Dec 18, 2023


“Turn adversity into opportunity”

Lessons learned in an external trainee program of DENSO

As part of the career development of young employees, DENSO has an external trainee program in which employees are transferred to an outside company for a certain period of time to experience completely different work. Soichiro Hayashi applied for this program to improve his skills in order to fulfill his dream of creating new businesses at DENSO centered on Monozukuri (manufacturing). He talks about his own growth, which he gained from his experience outside the company.

Contents of this article

    Aiming for “Kotozukuri (making things happen) that inspire people” through Monozukuri

    Soichiro Hayashi speaks at the company where he was seconded as an external trainee.

    Hayashi joined DENSO in 2018 and was assigned to the Powertrain Components Engineering Division 2 (now the Mechatronics Systems Development Division), where he was involved in the development of actuators for electric clutches. Having majored in chemistry in college, he had no experience at all in mechanical design. Even so, he decided to pursue a career in Monozukuri because he believed it was the right path to pursue his life's theme of "being involved in Kotozukuri that inspires people. He says that his original experience of these thoughts came from "YOSAKOI," a form of dance he devoted himself to when he was a college student.

    Hayashi: I was the leader of a large team of about 150 people, and we traveled all over the country. Each team creates a performance based on the charms of their region and impresses people through their dance. The culture of YOSAKOI transforms an ordinary person into that of expression which enlivens the communities and the world. I believe that I have been involved in and influenced many people's lives through YOSAKOI.

    I was looking for a job willing to share the same passion with my colleagues and work on “Kotozukuri that inspires people.”

    He said that as he proceeded with his job search, he once again reflected on what he liked to do.

    Hayashi: I am often moved by the passions and messages of the creators that are condensed in various products, and I felt that I was interested in Monozukuri that have value because people are involved in them. And as I continued to search for a company that could make it happen, I found DENSO.

    After three years at the company, Hayashi was tasked with setting up a new business. He says he was able to engage in the challenging work he had envisioned and was able to live a fulfilling life every day.

    Hayashi: Amidst major changes in the automotive industry, when I was asked to devise a new business that would take advantage of the technology, I had cultivated in actuator development, I was excited by the fact that what I wanted to do matched exactly with the mission of the company.

    However, just when he was beginning to feel that his ideas were finally taking shape, he was transferred to a position in charge of quality control for mass-produced products, and his duties changed from “moving forward” to “maintaining”.

    He spent a lot of time thinking, “Why do I have to change?”

    Hayashi: My motivation declined due to the gap between what I wanted to do and what I had to do, and I was unable to work the way I envisioned for myself for many days. Perhaps it was because of this, but I kept getting into trouble, and I was forced to deal with it day after day.

    However, this business assignment became a turning point for Hayashi.

    Hayashi: In the course of dealing with the problems, I saw for the first time that there were many more suppliers and related companies involved in the mass production process of the products we were launching than I had imagined. Moreover, all of our business partners were quick, responsible, and enthusiastic to support and cooperate with DENSO's designers on difficult requests.

    Hayashi says that he realized how many people are involved in making a single product, not to mention that the entire supply chain works together as a team. He realized that he had been thinking only about what he wanted to do and what was ahead of him, and he did not understand anything about the "reality" of manufacturing.

    And with such close ties to suppliers and related companies, and with DENSO's engineers, he became more confident that he would be able to create products and services that would have an impact on society, and he aspired to grow even more. Hayashi's attention was drawn to the “external trainee” program, in which trainees gain experience at outside companies.

    He went to a manufacturing industry consulting firm for training and gained one year of practical experience.

    Mr. Katsumi of O₂ Partners Inc. (right), with whom Mr. Hayashi has been working as an external trainee.

    Based on the concept of “gaining experience in different industries”, trainees of the DENSO’s external training program can work in a variety of industries such as venture capital, data science, and robotics.

    Hayashi: I thought that in order to have the ability to create new business down the road, I wanted to learn multiple business models and I needed to learn works I would not be directly involved in. With that in mind, I felt that a consulting firm, where I could work on business issues for a large number of clients, would be an excellent match for me. I was also encouraged by the Human Resources Division, which said, "We would like you to learn the customer's point of view.

    O₂ Partners Inc., where Hayashi received his external training, is a consulting firm specializing in the manufacturing industry. Under the motto of "We not only give advice, but we also help you execute it." the company has been accepting engineers from outside companies and developing them as consultants for many years. Yasuhide Katsumi, a director of O₂ Partners Inc., says that he emphasized the importance of having Hayashi gain the "experiences useful" even in DENSO.

    Katsumi: We could thoroughly teach him how to prepare materials unique to a consultant, but that would quickly end a temporary transfer period of only one year. He would feel unfulfilled and wonder what he came here to learn.

    That’s why we wanted to get him out in the field so that he could tackle the challenge of manufacturing industry consulting even if he did not have skills enough to do it. We wanted him to have an experience that, even if he did not demonstrate his value to us during the year, he would be able to recall and use his experience here after returning to DENSO.

    True to Katsumi's word, Hayashi was assigned to practical projects. One was to increase the production efficiency of a small and medium-sized manufacturing company. The other was to help a major listed company develop the organizational strategy and manufacturing system of its subsidiary which was created to start a new business.

