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Staff Background

From OLED to solar batteries, functional materials, and semiconductors, as told by the famous “catcher” of contracted research: “The difference between me and AI”

Staff Background

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Speciality Chemicals Section Chief. This is the title for Takahiro Yamazaki of Manac. Just what kind of job is it? “It’s a bit difficult to explain. To put it in simple terms, my department handles anything outside of pharmaceuticals,” explains Mr. Yamazaki. He does what a catcher does in baseball, capturing every ball thrown from clients. But instead of catching by hand, he uses his whole body for any requests that come flying. We asked Mr. Yamazaki about his current work.

Solar batteries, semiconductors, and other various areas

“The products we handle are of a large variety. A lot of what we produce are intermediates not only for OLED components, solar batteries, and functional additive materials for resins, but also intermediates for semiconductor-related use.”

What we handle is not limited to Manac’s strong areas of bromination or iodination. The job of a Speciality Chemicals Section Chief is crucial as it is where requests for all types of chemical synthesis gather.

Bringing together independent and cooperative minds

Mr. Yamazaki directly supervises three employees in the twenties and thirties, determining each of their areas of strength and assigning duties accordingly. He also oversees onsite chemical synthesis himself, standing at the frontlines of development, and is a true managing player.

The working styles of Mr. Yamazaki’s team members and colleagues vary greatly. While some have a strong sense of independence, preferring to accomplish tasks on their own, others value cooperation, asking their coworkers various questions as they perform their work. “I assign duties taking everyone’s individual traits into account.”

“I myself prefer not to have any interference when I’m working.” Being from eastern Japan, he is somewhat of a rarity in Manac, with most employees from western Japan. He grew up around Yokosuka and Zushi, located in the coastal area of Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, and studied at Yokohama City University, also near his hometown. After advancing to graduate school, he joined Manac in 2004.

An ability to effectively guide the pitcher

If we were to think of clients as pitchers, Mr. Yamazaki would be the catcher, and his ability to not miss the ball is key. He is able to respond to any kind of request from clients, sincerely approaching each one with an open mind and open ears.

But this is not enough to win the game. It is crucial that the catcher effectively guides the pitcher to throw into the strike zone. For Mr. Yamazaki, it was three years of sales experience in Tokyo starting from his third year at Manac that served to expand his role as a catcher.

“At first, I would just convey the client’s request to the development or manufacturing department, simply asking them to make it just as the client asked.” It was in this way that Mr. Yamazaki started as a straight-forward salesman. However, this would end up driving costs up too much, and there were times when either the client or Manac would have to compensate for those costs.

“You just can’t achieve a win-win if that happens, and clients won’t stick around for long.”

There is no other way to widen the strike zone than to ascertain the client’s deadline, required budget, and product quality level and provide proposals that meet those needs.

Proposing solutions unattainable from computers and AI

There exists specialized software that allows even clients themselves to gain an idea of what kind of intermediate materials can be produced by combining a certain number of chemicals. The functionality of this type of software is improving every year.

However, actual development requires the consideration of safety and cost since we cannot devote an infinite amount of time and money. The optimal chemical synthesis is reached with consideration to a certain limitation we call “variables.” This cannot be achieved with software, and is the most crucial point in developing products. It is similar to making subtle changes to the signs given depending on how the pitcher is doing on that day. Having a famous catcher on the lines where the company’s real worth as a “chemicals dealer” is judged is exactly why Manac is trusted for contracted production.

“Whether I can provide solutions unattainable with computers or AI is an opportunity for me to demonstrate what I am capable of. Improvements are made on top of improvements daily. It’s this steady progress that gives me the ability to respond accurately to new orders.”