Illustrator Hiroki Tsuboi Visits Sumitomo Group Osaka Training Center, Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute, Sumitomo Construction Machinery Sales
The Osaka Training Center of Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute is a registered training institution where people receive training leading to qualifications for operating construction machinery and industrial vehicles such as excavators and forklifts. It was established in 2017.
The law stipulates that a maximum of 10 persons may take a practical training course on one excavator, and the time required to take the course is also stipulated for each excavator. In other words, the training time is the same whether there are 10 trainees or one.
On passing through the gate, my eyes are immediately drawn to the rows of massive excavators. We are at the Osaka Training Center of Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute in Nishiyodogawa-ku, Osaka City. As a training institute registered with the Director of the Osaka Labour Bureau, the center offers “skill training,” “special training,” and “safety and health education” courses for obtaining the qualifications to operate excavators, forklifts, and other types of construction machinery and industrial vehicles. Mr. Yasuo Kubota, director of the center, shows us around and explains the center’s role.
“The Industrial Safety and Health Act stipulates mandatory skill training courses. We offer eight skill training courses, including those for vehicle-type construction machinery, such as excavators and wheel loaders, and a skill training course for slinging operations that covers hooking and unhooking loads when operating cranes. It is illegal for a person who has not taken these courses to operate a construction machine. On the other hand, special training courses are not registered with the Labor Bureau, but are required for obtaining the qualifications necessary to operate small vehicle-type construction machinery. Safety and health education is for safety and health management. Some training may be possible at a venue other than a training center, but companies lacking their own instructors rely on us.”
We observe skill training for a vehicle-type construction machine conducted in the open air, which is just getting underway. A big excavator raising and lowering its bucket is cool. Next to this, trainees are learning how to drive a wheel loader. If you look closely, you can see that the wheels move differently from those of a car. “That’s right. When driving a car, because you can only steer the front wheels, you have to be aware of the difference between the track followed by the front wheels and that followed by the back wheels. But it’s different with a wheel loader: turn the wheel and the whole chassis moves, so the rear wheels follow the same track as the front wheels, and so it is possible to make very tight turns,” says Mr. Kubota. I also learn that unlike with a car, the steering wheel of a forklift controls the rear wheels, so when turning, the back end of a forklift swings out widely in the direction opposite to that in which you are turning. So you have to get used to the fact that, when you turn the wheel, the vehicle’s response is quite different from that of a car. The instructor stands on a scaffold so that he is right next to the seated operator of the excavator. Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute designed the scaffold to make it easy for the instructor to give instructions.
Qualification training courses offered
The courses are classified into 3 categories and 8 skill training courses, 13 special education courses, and 8 safety and health training courses are offered. For foreign trainees, the center offers skill training courses with Vietnamese interpretation for “slinging operations” and for “operation of floor-operated cranes,” and courses for “crane special education” with Vietnamese and Burmese interpretation.
The machines used in the training look very shiny. Mr. Kubota explains: “We replace the machinery used for training with the latest models if they are products of Sumitomo Construction Machinery or our group companies. Even in the case of other machines, we try to have the latest models. Construction machinery is evolving. The Japanese government is promoting the introduction of ‘ICT construction machinery’ to make the most of information and communication technology. Such smart machinery is able, for example, to automatically dig and level the ground to a certain depth based on GPS location information.” I wonder if this means the operator’s skill level will become less of a constraint on the execution of complex operations.
By the way, while the Aichi Training Center and the Chiba Training Center of the Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute have a history of more than 40 years, the Osaka Training Center is only five years old. So, the center is a testbed for various innovations and novel approaches. Mr. Kubota, who was involved in establishing the Osaka Training Center from the design stage onward, gives me some background, “I worked at the Aichi Training Center for more than 20 years and, based on that experience, I became aware of several possible improvements. All those have been implemented here at the Osaka Training Center. Firstly, indoor training in an air-conditioned environment. Most training centers conduct practical training for forklifts and other machinery in the torrid summer heat and glaring sunshine, but here, except for excavators and other vehicle-type construction machinery for excavation and leveling, practical training is conducted indoors, in an environment unaffected by weather conditions.”
Special training for crane operation is underway indoors. The task is to move a load suspended from a high ceiling without swinging it too much. The skill training and special training for operation of a vehicle for work at height are also conducted indoors. Facilities are installed so that a vehicle’s exhaust gas is directly discharged outdoors.
“Nowadays, more and more women are working in construction and civil engineering. We have women’s and men’s changing rooms for trainees, as well as helmets designed for women. For people with disabilities, we have wheelchair-accessible elevators, barrier-free facilities, and ostomate-accessible restrooms,” says Mr. Kubota. The center also offers courses taught in Vietnamese and Burmese. So, this is an advanced training institute conceived for the current era.
The hallmarks of Osaka Training Center are professionalism and an agreeable environment. But since it is a latecomer, the challenge is to raise awareness of the center and what it can offer. As for those who have earned qualifications here, they speak highly of their experience at Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute, expressing trust and confidence in Sumitomo Group.
“One of our greatest strengths is the quality of our instructors,” says Mr. Kubota proudly. The instructors at Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute are all veteran engineers who have been involved in the manufacture and maintenance of construction machinery. In addition to their in-depth knowledge of construction machinery, the instructors also learn coaching skills and anger management from external experts through regular training sessions, which impressed me. I realize the depth of Sumitomo Group’s commitment to help ensure safety at the workplaces where these machines are used by offering training courses of outstanding quality.
Pointing and checking makes manga production go well, too!?
If you visited Osaka, you probably saw colorful bus wrap ads and stickers in local trains publicizing Osaka Training Center of Sumitomo Construction Machinery Training Institute. The campaign is raising awareness of the training center among the general public.
Kids love construction machinery! Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumitomo Construction Machinery held LEGO workshops for elementary schoolchildren, inviting the sole LEGO-certified professional in Japan to build construction machinery using LEGO bricks, which proved immensely popular with the youngsters. By reaching out to people of all ages, the training center is increasing the number of Sumitomo Construction Machinery fans.
Number(Manga Reportage "Visits to Sumitomo Group")