    Hayashi wondered how he could contribute to customers by providing them with something they would be satisfied with. He spent many days thinking about what it means to provide maximum support.

    Way of thinking about things that can only be learned outside the company

    While Hayashi gained valuable experience daily at the company to which he was transferred, Yusuke Kawasaki of O₂ Partners Inc., who has been Hayashi's supervisor, says that it was a certain incident that taught him a great deal in particular.

    Kawasaki: Hayashi and I worked on a joint project with another consulting firm. That is when Hayashi received a stern warning from a member of another consulting firm.

    What the person pointed out to Hayashi was his attitude as a consultant. For example, if a consultant advises a client, but another one in the same team gives completely different opinions to the same client, they will be confused. He also said that a professional consultant should always give an answer to a customer's problem, and never say things like, "I wonder what we should do" and worry about the problem together.

    Kawasaki of O₂ Partners Inc. (left) talks about Hayashi on loan.

    Hayashi: I said my words to the client so that I could sympathize with their feeling, but as a result, it violated the tacit understanding of the consulting industry. Since I had thought about it in my way, I was not able to understand why he complained bitterly at first, and due to my stubborn nature, I was not convinced.

    However, on the way home that day, Kawasaki carefully explained to Hayashi and let him understand why he had been warned and how a consultant should be. After that, he began to reflect on his actions and become aware of the role he was expected to play. And he was able to cultivate a professionalism that takes even the smallest details and creates value for customers.

    Hayashi: I tried to listen carefully to what the other person was saying and organize my words while speaking, rather than responding reflexively. By also seeking advice from my seniors to see if there were any problems in my thinking or how I was proceeding, I was able to deepen my thinking and gradually feel that the quality of my work was improving.

    The experience at O₂ Partners Inc. influenced not only Hayashi's skills but also his stance on his work.

    Hayashi: What I find particularly instructive is that it is not always right to work efficiently and quickly. For example, when consultants prepare a proposal for a client, they not only search for the necessary data, but also comprehensively search the surrounding data, and try to be extremely meticulous about the details of the materials.

    At first, I thought it was not cost-effective, but I realized I could obtain the materials and data that are easy for customers to use in this way. Sometimes it is important to work on seemingly useless, difficult, and endless tasks. I learned from my seniors that the accumulation of attention to detail also leads to earning the trust of customers.

    It was also a big benefit for me to be able to think about what kind of "value" there is in the output we produce, and what the real "value" is for our customers.

    Never be afraid to take on challenges and continue to grow in the “waves” of YOSAKOI

    There is no doubt that Hayashi has grown a lot from his experience at O₂ Partners Inc. However, it was earned, not given, because he put his heart and soul into it.

    Hayashi: Since then, I have completely rejected my ideas many times even if I have considered them deeply. It was the habit of keeping a diary I had started three years ago that helped me from the suffering. I have verbalized what has happened during the day and have reflected on what I have learned. I don't want to spend even one day learning nothing.

    “Turn adversity into opportunity.”

    I believe that reframing the experience with this in mind is my strength.

    Using his many learnings, Hayashi began to think about starting a new business at DENSO.

    Hayashi: As has been my goal since the beginning, I aim to "Kotozukuri that inspires people" through Monozukuri. To this end, my dream is to work on the launch of new businesses, examine new profit models that leverage the strengths of our business units, and build businesses essential to the world and unique to DENSO across the business units.

    I think that I made narrow-minded proposals when I previously worked on the launches of new businesses because I did not know the people concerned and the things necessary for the businesses. From now on, I would like to use my experience outside the company to explore new possibilities with great influence, taking advantage of DENSO's capital strength and diverse human resources.

    Through his experience in the external trainee system, he became aware of certain characteristics of his own.

    Hayashi: I have always naturally devoted my energies to supporting others, such as helping my friends from college with their job hunting and mentoring my colleagues. After the experience at the consulting firm, I realized that is to help people get one step closer to what they want to be.

    And because I work for DENSO, I feel that I can provide the same kind of support to our customers and the world. I have a hunch that my passion will be focused on helping people get even just a little bit closer to the future they want.

    He will return to DENSO soon. While some people think that being transferred might have a negative impact on their career development within the company, Hayashi is rather gaining confidence in his own career.

    Hayashi: It is a great learning experience for me to be able to imagine the goal of the value that we wish to create first and think about how to achieve it. Just being able to develop this kind of mindset gives me a sense that I am taking a step or two forward.

    Hayashi, who is not satisfied with his current situation, seeks a breakthrough in his career outside the company and will return to DENSO with high skills and strong motivation. His approach to his work is similar to the "waves" of "YOSAKOI," he has devoted himself to for many years. He will demonstrate his strong leadership as if he is at the forefront of these “waves” from now on.

    Hayashi, who dances "Prayer" as a leader of YOSAKOI team.

    Click here to see his actual performance.

    Please note that sound will be ON when the play button is clicked.

    The contents presented in this article is as of September 2023.


    Writer:PR Table Inc. / Photographer:BLUE COLOR DESIGN


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