Really? I’ll be in the next “Made in Aizu” episode? Are you sure? This is a little embarrassing… But okay – I’ll be able to brag about this to my friends!
I am in my third year at SIGMA. I joined the company after I graduated from a technical high-school in Aizuwakamatsu and started working in the injection molding section of the plastic processing department. At high-school, I was in the IT department, learned how to program and so on – I had no contact at all with manufacturing or the required equipment. I visited the Aizu factory on a tour, and someone from the general affairs department mentioned that “SIGMA is a company from Aizu that competes on the global market.” That made a huge impression on me. I love it here in Aizuwakamatsu, and I don’t want to leave – I thought the opportunity to stay in the Aizu region and still take it on with the rest of the world was incredible, and I began hoping to work here one day.
It is my job to create front caps for lenses or different parts of our cameras using a process called injection molding. I melt resin pellets and pour them into metal molds. Once they’ve hardened, they are removed using unmanned machinery and taken to the next department. In the very beginning, I started by learning the steps needed to place the metal molds into the machine. I really didn’t understand anything at all – I didn’t even understand what I didn’t understand yet. When something was explained to me, inside my head I only repeated the phrase “I don’t understand” (laughs). But all the seniors I work with are very easy to approach, and they helped me learn everything in minute detail. I am very thankful to them, especially to my immediate seniors just a year above me, who taught me the foundation of my whole work.
The delight of encountering products I was involved to manufacture
Recently, I have learned how to handle the temperature settings of the machinery, too, and have started to really enjoy my work here. However, the more I learn about what I am doing, the more I realize that my knowledge and technical skills still need to improve. My desire to learn more and become better at what I do keeps growing stronger. Right now, if I’m at an impasse I can simply go to my seniors and ask them for advice, but I want to rely on other people as little as possible and overcome problems based on my own judgment. And I’d like to be able to help out the juniors who come after me as best as I can.
I do make mistakes as well. There are many types of resin materials, and if you don’t clean the inside of the machinery thoroughly after switching resins, it is possible that the residues may create toxic gas. One day, I had not noticed that the type of resin had changed and failed to clean the machinery. Luckily, the subsection head had noticed my error, though, and we were able to avoid an accident. But that moment made it clear to me how dangerous carelessness can be. Since that incident, I have been paying proper attention to the materials and processes involved in my work.
The shifts are split into a rotating system of night shift and day shift. I work the day shift for one week, rest on the weekend, and start the night shift the following week. At first, the night shift weeks were very difficult for me – I had to fight against drowsiness. Even though I have got used to it now, I still often spend the Saturday of my night shift sleeping until the evening, and the start into the day shift on Monday is anything but easy. However, in return I spend the weekends of my day shift enjoying life to the fullest. (laughs)
I was in the tennis club at my high-school and still play tennis with the seniors here on my days off. Other than that, I often visit hot springs, and every now and then I go to Sendai to visit friends of mine. Ah, yes – when we went to a Yodobashi Camera store in Sendai, they had cameras in the SIGMA corner that I have actually worked on. You don’t find SIGMA products in stores in Aizuwakamatsu that often, so when I saw the cameras, I shouted at my friend “that lens cap! I made that!” Actually seeing that what I work on each day becomes part of a product that goes out into the world gave me a sense of pride. I think that is the most fulfilling moment.
Yuta Kobayashi was born in Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture in 1999 and joined SIGMA in 2016.
“There are people here with whom I’ve been friends since elementary school, and four other people have graduated from the same middle school I went to. The people in Aizu really do love their home, that’s why so many decide to stay and work here.”
Episode in Aizu
Injection molding is a very delicate, skillful process where the slightest deviation in the setup or the environment – especially the temperature and humidity – can affect the results. Even the wear and tear of the injection molding machinery itself has an effect on the conditions of the molding process. It really is complicated work.
Yuta is still in training, but he has a strong will and works towards his goals—“I want to get a national technical certificate, acquire a high level of technical skill and be of greater help in the company”—each single day.
(Hiroshi Shirai, head of the plastic processing department)