Business / Corporate | Regional voices: Chubu

Toyota group member Aisin Seiki cuts low-priority meetings, reducing work hours as a result

Chunichi Shimbun

Aisin Seiki Co., a Toyota group auto parts maker based in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, has set about conducting work-style reform, including abolishing dress codes and low-priority meetings to give its workers breathing room to come up with new ideas.

To get rid of meetings held just to share information, this year the firm started asking 300 of its employees to send an email to their colleagues at the beginning and end of the workday to report the day’s schedule.

To enhance communication within each division, they were also encouraged to include a sentence on their private lives.

“It doesn’t have to be much. But if they can share among their team members something to talk about, then it might strike up further conversation and make it easier for them to consult on issues related to work, too,” said Tomohisa Murase, the firm’s human resources director.

“I plan to leave the office on time today because I’m going to see a basketball match,” one worker wrote in a morning email. “I will be extra time conscious with my work.”

Based on the schedule in the emails, the total time spent on such tasks as internal meetings or creating documents is added up according to each worker or team to see what tasks are taking up their time.

Such email exchanges were conducted from April through August, while low-priority meetings were reduced and teleconferences were introduced to save workers moving from one place to another in the office. As a result, work time during the period was cut by 63 hours on average for workers and 105 hours for managers.

The firm’s moves are aimed at increasing workers’ job satisfaction to spark innovative thinking amid intensifying competition in the automotive industry, in such areas as autonomous driving and electric vehicles.

“We are no longer in the age of working long hours and continuing mass production,” said Aisin Seiki President Kiyotaka Ise. “If workers are fulfilled in their private lives, it will lead to new ideas and the strengthening of the company’s competitiveness.”

The firm also gave employees freedom in their clothing choices following the Cool Biz period in summer, when casual attire was allowed.

The office environment changed drastically, with more workers wearing jeans and casual shirts.

“We are not looking for people who take a one-size-fits-all approach,” Ise said. “It is the responsibility of each worker to think how he or she should look like depending on the situation.”

Aisin Seiki’s other work-style reform measures include simplifying internal application procedures by reducing the number of people who need to approve them, as well as introducing tablet computers to reduce the use of paper documents.

The firm conducted a questionnaire with all of its employees in October and plans to implement more measures to improve job satisfaction based on the results of the survey.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Nov. 22.