HIGHLIGHT 6 Promoting Workstyle Reform Going beyond a reduction in work hours Exploring various measures that lead to providing value

In Japan, a number of laws related to workstyle reform have been enacted and society as a whole is rapidly moving toward realizing better ways to work.

At Sumitomo Forestry Group, we are exploring a wide variety of initiatives that reflect employee input and are striving to achieve greater job satisfaction and productivity by utilizing the latest technologies and other methods.

With workstyle reform, we believe we can provide better quality products, services and new values.

Aims Behind Workstyle Reform

Sumitomo Forestry Group has set as one of its material issues, “A Vibrant Work Environment Where a Diverse Workforce can Unharness their Skills and Individuality” is promoting workstyle reform. In fiscal 2018, in addition to reducing work hours and encouraging employees to take vacation time, we have tried to increase the ratio of added-value time (time to do creative activities that lead to better services) by enhancing work efficiency. It is our hope that these efforts will lead to greater customer satisfaction as well as greater employee sense of fulfillment during after-work time, holidays and vacation.

Aims Behind Workstyle Reform

Aims behind workstyle reform

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Fiscal 2018 Workplace Reform Project

In fiscal 2018, in Japan, we incorporated performance indices as part of our bonus evaluation criteria, promoted the use of teleworking and expanded opportunities for paternity leave, among other measures.

These efforts have led to real results with a decline in overtime, an increase in male employees participating in parenting and other positive changes. As a company that is closely linked with people’s lifestyles, employees began to get a direct sense of how new perspective of their lives lead to better work.

To further promote workstyle reform, the Housing and Construction Division set up pilot branch offices to implement various initiatives on a trial basis. Two offices of different sizes and regions, namely the West Tokyo Branch Office and the Hiroshima Branch Office, were selected to be the pilot branch offices. Here they were required to maintain records on work tasks (to better visualize what tasks are performed and how time is used), introduce job sharing in sales and design for greater work efficiencies and shorter hours and apply flex time systems for groups in charge of marketing, design and manufacturing, all of which helped to identify issues that needed to be resolved and measure efficiency and other indicators. Surveys conducted after the trials indicated that employees gained a better awareness of how they used time and allotted their work, which led to changes in each employee’s perception and actions.

With these results in mind, we will undertake workplace reform that takes into consideration each division’s particular characteristics and needs and promote appropriate measures that reflect the actual situation at each office to the greatest degree possible.

Workshop at the Tokyo West Branch

Workshop at the Tokyo West Branch

Workshop at the Hiroshima Branch

Workshop at the Hiroshima Branch

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Creating Added-value Time with Business Automation Tools

Reasons behind its implementation and impact

With the aim to enhance the efficiency of routine tasks, in 2014, Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems introduced RPA (robotic process automation), a software robotic technology that automates PC and other operations. This company manages the IT-related back office operations of the Sumitomo Forestry Group. During advertising campaigns or events, they increase personnel on a temporary basis. In the first half year after implementation of RPA, they automated 26 internal company business tasks and succeeded in reducing the number of human-performed tasks by about 180 hours per month.

One of the biggest achievements is that with the reduction in human-performed tasks, added-value time for more creative work has increased. Employees have been able to embark on new projects that they did not have the time to do, and to become more efficient with their existing tasks, which has had an even greater positive effect. Furthermore, this had led to a wider diversity of workstyles and improvement of working conditions and employee motivation through shorter work hours and more work from home.

Trials at Sumitomo Forestry and future plans

In fiscal 2019, Sumitomo Forestry has begun RPA trials at a number of model branch offices. To clear various issues regarding governance and security, Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems is working closely with the IT Division and based on interviews with employees, considering which tasks to apply these trials to. We have completed a number of different programs that emphasize ease of use, such as enabling access to groupware and sending project completion reports over email.

In the future, we will implement RPA in more branches and at the same time, review plans to release it to the entire Group. By identifying business tasks where RPA has a significant impact and considering ways to make it easier to use, we hope to free employees from routine tasks to maximize their potential. At the same time, we know it is important to review and improve other business operations as we consider RPA implementation. With the hopes that RPA will create time that can be used more effectively, we will continue to develop new measures for workstyle reform.

Using RPA to Reduce Tasks and Create Added-value Time

Message from the Person in Charge of RPA

I feel that the implementation of RPA has led to less overtime, increased focus at work and lower psychological stress related to deadlines and other pressures.

I myself was quite anxious to return to work after maternity leave but, after shifting from outsourcing management to RPA planning, I can now work from home and the opportunities where I can challenge myself have grown.

Chiharu Shito Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems Co., Ltd.

The comment shown in the above photograph:
Working Mom with RPA
・Motivated at work
・30 more min. to spend with children in the busy morning

Chiharu Shito
Sumitomo Forestry Information Systems Co., Ltd.

Photograph courtesy of RPA Integrated Platform “RPA BANK” (RPA BANK, Inc.)

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