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  • Seeking to become a process expert of the next generation

Reason for joining ZEON and the early years

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ZEON consistently takes on the challenges that come with creating new products.
The ideal place for designing unconventional processes

As a chemical engineering student, I naturally wanted to work at a plant and design new production processes. That's why my decision came down to choosing the best plant.
ZEON is aggressive in terms of generating new products, and so I joined the company believing that it could provide me with opportunities to create entirely new processes.
First, I was assigned to ZEON's research center in Kawasaki, where I worked for a year in the Production Technology Laboratory and then for two years at the Foundation Technology Laboratory. My job involved analyzing effective substances in residual liquids and conducting fluidic analysis, which involved simulating the movements of substances inside machines. During my third year, I expressed a desire to work at a plant and was soon transferred to one. And it was there I found work that went far beyond simply designing production processes.

Current work

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Gathering wisdom at the Integrated Production Center
Taking part in the development of overseas plants

When I was assigned to a job at the Mizushima Plant, final adjustments were being made in the establishment of the Integrated Production Center (IPC), which would provide centralized control over all the production lines. The IPC is revolutionary since it not only places the entire plant under centralized control, but it also transforms a significant amount of expertise into quantifiable data, which even includes tasks that typically can only be checked by the direct observations of staff. Several hundred thousand data points have already been collected and integrated into the system over the past few years.
My first job was to standardize the different terminologies and rules that were being used at each production line. While this involved interacting with people rather than machines, I found it really interesting. Gathering the ideas of different people working at the plant and watching the gradual construction of the new system was also a stimulating experience.
Once the IPC began operating in 2008, a year after my transfer, I was responsible for troubleshooting and making further improvements. Problems always surface at production sites after a new system has been implemented, and this is particularly true for chemical reactions, in which conditions between the laboratory and the plant are almost completely different. When a malfunction occurred on the production line, I'd analyze the data and propose implementing improvements. Unlike making a proposal at a laboratory, proposing a solution isn't the end task at a plant. We have to get budget approval and follow through until the construction work is completed and results are confirmed. The tension can feel palpable, but it gives you the satisfaction of being a part of the action.
A project is currently underway to begin operating ZEON's exclusive distillation plant (GPI) outside Japan, which is a first for the company. As a team member on this project, I'm responsible for developing human resources, which is uncommon for somebody in my position. We need to train young operators to make sure they are capable of operating the existing plant once veteran operators are transferred abroad.
You may wonder why the process improvement department gets involved in something like human resource development. The reason is that you simply can't train someone how to operate a plant unless you have a thorough understanding of the processes involved. Incidentally this also means that as the responsible person, I have to be the first one to make tremendous efforts to learn about the whole operation. (laughs) The responsibilities I've been entrusted with can feel heavy at times, but I know that the work has lots to offer me.

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

Becoming a next-generation process expert who does whatever it takes to serve a production site

Since I started working for the company, I've been exposed to a variety of experiences that I hope will help me to become a process expert of the next generation who can address all the needs of a plant including training. Since innovation is in the name of my current department, I'm aware that anything that has to do with production innovation is part of my work.
My advice to students who are looking for a job is to gain a first-hand experience of the atmospheres of companies insofar as they can. Also consider that since you'll be spending a long time developing your career at a company, it's very important to fit in well with its corporate culture.
I really like ZEON's corporate culture of focusing on the virtues of the individual. I've never come across anyone who has tried to force someone to do something here. My superior has told me: "You can make as many mistakes as you want, as long as you learn something from them, because therein lies the greatest value." And that's why I think working for ZEON is highly rewarding.

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