Episode 1 - Head of Aizu factory: Takeo Hanzawa

Meet the people at SIGMA's factory in Japan: Head of Aizu factory - Takeo Hanzawa

- SIGMA Global

Born and bred in Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, I joined SIGMA in 1974, the year of the international oil crisis. I happened to look at the company information of SIGMA when I was at school and upon contacting them, I was asked to come down for an interview immediately. It seemed applicants were few so I was hired on-the spot (laughs).

I am the eldest son of a farmer so I was destined to stay and work in Aizu. But the first three years of my job was commuting to the headquarters in the city and not the nearby Aizu factory. I kind of panicked that it was different to what I was initially told (laughs). I was then assigned to the quality assurance department.Knowing nothing about optics I had to learn everything from scratch.

I returned to Aizu in my third year on the job and apart from a small time spent with additional work in an OEM, I have been working there ever since. There basically is very little opportunity for the people at the factory to work outside but it was my work in quality assurance and working at an OEM that I have been able to become knowledgeable on other companies and industries, which has helped me in later life.

The work built on from previous generations is now bearing fruit.

There were stubborn and difficult business partners, but I stood my ground when I had to and not be led on by them. The people of Aizu have a lot of pride. We are firmly resolute where we do not accept unreasonable and illogical things. I became head of the factory in 2011. It was a position I had never set my sights on, but after having a conversation with the CEO Mr. Michihiro Yamaki, I thought I should give it a go.

Soon after, Kazuto Yamaki had taken over the role of CEO from his father. Even with their different styles, their mindsets to bring the best value and produce the best parts for the user were the same. There was nothing in particular to worry about. The required standards for the design have increased so there has been added pressure placed especially on the factory. But with everything gained and built on across the generations, I reckon we can swiftly picture what the current CEO has in mind.

It has been 44 years since I joined SIGMA. Of course there have been times I worried whether this was the job for me, or whether I should have taken a different path. But at the end, even during tough times, I felt my work was here at the factory. It is because I find manufacturing really fun and the joy I get from it is the reason why I have stayed on with SIGMA.

Takeo Hanzawa
Head of Aizu factory

Born in 1956 in Wakamatsu City, Aizu, Fukushima Pref., Japan (previously Kawahigashimachi, Kawanumagun) Joined SIGMA in 1974, after working at the headquarters, became head of quality assurance at the Aizu factory from 1976. Became head of factory in 2011.

With his colleagues (pictured center) at the Aizu factory in his 20s.

"- When Hanzawa was in charge of an OEM, there was a contact person from the outside company that was in charge of quality assurance there and known to be very strict. He was described as the “devil incarnate” as he brought engineers to tears. But this man only showed respect to Mr. Hanzawa by referring to him as “my senpai” Japanese saying for a senior person to look up to. With that being, he is someone that people within and outside the company can completely trust. Mr. Hanzawa is the sign of quality in Aizu, and is the best person to have as the head of the Aizu factory.", Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of SIGMA

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