Metal Is Breathing
“Sheet metal is a living, breathing thing. It may live or die depending on our skills, Saito says. “By shaving metal, we could kill it. So, I don’t rush to shave metal. I use shaving only as the finishing touch.”
Without sheet metal, it would be impossible to make cars. Metal working, welding and surface treatment are vital processes for car manufacturing. Kaoru Saito is a veteran metal worker at Mazda’s factory in Hiroshima who has superior skills in all these processes.
Saito deftly processes a sheet of metal with his own hands, correcting welding distortions of less than 0.8 mm thick with an astonishing precision of less than around a hundredth of a millimeter. Because of the outstanding precision of his handiwork, Saito was designated as a “Modern Master Craftsman” in 2012 by the Japanese government.
At the moment, Saito’s greatest interest is in how to hand down his skills to future generations. Until now, he has instructed more than 100 young workmen striving to pass national skills tests and in-house examination.
“What’s important is to set a high goal and work toward it persistently without being afraid of making mistakes,” Saito says. He advises young workmen to “grow by thinking and learning from mistakes, rather than just do as instructed to do” and voices hope that they will become “craftsmen who have the right balance of knowledge, skills and attitude.”
Some day, younger master craftsmen will take over from Saito and keep alive Mazda’s ethos of manufacturing with a human touch.
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