Leader Responsible for Managing All Supplier-Related Work in the Procurement Department

"It is crucial to collaborate with our suppliers* as we work together to create a better society."

* A supplier is a company that provides equipment, parts, raw materials, goods or services needed by other organizations.

Q: What made you decide to join Olympus?

I wanted to work at a firm that engages in manufacturing.

I have always loved to play with anything mechanical. As a kid, I enjoyed taking apart clocks, radios and so on to peek into their mechanisms. I was studying mechanical engineering in school, hoping that one day I would join a firm that engages in manufacturing. I grew up in Nagano, where Olympus had a camera production facility. It was right on the way to my school, so I've known about Olympus since I was a kid, which may have influenced me when deciding on which firm to join.

Q: What exactly do you do at Olympus? What do you find rewarding about your job?

I work behind the scenes, but my work is a vital part of our efforts to bring great products to society.

I work in the procurement department that is responsible for buying the materials and parts used in Olympus' medical, scientific and imaging equipment and devices. The main duties of the department include buying parts and materials on behalf of the production sites that create finished products. We also buy parts and materials that are best suited to build prototypes (products still in the testing stage).
The department carries out all sorts of tasks that go much deeper than just "buying parts and materials." We have to choose the right suppliers, work out purchase schedules, place orders, check the quality of delivered items, arrange storage, ship purchased goods to various Olympus sites, make sure the whole process goes smoothly, and so on. My main job is managing all the operations that relate to suppliers, which is part of the department's planning functions. Other planning-related duties include the management of all procurement activities and procurement-related costs and expenses. Part of my job is to make sure that suppliers are in good financial and operational shape - this lets us know if a supplier is a stable source of supply. I also make sure that we live up to our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) procurement commitments, and follow all laws and regulations such as the Subcontract Act in Japan, which prohibits transactions that are unfair to suppliers. Another of my duties is contract management. In short, I work behind the scenes to strengthen and improve our purchasing abilities, allowing Olympus to easily obtain the parts and materials it needs to bring great products to society.

Olympus purchases most of the parts and materials it needs to produce its key products from outside sources. Production would be badly affected if any of the necessary parts weren't delivered on time, so our procurement department plays a very important role. The basic mission of a procurement department is to source the best possible items in terms of quality, cost and delivery (QCD) - that is, find suppliers who can deliver the best quality, lowest cost products on or before our desired delivery date, but this is far from easy, as we deal with over 1,000 suppliers in Japan alone. It feels very satisfying when I can smooth out the problems that affect the performance of my team. My door is always open to team members needing help, and I'm always trying to create better working environments for them.

Q: What is your typical day like?

To give you an idea, here's what I did the other day:

Upon arrival at the office: Checked emails and reviewed current activities and issues

10:00-11:00: Met with department staff to discuss our new Green Procurement Standards*

11:00-12:00: Met with the staff that work with suppliers to discuss basic contract templates for purchase-related transactions

12:00-12:45: Lunch

13:00-14:30: Sorted out various supplier data and prepared an internal report for the relevant parties

14:30-16:30: Worked to bring on a new supplier by checking their management status and financial condition, etc.

16:30-17:30: Wrapped up the day by preparing summaries of the daily meetings and reviewing activities

* Green Procurement Standards: Standards, etc. designed to make manufacturing divisions use parts and other materials that have a minimal impact on the environment.

I used to be a liaison with parts suppliers. Back then, my daily routine consisted of placing orders, negotiating prices and confirming the delivery of purchased items. I made countless business trips to production sites and supplier facilities, and also went overseas. I also worked at a production facility in China, where I was responsible for purchasing parts from both Japanese suppliers with production bases in China and local Chinese suppliers. I learned that business customs differ from country to country, and that communication can be a real challenge at times.

Q: What subjects did you like most in school, and what skills do you think are needed to perform procurement activities?

The subjects I enjoyed in school and the knowledge I gained in my early days at Olympus now help me carry out important procurement-related tasks.

I liked math and science in school, and was good at technical subjects. My first assignment at Olympus was at the manufacturing department in a production site. The knowledge and expertise I gained there still help me with my procurement tasks. While working at the production site I learned how to read and understand blueprints and about production-related matters. This knowledge helps me understand how a product is made and lets me identify important issues when considering cost reductions.

However, it takes more than just technical knowledge to carry out procurement activities. For instance, you need to have some financial knowledge when checking out a supplier's finances, and in some cases, you may need some legal knowledge as well. In other words, a background in STEM is not always the only requirement.

Q: What do you think about corporate contributions to society?

My current role requires me to always be aware of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) when it comes to our procurement activities. We ask our suppliers to understand our CSR procurement policy and also share our appreciation for it. Our CSR procurement policy aims to ensure that all local laws, regulations, social customs and norms are followed, bribery is prevented, labor and safety standards are put in place by management, fair business is promoted, environmental concerns are addressed, information is properly managed, and contributions to society are made. I think it is important to collaborate with our suppliers by following the rules and standards described in the CSR procurement policy as we work together to achieve a better society. I believe that this shared commitment to creating a better world is one way that both Olympus and its suppliers can give back to society.