Honestly I accept a problem and never let out a product that I can’t trust
JEOL Yamagata Co., Ltd. was established as a JEOL group company dedicated for production. It is a major factory responsible for about 60% (Instrument basic unit base) of all of JEOL products now. Ai Sato, joined JEOL Yamagata 11 years ago, is in charge of manufacturing Clinical Chemistry Analyzer. Clinical Chemistry Analyzer is medical equipment used to measure the components in blood and urine and is an inevitable equipment in medical testing. We heard about a story of Sato who feels pride and a sense of satisfaction in manufacturing this equipment which is essential for maintaining good health.
Wanted to do manufacturing that was different from others’
Ai Sato told us her motivation of joining JEOL Yamagata 11 years ago, right after her graduation from Tendo High School, near JEOL Yamagata, “I wanted to do manufacturing that was different from others’”.
“I did not want to be a mere part of an assembly-line operation and I was not interested in products that you can get just anywhere. JEOL’s products are manufactured with abundant advance technologies such as electron microscopes and Clinical Chemistry Analyzer that I am in charge of. My responsibility is heavy but I think it is worthwhile”.
For ten years after joining JEOL, Sato has engaged in adjustment work of Clinical Chemistry Analyzer. Adjustment work is to test the assembled equipment to see if it satisfies the inspection criteria by conducting electric test, and further to check and confirm the performance of equipment by using the same test reagents as our users’.
“I have been doing adjustment work for ten years, and have just moved to the production department at the beginning of this year. As a matter of fact, the equipment has just been replaced with a new model and not all of the designs and functions are same with the old model’s, we are working on correct practices through trial and error. I keep in mind how the equipment will be used by the user, and decide what to do now, by reversing the likely steps taken by the user. Honestly, it is a bit challenging. However, since I wanted to be able to do everything originally, I had decided not to run away from my work even if the work is challenging.
Equipments and staffs trusted by users
According to Sato, the new model has improved ease of use and also has easier maintenance owing to the parts detachment capability without using detaching tools. In addition, since the mechanism of the new model automatically dilutes undiluted wash solution for washing reaction system lines, the undiluted wash solution can be replenished without stopping the equipment. With old models, the equipment needs to be stopped when the wash solution is replenished and thus, their efficiency and ease of use were not great.
“At test centers specialized in measuring blood, the equipment continues measuring a large volume of samples overnight from evening to the next morning to promptly return data of the samples to the medical institutes. Their requirements are not to stop the equipment even for a short period of time. I sometimes go and see users with service staff for installation of equipment. I make it a rule to confirm how the equipment is used and in what kind of environment and what kind of people are using the equipments. Seeing the service staff being consulted by the user, makes me realize that not only the staff but also the equipment are trusted by the user. ”Says Sato.
Three generations of Sato family members go to the same hospital. Having caught a sight of JEOL’s analyzer used in the hospital, Sato’s grandmother gave her a compliment saying “Ai, the company you work for is excellent.”
“Knowing that my family members and acquaintances also use JEOL’s product, I felt closer to the product and I began feeling that I couldn’t take second best. There was a TV drama where JEOL’s product appeared. My parents recorded the TV drama and were pleased with the appearance very much, which made me happy”.
Understanding the key point of overseas regulations
Triggered by the production shift of the new model, the department where Sato belongs to, started reviewing work instruction.
“We are trying to reduce the man-hours by reviewing the processes from assembling to adjustment. Many people have moved to the production department newly like me and there are certain things that only fresh eyes can notice. The department includes six staff members and the manager and all members are men except me. It is also my role to teach two new comers who have been assigned to my department recently.”
Among the work she carried out, what she found most difficult was to learn the knowledge of overseas regulations. Sato says.
“When exporting products, we need to obtain a certificate for products as medical device based on our MD=QMS(Medical Device=Quality Management System =quality management system for medical device) as the core, by satisfying the regulations and requirements in each country, such as FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA. It does not mean that we just produce a product. Knowledge is required since not only products need testing but also production processes need monitoring, evaluation, and recording. Regulation itself continues changing drastically and we need to continue learning. It is my way to read the material by myself, think twice about the critical points, and make them into my own words. Otherwise, I can hardly teach the new comers”.
Curiosity is inevitable to continue working
When asked for her belief in doing work, she says, “I try to accept the phenomenon or what was told without protest”, when any problem occurs.
“My belief is never being sly. Advice and feedback that “you ‘d better do more like this here” must be listened to, by facing a problem squarely and certainly. The bottom-line is that I am trying not to shift from my stance of improving product quality at any costs. If I am not honest, I may not be able to trust the product myself, and my pride will not allow letting out an untrustworthy product. I can’t make others trust the product, while I can’t trust the product by myself.”
Though the team that Sato belongs to consists of 6 members, more than double the number joins the team from external partner companies at production sites.
“In the future, the responsibility of my position will become much heavier. I want to be personnel who can take action while overlooking the whole. I would like to make the work place well-communicated, not only by making instruction, but also by listening to all staffs well including the partner companies, just like my seniors did to me. ”
Future production will continue shifting from Akishima to JEOL Yamagata. “We need to improve the production level into “it is alright as far as JEOL Yamagata is producing”. I talked about the man-hour reduction a while ago. If cost reduction is realized, there will be an advantage of lower price for users. I believe that there will be a lot of room to improve”. says Sato.
When Sato joined JEOL, she couldn’t read the drawing of products. In only 11 years, she has become capable of looking at the work from a company-wide perspective.
For manufacturing jobs of JEOL, “personnel who is from a non-engineering major, instead of engineering major, can also do this job but the curiosity is inevitable.” says Sato.
“When thinking from the user’s point of view, we need to know not only the product but also its surroundings. It may be difficult to continue this job without the curiosity to absorb various things.”
The curiosity of Sato who has spent 11 years with JEOL, does not seem to be fading yet.