Jul 25, 2023


Continuous transformations at DENSO

DX leader who prioritizes people over frameworks in pursuit of change

Yasuyuki Ishikawa, general manager of DX Promotion Dept., Semiconductor Business Unit, has a mission to digitalize worksites of design and those of manufacturing. He tries to not only introduce useful tools to increase operation efficiency, but also have a heart-to-heart with associates on site to create future of DENSO. Let’s explore some past experiences of Ishikawa which have enabled him to work with such dedication as he cultivates bonds with others

Contents of this article

    Digitalizing worksites of design and those of manufacturing based on CAE development experience

    DENSO’s Semiconductor Business Unit is in charge of analog ICs (integrated circuits) and power modules that use automotive semiconductors. Ishikawa has been fascinated with semiconductor research since his university days. He predicted the electrification of automobiles, then dived into the automobile industry. After working on designing various products such as automotive ICs at DENSO, he was appointed to general manager of the DX (Digital Transformation) Promotion Dept. of the Semiconductor Business Unit.

    Ishikawa:“It was only recently that I was assigned to general manager of the DX Promotion Department (in 2021). I had specialized in computer-aided engineering (CAE) system development until then. CAE is the engineering assistant system which can rapidly check the design without actual prototype or experiments visualizing its problems with simulations. CAE development is thus similar to what we are doing here in the DX Promotion Department to increase process and work efficiency via digitization.”

    The DX Promotion Dept. leverages the experience in CAE system development to visualize the tasks which depend on specific employees or are packaged in black box in worksites of design and those of manufacturing. And moreover, by digitalizing works, we not only standardize them so that even the young associates can be in charge of them, but also work on reducing workload of employees by improving efficiency so that they can spend their time on what they should actually spend their time on.

    As part of DX, Ishikawa and his colleagues are involved in creating rules for introducing new tools and also in providing training to enable employees to effectively use the tools.

    Ishikawa:“It takes a massive effort to change associates’ conventional ways of working on tasks, and it is natural to hesitate to change their ways and procedures of works they are familiar to. I think that I cannot change their ways before I listen to and accept their concerns and anxiety and agree with each other.”

    Ishikawa prioritizes earning the trust of the associates on site above all else, because failing to do so makes it difficult to establish new digital tools in the workplace and enable him to have a heart-to-heart talk with the associate on site.

    Ishikawa:“Even if how to promote DX in a certain division is decided only by the chiefs of the division and of my division, it’s not always easy to gain the understanding and cooperation of associates of the division. In order to help them fully understand the significance of DX, we must be considerable of their perspectives. Thus, I keep in mind to visit the worksites repeatedly in order to confirm the situations of the associates on site such as what they feel when they actually use the tools.

    I originally expect associates on site to improve by themselves how they work. But it can be hard for them to notice the problems or find the time and energy needed to implement improvements amid their day-to-day tasks. That’s why I need to visit and directly listen to those associates, and then accordingly improve how they work.”

    Ishikawa works closely with onsite personnel to identify and address problems, always focusing on gathering their honest opinions and making the necessary changes, as well as ensuring that the changes stick and remain effective over the long term.

    Facing sincerely something which feels wrong

    Facing sincerely something which feels wrong Ishikawa believes that it’s important to be considerable of the perspectives of associate on site and work closely with them. We asked him how he had developed this approach of visiting worksites to talk directly with associates on site.

    Ishikawa:“When I joined DENSO, I was put in charge of IC design. One day, during the testing process, I noticed some odd waveforms, but I incorrectly assumed it was due to a peculiarity of the testing environment and dismissed the problem. This ultimately resulted in unreliable operation in the final product, which led to major losses for both the customer and relevant departments at DENSO.”

    Ishikawa then spent months working incredibly hard to compensate for that failure and solve the problem.

    Ishikawa:“I had to push myself to the limit to make up for that mistake, and I still can’t forget that terrible experience. Why did I make such a self-serving decision during testing? Why didn’t I try to check the cause of the problem directly? I asked myself these questions repeatedly at the time as I constantly blamed myself for my shortcomings.”

    That incident changed Ishikawa’s way of thinking. Since then, he has tried to sincerely face something which feels wrong. It deeply affects his current attitude to soon notice something which feels wrong not only in the products quality but also in his personal relationships.

