I work at the magnesium processing facility of SIGMA Aizu factory. We produce the magnesium parts used in exchangeable lenses and digital cameras here. The processing facility has been established rather recently, in 2018, and I have been a part of it from the very start.
I joined SIGMA Aizu factory in 2011, right after high-school, and had been in charge of our cine lenses production since 2016. The cine lenses meant an entirely new challenge for SIGMA and a valuable experience for me personally. When I was chosen to work at the new magnesium processing facility, I felt proud and happy.
Magnesium is a material that is very difficult to handle. It is extremely flammable and poses a constant risk for explosions. Of course, the finished magnesium parts used in our products are not dangerous at all – the danger lies in the metal cutting process, due to the powder-like swarf produced from the metal shavings. If these swarf react with water, they generate heat and can even burst into flames. I studied magnesium safety intensively for two months before I began my work, but since it was my first time handling magnesium I was still very nervous in the beginning. I may have become more used to this material in the past year but constant careful attention is still a vital requirement – during the individual operations, of course, but also when it comes to the clean-up.
The magnesium processing facility has entered its second year now, and the ten workstations we began with have already increased to twenty. We have also hired new staffs – 15 people working in a two-shift system. Looking back to our first year, we have managed to increase our productivity, thanks to each member’s dedicated and thoughtful approach to their work. We communicate very well with each other, and as a result, the atmosphere at our site is very pleasant. Since now I have junior workers to care for, my attitude and way of communication has changed a little. We talk about all kinds of things, not just about work but life as well, and even though I sometimes need to be strict with them, I take great care to make sure we enjoy our work based on mutual understanding and trust.
The SIGMA fp – difficulties, pride and accomplishment
The SIGMA fp, our digital mirrorless camera which went on sale this fall, also uses magnesium parts. When manufacturing these parts, I had to face the difficult challenge of die-casting magnesium. The sense of accomplishment I felt after I had finally overcome the difficulties of manufacturing these parts, and the pride I felt when the fp actually became available in stores are experiences I will never forget.
With the increase of people working at the magnesium processing facility, we have to review and implement thorough health and safety measures as well as a hazardous materials management program. Also, in the future, I would like to research the material, the cutting processes and so on in order to make better use of the benefits that having an in-house magnesium processing plant could provide.
One downside of my job is that the magnesium facility is removed quite a bit from the other buildings of the Aizu factory, for security reasons. Some days I don’t meet a single person from another department, which can make me feel a bit sad. (laughs)
But I’m blessed with a very fulfilled private life. I was born and raised here in Aizu, and have explored and enjoyed the region to the fullest in my bachelor days – fishing, snowboarding, touring and everything else. Now that I am married and live in my own house, I often invite my friends over for barbecues on the weekends. I can also rely on my friends when I need help building a shed in my garden. I enjoy my weekends to the fullest, and when Monday comes around I can go to work fully recharged.
Toshiya Yamauchi was born in Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture in 1987. He has been working at SIGMA since 2011.
“I started as a temporary worker at first but joined SIGMA as a permanent employee thanks to my superior here. I have loved building and assembling things ever since I was a child, perhaps because of my Aizu upbringing, and really enjoy working in metal processing now.”
Episode in Aizu
“As a leader of the magnesium manufacturing processes, I think the pressure of creating magnesium parts of the highest quality and ensuring everyone’s safety is immeasurable. He needs to rest well during his days off, which should help him recharge his strength. I am sure he will continue developing and refining his abilities in the future, raise our product quality even higher, lead and guide our juniors, and help make the best of our in-house magnesium processing facility.”
Naotaka Saze, chief of the Metal Processing Department