data in early August. KYB began an in-house investigation in mid-September.

According to the investigation results, the method for rewriting data was passed on by employees who handled the inspection tests.

The method was also verbally passed on in January 2007, when production of the oil dampers was moved from KYB to Kayaba System Machinery.

KYB has manufactured the oil dampers since March 2000, but records of falsified data are only available from January 2003.

The infrastructure ministry has ordered KYB to expediently replace the suspect oil dampers and submit a report about the reason for the falsifications and what steps were being taken to avoid a recurrence.