    Moreover, he says that he was able to identify the cause of the problem and its mechanisms thanks to the close support of his superiors and fellow associates, and eventually overcome a big challenge, making the experience a valuable learning opportunity.

    Teamwork as the key to success: how Ishikawa united the DX promotion team

    Teamwork as the key to success: how Ishikawa united the DX promotion team Ishikawa’s attitude to emphasize teamwork and communication is shared by all members of the DX Promotion Dept. In addition to monitoring progress of works, Ishikawa constantly communicates closely with the managers at the center of operations in order to understand whether the associates are motivated well.

    Ishikawa:“As I said earlier, it takes a massive effort to change conventional ways of working on tasks, and if I leave everything of the effort to my members, they will be exhausted. So, the managers and I keep in mind to understand mental conditions of our members one by one to accordingly support them. In addition to that, I especially value expressing my gratitude to them.”

    Ishikawa says that one of his past episodes taught him the importance of expressing his gratitude.

    Ishikawa:“One day, one of my associates quietly argued against me. It felt like a burst of rage after holding his tongue for a long time. He had been building up a lot of resentment and frustration, and it all just burst out. It suddenly realized me that I had not given sufficient thanks to my members even though I had tried to prioritize good teamwork and communications. Ever since that incident, I have paid closer attention to my own thinking, actions and words, and now I always try to express my gratitude to my members in a direct and straightforward manner.”

    After realizing that the people he worked with were experiencing more emotions and uncertainties than he had noticed, Ishikawa began talking with them one-on-one, taking regular surveys of their opinions, and finding other ways to directly listen to their views.

    Ishikawa:“I really focus on how I connect with my members to ensure I always know what they are thinking and feeling. Whenever it feels like my members say something negative or critical, I reach out to them directly to try to make improvements, rather than leaving the burden of finding a solution entirely on the shoulders of the worksite.”

    As general manager of the DX Promotion Dept., Ishikawa is able to look at issues from the perspectives of onsite staffs and effectively express his gratitude because he truly understands the value of effective teamwork.

    More than framework changes: transforming associates’ attitudes to bring about true DX

    Since being set up in 2021, the DX Promotion Dept. has already completed a number of projects successfully. However, Ishikawa believes DENSO is still trailing behind other leading-edge companies.

    Ishikawa:“Although our goal is DX, we have only digitized day-to-day work tasks. What we really want to do is transform how our business unit operates as a whole. In particular, we have much room for improvement in our manufacturing workplaces, such as introducing AI into production operations. Moving forward, we want to implement a number of efficiency improvements and thus give the employees on site more time to challenge themselves with new pursuits. This is the optimal environment we’re striving for.”

    To this end, Ishikawa is looking for ways to better understand the thoughts and feelings of workers on site and his fellow associates.

    Ishikawa:“I want to strengthen our corporate culture so that employees in various worksites are able to continually make major changes on their own even without support from the DX Promotion Department. I think this is my primary mission. In order to achieve it, it’s important to focus on not only changing frameworks, but also sincerely facing associates, thinking about them first.”

    Ishikawa strongly says that he is taking on the great change with a sense of danger.

    Ishikawa:“The spread of electric vehicles is boosting especially the demand for semiconductors. Unless we improve efficiency of conventional works and have time to spare to begin the new works, it will be difficult for DENSO to continue growing its sales in response to demand. As a functional organization of the company, the DX Promotion Department has established a motto that we continually pursue innovative change to ensure the success of our business unit’s strategy.”

    Ishikawa believes this approach will enable DENSO to continue producing good products for society and deliver high-quality products to customers.

    Ishikawa:“When trying to understand what drives meaningful change, it is important to figure out what we can do to benefit the customer, which is something I didn’t realize until I got older. That’s why, in promoting DX, I think about the associates first, and I would like to convey to them how important it is to actually realize the Great Cause of the company and the significance of their works, and to work with a sense of mission.”

    Our reform is not a one-off. The world is changing very fast and relentlessly. We cannot remail competitive unless we keep changing our working style. To enable DENSO to continue providing value to customers throughout society, Ishikawa is devoted to transforming the company’s corporate culture.

    ※The content of this article is as of April 2023.


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