Outside Japan, internship may be synonymous to "disposable cheap labour" but here, things are as different as heaven is from hell.
The company I went to is Amada, which makes sheet metal machines. Not only does Amada hold the biggest share in Japan, it's also the number two biggest maker in the world. Its biggest vision now is to dethrone the German company, Trumpf, its archrival. The competition is fierce, as can be seen in MF-Tokyo - Trumpf's blue-and-white machines and Amada's black-and-red machines dominate half of the exhibition area. (I'm looking forward to receiving my invitation to the event which is to be held from 14 to 17 October this year.)
Although the company is well-known within the industry, consumers like us barely hear of the name. The company may be reluctant to spend money on the commercials, but when it comes to PR activities like internships, they're generous enough to set aside 200,000 Yen for each intern. This colossal amount of budget includes accommodation, food expenses, transportation and miscellaneous expenditures throughout the 10-day internship.
The company's HQ is located in Isehara, Kanagawa, a sleepy town next to the bustling city of Atsugi. But even from the expressway, the landmark of the town could be seen - Amada's accommodation facility, Forum 246.
(Photo from Forum 246 HP. See here for the interior.)
Those of us from outside Kanagawa were lucky enough to be allowed to stay here!
Day #1: It's all about business etiquette
- Self introduction
- Guided tour (HR department, exhibition area, etc)
- Business etiquette
There was a total of 13 of us. Six for the management department, seven for the engineering department.
Day #2: Zap goes the laser
- Hands-on experience: C1 series laser machine
These bicycles weren't made by us though. They were cut with Amada's fastest laser machine, the F1 series. The little fellow on the left took only 12 seconds to cut. While the big fellow on the right demonstrates the intricate design the machine is capable of handling.
Day #3: "Hi, I'm Bender. Kiss my shiny metal ass!"
- Hands-on experience: Astro II, the bending robot
The bending process has always been a manually done and thus requires considerable experience for good results. In the recent years, advancements have been made on the automation of the bending process but a lot of technical problems are yet to be solved.
This plane model was cut out from a piece of stainless steel and folded with Amada's latest bending robot, Astro II. Everything from tool changing to loading and unloading was handled by two robotic arms.
Day #4, #5: Seminars, yawn
- Seminars from 8.30 to 5.30...
- Guided tour
- CAD lesson
(Photo from TEPCO)
In the jungle at the foot of Mt Fuji, lies a facility with the area size of 16 Tokyo Domes (or four times the area of the HQ in Isehara). It sounds like a hideout for a top-secret nuclear facility, but this place we were heading to at six in the morning, is Amada's factories and the R&D facility.
Day #7, #8, #9: Right angles
- Bolt fastening
"Be careful," I was told again as I was about to step on the pedal. "The pistons pack a total of 20 tonne of force. Crush your fingers and they're goners."
Fantastic. That's what I needed to hear...
On our last day in Fujinomiya, the clouds eventually cleared. During lunch break, we went up the rooftop. Mt Fuji the Baldy was just sitting there like a lazy bum, doing nothing.
Day #10: Back to Isehara
- Club 246
Wow, talk about making a good head start in job hunting!