Project leader of new product development, R&D Division, Medical Business

"I want to help doctors by developing products for treatments that ease patient burdens and thereby contribute to society."

Q: Why did you join Olympus?

Desire to develop medical devices-

As a university student, my studies encompassed healthcare devices, so I joined Olympus, a company that manufactures and sales endoscope, to do research and development work in the medical field. In university, my first interest was aerospace engineering, so I wanted to research metals and other materials for jet engines. But one day a professor said something like, "Blood vessel walls are just another type of material," which made me interested in mechanical-engineering research of blood vessels to predict arteriosclerosis. It was by this chance that I became involved in medical device research, and today I'm in charge of developing new endoscope products at Olympus.

Q: What do you do at Olympus, and what motivates you?

I look after everyone involved in developing new endoscope products. It's tough, but rewarding-

I am a project leader in the product development division. We develop new products for endoscopes, which are next-generation medical devices used to examine and treat the stomach and colon without having to slice open the patient's abdomen. The distal end of the endoscope, or the end inserted into the patient's abdomen, has a small camera. An endoscope has many parts to control its various functions, such as for maneuvering inside the body and for transmitting images to the doctor. Specific parts are designed by specific personnel. In our factories, we also have people who maintain the equipment we use to manufacture products. We have procurement staff who purchase the special materials that we need to make products. We also have people who oversee the aftersales servicing of products. As a project leader, I keep an eye on everyone's work, so I deal with people in all of the divisions involved in developing new products. I also have to help come up with solutions if technical problems ever arise. I also work with people in our marketing division who conduct research to determine what sort of new products doctors need. This includes meeting doctors who use our products to explain the features of new products and to listen to their opinions.

It's very difficult to bring new products to market on schedule, in concert with the schedules of the many internal and external people involved. But we all share the same goal of creating products that meet the expectations of both doctors and patients, so I am highly motivated to coordinate everyone's efforts toward that goal.

Q: What is a typical day for you?

After arriving in the morning, I check my emails and receive project updates from each division or leader. Here's an example of a recent day:

10:00–11:00: Discuss new product/parts design with development personnel.

11:00–12:00: Prepare a report about my trip to the U.S. in the previous week, summarizing what U.S. doctors told me about our new products and suggesting solutions for problems or improvements.

12:00–12:45: Lunch

13:00–14:00: Meet project leaders working on other products to share information, hear about their challenges, etc., and discover hints about what to watch for in my own projects.

14:00–16:00: Check completed prototype and speak to development personnel to confirm performance targets.

16:00–17:30: Prepare documents and get ready for next day's factory visit. Go home.

Next day: Go to factory to discuss manufacturing technology with factory personnel.

Q: What were your favorite subjects in school, and what was your major at university?

Language studies and club activities are important, even for science and technology students-

As a high school student, I loved physics and athletics! In junior high I was a swimmer and in high school I played volleyball. I think the team spirit I learned through those activities serves me well as a company employee. At university, I studied materials in the engineering department, but the Olympus endoscope development division has people who majored in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, optics, chemistry, or other subjects. I wish I had studied Japanese and English harder when I was a student. Both are very important, even for science and technology students, to learn how to write papers and other documents that are easy to understand, to effectively communicate ideas to others, and to accurately understand what others tell you.

Q: Finally, how do you feel about contributing to society?

When doctors tell me that one of our new products has made it easier to discover certain conditions in the human body that were previously difficult to spot, I feel like we are really making a difference for doctors and their patients, and that makes me very happy. Also, by helping doctors conduct examinations and treatments that minimize burdens on patients, I know we are contributing to society through our work.

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