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  • Do not overlook the machine’s SOS signal

Reason for joining ZEON and the early years

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Chemical product manufacturers need mechanical engineers.
Striving to make improvements as the facility's "family doctor"

My older brother and a close, senior colleague from school were working for ZEON before I started looking for a job, and so I had lots of opportunities to learn about the company and the work its employees were doing. I was told: "Machines can be built using calculations, but in chemistry, calculations can't always be applied, which makes this science interesting." And one of them said: "There's a stronger demand for mechanical engineers at chemical product manufacturers than at machine manufacturers." They also told me about ZEON's broad range of business activities, which interested me and was why I decided to join the company.
After getting the job, I was assigned to the Technical Group/Facility Management Department at the Mizushima Plant. In a sense, staff working in this department are family doctors, since we're called on whenever a problem arises with the plant's facilities, ranging from machinery malfunctions to defects in the ductwork. Our work doesn't simply end when we've made repairs; we also have to identify what caused them and then come up with and implement solutions so that they don't happen again.
Looking back on my first year at the plant, I remember barely being able to keep up with the older colleagues. But now in my work I have a fair amount of confidence that I've gained over the past three years through my experiences on the maintenance team, which I joined in my second year.


Current work

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A crisis presents a golden opportunity for in-depth study.
I'm now able to hear the SOS signals of machines.

In the autumn of my first year at ZEON, the huge impact of the Lehman Shock reached the chemical industry. As a result, operations of the Technology Group in the Facility Management Department were scaled back and I was assigned to the Maintenance Team, which handles maintenance of the plant facilities.
The crisis, however, actually represented a golden opportunity for me. Many plant operations, which had never stopped under ordinary circumstances, were now being suspended, and this meant that I could get a close look at the facilities and experience them more directly. This also enabled me to gain a firm understanding of tank and pump structures, and after that I could more readily respond to any request for repairs.
Learning at first hand that all machines give out their own type of SOS signal before breaking down was particularly valuable. There are over 5,000 pieces of equipment with rotating machinery in the plant. During our monthly patrol, we'd sometimes come across machines that sounded different than they had the month before. And sure enough, when we checked them we'd discover one or more problems such as worn parts or degraded lubricant. In that respect, machines are remarkably honest.
One of my current aims is to give visual form to these warning signs and provide correlating solutions and also compile them into a manual. The Mizushima Plant features one of the world's most advanced integrated production centers (IPCs). At ZEON's IPC, sensors can detect any defect on the production line and relay this information to the central control room. But how can we make it easier for all employees to detect problems that veteran mechanical operators recognize by sound or smell? One solution, for cases where detection is difficult, is early parts exchange, which was introduced to ZEON's production system in order to build a line that wouldn't break down or stop.
Today we're working on a major upgrade in the production line for one of our major products. Higher performance smartphones require considerable quality enhancements. In the past, we'd generally address this by shutting down the production line for about six months and completely replacing it. But because reduced supply can dramatically disrupt the smartphone market, we now maintain production line operations during the upgrade process. This poses major challenges, but I believe we've been making significant progress.


Dreams of the future, life outside my job, and a message

I want to become a more versatile engineer by observing operations at many plants and learning about old and new technologies.

There are thousands of things I still want to do at the Mizushima Plant, and so I hope to stay here for a while and learn a lot more. But after that, I'd really like to see some other plants. Machinery used in other plants is completely different from what the Mizushima Plant uses to produce the same type of rubber, and I'm eager to gain expertise with their processes too. My goal is to become a more versatile engineer with expert knowledge of all kinds of technology, both old and new.
As for practical advice to students, I recommend looking into benefits packages alongside the other aspects of companies. I realized the importance of childcare leave and the family support allowance after my child was born, and I learned that ZEON provides generous benefits. When seeking a long-term career, I think you should remember that a benefits package is as important as your salary.

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