The Throne Of Innovation

Despite having more than 60 years of experience in the machine tools industry, Makino continually strives to be at the forefront of innovation. This is what they call – the Makino Way. We speak to two engineers from Makino as they share with us how Makino plays a role in our lives without us even knowing about it.

By Farhan Shah

One’s a German who came to Singapore after being approached despite having never been to this part of the world before while the other had an innate interest in developing innovative engineering solutions for a better world.

Despite hailing from vastly different backgrounds, the both of them found what they were looking for in Makino – a global engineering company that influences the lives of tons of people, without them even knowing about it.

32-year-old German Tobias Lombacher and 27-year-old Singaporean Wong Yeong Shun share with us how life is like on the forefront of innovation.

So Tobias, why did you decide to come to Singapore?
Tobias: Makino contacted me and asked whether I would be willing to come to Singapore and join their R&D centre. This country is very fascinating and it’s extremely fast-moving with a lot of growth. It’s also in the centre of the future growth market, Asia, and is actually one of the more important business hubs in the region.

It wasn’t a very difficult decision to make. With the advent of Skype, Facebook and email, you can always maintain relationships with your friends and family in your home country. Plus, it’s always exciting to start a new adventure!

What makes Makino different from other engineering companies?
Tobias: Makino is a company with a variety of different dimensions and possesses deep expertise in different engineering technologies, including metal cutting, application engineering, turnkey solutions and electrical discharge machines (EDMs).
Furthermore, Makino wanted to bring talents from all over the world to build the future of Makino in its research hub. That is one of the main reasons why I’m actually here. We have a young and thriving team with many different nationalities which truly fosters innovation and creativity. All of them come to Makino with a variety of ideas and thoughts to shape the future of this company.

Yeong Shun: Besides being a global company, one of the other factors that attracted me to Makino was its R&D hub. It is the first such in-house R&D centre for Makino that is not in its Japan headquarters. This field interests me because it’s all about finding answers and developing solutions to problems you face. It’s quite satisfying to see your ideas being implemented into a working product.

How does Makino strive to be on the forefront of innovation?
Tobias: Makino focuses on high-end industries, especially aviation and automotive fields that require exact precision in their machines, and we are the ones that can provide that. Consequently, the machines we build are tailored for industrial precision engineering. It’s quite challenging and inspiring to come up with something new because you start from a blank sheet of paper and work from there.

Currently, I’m working on a totally new milling machine that will be on a class of its own in terms of size and capabilities. It’s a very exciting project phase for me now because I can finally see my work brought to life.

Yeong Shun: Makino strives to be ahead of others when it comes to developing new technologies in our products so that when our customers actually use a new material, they can find the suitable technology in our product. I’m working on a new type of material that is not widely used as of yet but Makino foresees it to be game-changing in the aerospace industry.

Tell us about the different training and developmental opportunities Makino gives to its employees.
Tobias: Working in a global company means you get opportunities to travel overseas for short- and long-term assignments. For example, I was sent to the CIMT (Chinese International Machine Tool) Show in April 2011 to take a look at the development of the machine tool industry in Asia, as compared to Europe. It’s a totally different world! In Asia, it’s much more vibrant than Europe and people make their purchasing decisions much faster. However, Asians also have very high expectations when it comes to how they want their machines to perform.

Yeong Shun: Every engineer who has just joined the company will have go through the 4-months basic training course to familiarise themselves with the mechanical structure of the three different machines Makino uses – milling, wire EDMs and sinker EDMs.

Besides learning about the intricacies of the machine that you’ll be using, you will also be attached to the different departments of the company for two to three weeks at a time to understand how the different components of the company work together as a whole. This comes in useful when you start work proper as you’ll know who to search for when problems arise during the course of your work, instead of aimlessly asking around. The training also helps you to be immersed in Makino’s culture and mission – to provide solutions and foster enriching partnerships.

Being one of the pioneer batches in my team, I was given an opportunity to go to the Japan Headquarters for seven months, learning about Technology Development. The company provided me with Basic Japanese Language training too, which helped me with daily communications. I also understood the differences between the Japanese work culture and ours.

What makes a career with Makino stand out?
Tobias: A career in Makino is multicultural and exciting. You can grow way beyond your expectations, shaping your own life and career while having a huge impact on other people’s lives as well. A lot of people are not aware that our machines produce many of the goods of our daily lives. One such example are smartphones. A leading company in this industry relies solely on Makino machines to produce its casings.

Yeong Shun: In Makino, we emphasise a lot on quality in whatever we do. Take a look around our work desks and you will realise that everything is neat and tidy. This is part of quality.

When you work here, you also learn to become a person of quality as well. I’ve definitely become a neater person (Laughs).

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