I joined SIGMA in April 2011, one month after the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The Aizu region suffered relatively little damage compared to other areas of Fukushima, but I remember worrying whether I will actually be able to start working.
I was born and raised in Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima. I left the region to study at university but wanted to move back home for work. I have to admit I first learned about SIGMA at a job fair. Even though I had grown up in Aizu, I knew nothing about the company. I must have passed by the factory every time I went skiing… (laughs) I also did not know much about cameras, but once I started working here I naturally developed an interest in photography.
I have been part of the general affairs department since I joined. My main responsibilities are health and safety. As you can imagine, there are people from many different departments and specialty fields working with all kinds of different machinery in a factory. In order to manufacture high-quality products in a safe way, you have to consider how productivity can be improved while mitigating the dangers that will inevitably emerge. I rely on my own five senses to assess risks, of course, but I also work closely with supervisors from each department and pay close attention to every worker in the factory.
Workplace management and the health of our employees are also part of my responsibilities. This means that I confirm workplace conditions and follow-up health checks, of course, but I also believe it’s important to communicate daily with our factory staff and keep my ears open for problems that may be uttered in hushed voices, like people feeling under the weather or not recovering from work sufficiently. I have to have a very good grasp of every corner of the factory to do my job well. There are 1,500 people working at SIGMA’s Aizu factory, and although I had problems in the beginning, I can now greet almost everyone I meet by name.
Solutions through balance and communication
rather than one-sided commands
What I have to be aware of is that we are creating and manufacturing products here. If I were to push all my demands as a safety manager onto the staff, then I would soon hear that “nothing’s moving anymore.” In order to implement my opinion, it is necessary to communicate and find a common ground with the staff on-site. The problem is that we’re all Aizu people—we’re always convinced that we’re in the right. (laughs)
I do feel that SIGMA takes its employees seriously. There’s a willingness to listen and consider the opinions of all staff members, no matter whether they’re a veteran or newly hired. And while preserving well-tried methods and approaches is important, it is also vital to stay open to new ideas, from the bottom up. I think it is this way of thinking, introduced by our company president, that helps SIGMA’s growth.
If I could pick a new challenge for myself, I would like to take a look at factories of other manufacturers – not for their technology but to find out how they manage their workplaces. I could use that knowledge to better support our staff who work so hard to manufacture SIGMA’s products.
Yohei Takahashi was born in Wakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture’s Aizu region in 1988 and has been with SIGMA since 2011. He is a dedicated father who looks forward to spending each weekend with his two daughters. He is responsible for the introduction of the popular “family day” at SIGMA. “Each year, the hurdles are a little bit higher.” (laughs)
Episode in Aizu
Takahashi is one of only a few of my successors. It has already been eight years since he joined the company. In his job, he takes care of many different tasks which cannot be handled without intimate knowledge of the factory, from his managerial duties to customer visits, negotiations, and ensuring health and safety standards in our various workstations. He is trusted by his co-workers and very good at getting his job done. Since joining SIGMA, he has become a father and he has cemented his position in the workplace. He is a reliable, reputable young man in whom I have high confidence.
(Koshiro Watanabe, Chief of General Affairs, Corporate Planning Department)