Hino’s Meister

Monozukuri: Craftsmen Putting
their Souls into Products

In his four-decade career at Hino Motors Mr. Masashi Yagi has continued to develop his skills as a machinist specializing in grinding work. With his five senses finely honed by years of experience, he machines with 0.001-millimeter precision. This is part of the reason that he was recognized as a contemporary master craftsman, receiving in 2015 the Award for Outstandingly Skilled Workers from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.* He is quite literally a “Hino meister.” He spoke about receiving the award with characteristic modesty, saying he had a complicated mix of feelings when he received the award and wasn’t sure that he deserved it. He says that he wanted to pay tribute to his predecessors, who helped taught him what he knows, and adds that he felt as if he was accepting the award on their behalf.

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Mr. Yagi joined Hino Motors out of high school. From his second year in the company he was assigned to a workplace dedicated to machining work and had to learn various skills from scratch. When asked what motivated him to focus in particular on mastering the skill of precision grinding he answers simply “the interplay with the steel.” He explains that in machining, his five senses and intuition are key and when it comes to the finishing touches his powers of concentration, attention to sound, sparks, and the smell of the process are crucial.

Despite the prestige associated with the Award for Outstandingly Skilled Workers from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there is an accolade that he has received that is even closer to his heart. He received the award in 2003 from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. He received the award for his idea to numerically quantify the intuitive processes of machinists. He improved operations by devising a jig that would allow both veteran and beginning workers to achieve the same precision work in the same amount of time. Mr. Yagi says that seeing his idea forged into shape through teamwork and praised for its success was something that made him both extremely happy and proud.

Asked what he feels is most important when it comes to monozukuri (manufacturing), Mr. Yagi says the sum total on-site skills, teamwork and ability to work in spurts. He also explains that these are the strengths of Hino Motors. He adds that monozukuri is about more than making something or even giving shape to something that did not exist, but rather it is about craftsmen putting their souls into making products. Even as automation makes advances in machinery, he remains convinced that the human touch is key.

Mr. Yagi is currently working to train and lead the next generation. In particular, he is focusing his energies on training individuals to compete in the National Skills Competition, an annual event in which individuals aged 23 and under vie for the title of being the top in Japan in a specific skillset. Good results at the national competition can qualify a competitor to compete in the WorldSkills Competition held once every two years. Competitors include young employees at companies as well students from high schools, universities, and vocational schools.

Although Hino has participated in the skills competition in the past, it stepped up its activities in 2018 as one component of a human resources development initiative. This is supported by two key pillars: generating human resources to serve as models for young employees and training technicians/individuals with outstanding skills. Currently, two promising 19-year-olds have been selected for this initiative. Under the guidance of teachers including Mr. Yagi, the competitors refine their skills, acquire additional knowledge and strive to improve daily.

Asked about his expectations for the pair, he says, “Both of them have steadily improved their skills, but they haven’t reached the level where they can go head to head with competitors from around the world.” He adds with enthusiasm, “I want to improve their performance over the next year and a half to two years so that they can go compete on the global stage.”

As the interview concluded, Mr. Yagi articulated his ideal vision for Hino Motors.

“I’d like to see Hino make people-friendly trucks and buses, and the company be good to all of the people who work to bring Hino vehicles to the world.”

Masashi Yagi

Master, Global Human Resources Development Division, Hino Motors, Ltd.

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