In FY March 1993, Mazda employed women as manufacturing staff for the first time. In FY March 2013, female employees accounted for 20% of all newly-hired manufacturing staff.
The Company has now established a working environment in which female employees can play a significant role in more than half of the manufacturing related divisions and sections.
Yumiko Rokuta, who loves vehicles and loves physical activity, joined Mazda in 1999 in the hope of working as a member of the production staff. She was one of the first female members to be assigned to the axle plant. Along with high expectation for her work, she was anxious as to whether she could manage to work as well as other manufacturing staff members.
However, after talking with her colleagues on a daily basis, her working environment has gradually improved and has become friendlier.
Three years later, as Rokuta became entrusted with further work and the number of female employees increased at her workplace, she began to develop a wish to become a leader who would create a pleasant workplace for herself and others.
To realize this, she made an effort to improve her skills, and enrolled at the Mazda Technical College after being selected through a rigorous in-house screening process. During her two years at college, Rokuta spent fulfilling days taking lectures and being involved in practical training. As soon as she returned to her workplace, she began to implement Kaizen improvement measures. Making use of the knowledge acquired through her work experience at the axle plant and what she had learned at Mazda Technical College, she developed ideas or devices to help improve work on the shop floor. Her work was exhibited at the Karakuri Kaizen® *1 Mechanism Exhibition, and earned her a favorable reputation.
In addition, she promoted improvements on the theme of "Creating an Assembly Line Friendly to Women," resulting in the development of a specialized tool to fix the screws for brake hose attachments. It was created to reduce the load on the fingers, which was of particular concern to female employees. This specialized brake hose attachment tool simplified the process and made it 1.9 times faster. This invention has also attracted attention from outside the Company, and its development team won an award at the national QC circle competition, and received the Quality Control Circle Kaoru Ishikawa Prize. In recognition of this achievement, Rokuta was commended by the President of Mazda.
After having experienced all the work involved in axle assembly, Rokuta is now responsible for parts logistics, having full command of forklift operations. She is also in charge of providing advice to 15 junior employees. Hoping to ensure that "I know everything I should know for my work," Rokuta continues to refine her skills, studying diligently and actively acquiring qualifications. This attitude of hers has enhanced the motivation of many of her junior colleagues.
Among them is Megumi Kato, who aspires to be an assembly relief person who can appropriately manage the entire line in the future. Kato is planning to obtain a technical certification, saying, "I will start with what I can do right now."
Rokuta says, "I make it a rule not to immediately provide the answer to my junior colleagues, but to give them a clue or hint to help them come up with the answer by themselves." Rokuta's supervisor highly values her for her contribution to training her junior colleagues.
Initiatives to upgrade a women-friendly workplace into one that ensures all employees can work pleasantly and safely are underway. The employment of more and more female manufacturing staff members has accelerated the Company's efforts to develop ways to further simplify the conventional production processes. Indeed, ergonomic evaluations that indicate ease of work has incorporated the perspectives of female workers, and Mazda's production sites are dramatically changing into workplaces that are friendlier to all employees. The advancement of female manufacturing staff members has encouraged Mazda's initiatives from a new viewpoint, leading to the further evolution of the Company's manufacturing process.
- *1Karakuri Kaizen® is a registered trademark of the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance.