Teams

Team introduction

The quality control / O&M team
Aiming for 10 GW O&M across Japan.
Solar professionals are challenging new technologies.

Profile

  • Shun Sumimoto
    (Nickname in afterFIT: Sumisu)

    Born in Sapporo, Hokkaido in 1987.
    After working as a computer instructor at a vocational training school, worked for a company of construction and quality control of PV plants, and engaged in quality control of power plants. Joined afterFIT in 2017 and established a quality control team.

  • Etsuro Kobayashi
    (Nickname in afterFIT: Etsuro)

    Born in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi in 1963.
    Worked as a project manager and a management planning officer at companies in various stages such as manufacturer and an IT staffing agency. After that, joined afterFIT and worked for the analysis team, information system team, and general affairs team. Responsible for the management of the quality control team since June 2019.

Amazing PV plants encountered during an inspection.
Make sure that the own power plants can be used for the next 20 years.

The team to which you two belong is doing O&M (operation & maintenance) and is inspecting solar power plants. Today, I would like to ask about the work and the atmosphere of the team.
First of all, as you are inspecting PV plants all over Japan, were there any power plants that amazed you?

Etsuro: The biggest surprise was...Sumikawa Power Plant (Hokkaido) constructed by afterFIT.

Sumisu: Yes, Sumikawa is the land with a terrible slope. The angle of the pile is amazing. The power plant was completed thanks to the high construction technology of our construction team.
Speaking of surprise in the inspection, I found a power plant constructed by another company where the DC side cable was directly buried in the ground... At another power plant, many panels were broken. I noticed there was a round mark on a broken panel. It seemed it was a ball from the nearby ground where a baseball club practiced batting.

Is that true? It sounds very dangerous. On the other hand, the quality control team seems to enjoy the pressure test of the power plant. The afterFIT in-house LINE group※1 has been showing great excitement.

Sumisu: "Weee! The pressure test has successfully completed!" Since when has that atmosphere appeared? What they are doing is not that flashy.

Etsuro: After Tacchan (construction team member) joined. It has become like a festival.

Sumisu: The actual pressure test is so plain, however, the site before the collaboration is tough. It lasts until late at night and it's also cold. I want to make everyone well understood the onsite work. By being excited with the pressure test, we can feel a sense of unity when "congratulations" stickers are sent by nationwide members. It's fun as well. In general, the construction department is often in charge of pre-inspection after the construction of the power plant is completed. In afterFIT, the quality control team is in charge of that.

Etsuro: This is because of the policy of afterFIT that separates the "creator" and the "inspector". The quality control team of afterFIT is a group of specialists in inspecting the quality of solar power plants. They confirm our own power plants from the perspective of whether or not they can be used without troubles for the next 20 years. We’re in charge of that final check.

The team feels rewarding when eliminated unknown errors
and increased power generation.

Please tell us about the quality control and O&M team. How many people belong and what qualifications do they have?

Etsuro: About 30 people, including two women working on monitoring. We have all age groups between 20 and 70.

Sumisu: Even 60s are doing well...maybe too much. Almost all members use the drone.We have also DJI CAMP instructors and specialists.
Since the quality control and O&M team is responsible for the maintenance of solar power plants, it may require the Third Class Electric Chief Engineer or more than five years of such experience depending on the content of the work. There are 20 people※2 who are qualified electricians.

Etsuro: At the head office in Tokyo, young members hold a study session to be qualified electricians every morning. With the in-house electrical engineers as lecturers, the people working for sales or information systems also learn electrical knowledge voluntarily.

It's very solar power geeks (the tagline for the engineering department). What kind of work are you doing in the quality control and O&M team?

Sumisu: The team is in charge of O&M inspection works, monthly inspections, annual inspections, and monitoring of power generation at PV plants. We respond to alerts even on Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the members go to the site for O&M and quality control for half of the month. The other half, we're doing office works.

Etsuro: In addition, we also inspect power conditioners at the request of the manufacturers.

Sumisu: The inspection of power conditioners may be night works. Inspection is done while the power conditioner is stopped. There is no problem if the owner of the power plant allows stopping it in the daytime. But if the owner requests to stop after sunset to avoid reducing the power generation, the inspection is done from evening to midnight.

Etsuro: Yes, this team has a large actual work volume. Even though we're doing our tasks carefully, the other members of the company don't know, because we haven't been told it. Each of us has a kind of craftsmanship and hardly makes our achievement open. I feel we're missing out at that point.

I can imagine the craftsmanship not to appeal so much. What do you feel “interesting” in your work?

Sumisu: I feel rewarding when discovered unknown errors of PV plants constructed by other EPCs and succeeded to actually increase power generation and avoid electrical risks.
Previously, the analysis team discovered that one out of the ten power conditioners at a solar power plant of another company had low power generation. We examined the cause, performed string tests one by one in steady work, and finally found the cause without taking much time. I can feel a sense of accomplishment through solving such issues. The owner of the power plant was also pleased with the increase in the power sold.
We are proud of our capability to solve such issues thanks to a lot of electricians who are capable of both maintenance and construction works in afterFIT. For example, Mr. Yagi, a second-class qualified electrician, is called a super chief engineer. There are few people among the chief engineers who can do the construction works. Since Mr. Yagi is super, he understands both the construction and the electrical mechanism, which has led to his suggestions for improvements in case of errors.

The too strong character is dangerous.
Stubborn craftsmen are concentrated into stoic athletes.

On the other hand, what do you feel difficult in your work?

Sumisu: Maybe communication between team members... Everyone is a professional because we have experienced chief engineers. Each has its own theory and way of thinking, so bring that experience together upon discussion. Then the discussion becomes uncontrollable, especially when we work on something new.

Etsuro: There are many scenes where communication skill is required as a professional. We must take care to present constructive discussions, rather than to conflict with people who have different opinions.

Sumisu: Our in-house electrical engineer says, by himself, that the specialists in electricity are argumentative and fussy. In the first place, they must have the ability to do detailed work. The too strong character is dangerous.
For example, Susan, a stubborn craftsman who afterFIT is proud of (in the quality control team) and is called "God's Eye", concentrated into an investigator... or like a stoic athlete.

Etsuro: Susan is tough, really tough. He posted on the in-house LINE group, "It's nothing special. You have to do what you currently cannot. Why can't you think in such a way?"

Are there any young people who are willing to follow the athlete?

Sumisu: Yes! Everyone in the team is deeply respecting his knowledge and action. Because he's the number one on site. As an example of the young people, Fukkie has recently joined the company. He's from a different industry, but his motivation and desire for knowledge are astonishing. After spent half a year under Susan, the team members started to recognize him. Now he has grown and is responsible for one of our sites. He's still in his twenties. I expect more and more young people, who are adaptable, to join us and be actively engaged.

Aiming for 10 GW O&M across Japan.
Leave the conventional frame and challenge new things.

Is there anything you are thinking out for the team's unity?

Sumisu: We had a general meeting of the quality control team in September. That meeting was good. Kanchan (nickname of the CEO Tanimoto) also participated in actively.

Etsuro: At the meeting... he is the best as far as I know. Based on the vision, we set a goal that would make everyone strongly motivated. We decided to unify everyone's mind towards that goal.

Sumisu: Kanchan also mentioned the conflicts in our communications at the meeting. Because afterFIT has offices all around the country, we're using the in-house LINE group for communication relating to the business. Kanchan said, it is difficult to communicate well with only the texts on LINE. Once you typed a sentence, let's ask yourselves "Are you sure you want to send it?"
Well, there is no doubt that everyone there thought at heart, "Is Kanchan really used to do that every time before sending?"

Etsuro: It represents the good relationships between the members of the company. He meant that we should try to overcome the conflicts caused by different opinions of the professionals.
In addition, the members conscious about management care about profitability. They are not willing to take risks upon new investments and actions, but Kanchan declared expressly that he wants to build a foundation to prepare for the time when the O&M exceeds 10 GW. Now it's time to learn, rather than to improve efficiency. This experience will be food for the future. The hesitation has been solved and we can move a step forward.

Experienced seniors will teach you.
The Chitose branch is an education center that trains experts on solar power plants.

Question to Sumisu, what role does Etsuro have in the team?

Sumisu: Etsuro joined the quality control team in June. This team is immature as an organization. What Etsuro has done to build the foundation became a benefit to everyone. I hope he'll keep taking his current position until our nationwide branches reach 100.

Then Etsuro, how does Sumisu contribute to the team?

Etsuro: Sumisu understands the situations of each team member and adjusts their tasks and schedules. He's solely taking the management with a comprehensive viewpoint. He receives the concerns and complaints of the members and does his works that the others cannot do or don't willing to do. However, they don't understand well how he's doing hard...

Sumisu is also a person who does not appeal strongly. Etsuro understands him well. The number of O&M bases continues to increase throughout Japan. What new members do you want for the team?

Etsuro: Someone has adaptability, flexibility, and communication skills... and who can transfer anywhere in the country. Someone who is light-footed and can work anywhere.

Sumisu: Someone who understands the importance of communication. We need someone creating a new way of afterFIT regardless of craftsmanship and experience.

At last, what kind of person is Kanchan (the CEO) seen from the quality control team?

Sumisu: Everyone likes Kanchan and wants to realize the energy shift that he advocates. However, his goal is so tough that we are difficult to follow him. It's so frustrating.
We don't regard him as a strict CEO, but just Kanchan. I want to meet his expectations.

In addition to the O&M at renewable energy facilities throughout Japan, an evaluation project of solar power plants is going to start. We also need to train new members.

Sumisu: We'll welcome members from Vietnam in the near future. I hope we accept people who want to challenge and grow up in afterFIT as a specialist in electricity in a PV plant.
The Chitose branch will continue to provide training programs as an education center. We have Masasan, who is already a specialist in the safety management of electricity. He's utilizing his experience with the safety association for afterFIT. He has been contributing to both business and employee training. Experienced seniors can provide trainings.

Etsuro: If general people hear about O&M or quality control, they may just imagine plain tasks. However, the quality control team of afterFIT will continue to challenge new technologies one after another. The EL inspection of the module will be shifted from manual work to a work done by flying drones. The department is changing day by day and we can try new activities beyond the traditional framework. I want to represent that coolness.

Thank you for the introduction of your team. The team is a group of professional electricians like athletes continue evolving. I hope you widely appeal your struggles and achievements to both inside and outside the company.

The quality control and O&M team is recruiting a chief electrical engineer to become a member.
Click here for mid-career hires

  • ※1.We are using LINE WORKS, which is a business version of LINE, as an in-house SNS.
  • ※2.As of November 2019, we have 20 first-class qualified electricians and 22 second-class qualified electricians.