Top page > KASEI-JIN > File.7 Ayako Seino

Adding value while taking the time to nurture people both in the workplace and at home

I joined the company in 2000 and, until 2014, had been responsible for skin care product development. Specifically, my role was to work with the product planning department to think about the customer value of new cosmetic products, to research and develop a scientific approach to achieve this value, and to realize the value in the form of a formula. During that time, I took about 2 years off for maternity and childcare leave with the births of my two children.
In 2015, I was appointed head of the B.A Research Center while also leading the Makeup Products R&D. At Makeup and B.A, the most prestigious anti-aging brand in the POLA-ORBIS Group, I have daily discussions with the junior members of the team regarding the impression we want to make on customers and how we can achieve this. That is my main job. As a leader, I try to hold a clear vision and guide the whole team while also developing the ability of each member of my team to think for themselves about how to create value. This ultimately increases the strength of the whole organization.
・Developing technology to make cosmetic membranes using lotion formulation: This was a project I was responsible for in my second year at the company. We were in the middle of trial and error experiments to create a new lotion that was moisturizing to the touch when I came across a beaker that I had forgotten to put away because I was so tired. The materials inside had turned into a gel-like substance. This was the moment that B.A’s Dermal Veil (POLA Chemical’s moisturizing technology for ultra-luxury lotions) was born. This technology has been applied to B.A products ever since.
・Developing technology to mature corneocytes (stratum corneum cells) with cosmetic vehicles: I have been steadily conducting basic research and have presented this technology at conferences. I was in charge of formula development and the findings and technology developed were applied to B.A Grandluxe II.
・Developing various cosmetic ingredients: I worked with a raw materials manufacturer to develop various materials with special functions and then incorporated them into products. Having to negotiate intellectual property strategies and costs has improved my tactical business skills!
・Other: As a manager, I was responsible for thinking about the customer value of each product and working with junior members of my team to make this value a reality.
It isn’t easy to be involved in experiments while having to leave early every day to take care of two children. Experiments can only be performed on-site, so there were times when I was late returning home and had to rely on the understanding and support of my husband. Because my time was limited, I had to focus and reduce unnecessary processes during the experimentation process. However, all of the hard work was worth it for the unforgettable feeling I got when I was working alone in the laboratory and got the results. It felt like being struck by lightning.
Since becoming a manager, I get satisfaction in seeing my team grow. I try to avoid giving direct orders in order to help them learn to think for themselves and to decide on a course of action that makes sense to them rather than doing things just because they were told to by their boss. It takes time, but when I see my team members starting to develop an awareness of issues that had not occurred to them before, it makes me happy.
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by excellent supervisors. I am who I am today because they have pulled me onwards, protected me and encouraged me to grow. I want to embody that image for my team.
I place a great deal of importance in questioning whether our products will truly satisfy our customers. As engineers, we have to be careful to avoid the trap of making choices that prioritize satisfying us from a technical perspective. Cosmetic products should make the customer smile and technology that forgets that fundamental principal can only be self-satisfying. When struggling to make a decision, choose the path that will most please the customer. I stand firmly behind this motto, even if it brings me into conflict with my colleagues.

It is actually not easy to turn theory and the results of basic experiments into a viable product. In addition to its function, a product must be comfortable to use, stable in quality (no separation or cloudiness) and safe. The only way to achieve this is through repeated experiments. Over 300 prototypes may be required to make just one product, so the product is really created from the development leader’s tears and willpower! Therefore, when a customer says, “This product is great,” it feels as if they are praising our own child. It is the pleasure of hearing those positive reviews that makes the job worthwhile.
You have to be able to see the whole picture. When developing a product, as well as when performing basic research, if you don’t have a firm understanding of why each step of the process is necessary, you won’t be able to choose the appropriate strategy. You end up being unable to see the forest for the trees and before you know it, you have worked hard for something that does not fit with your ultimate goal. In order to see the whole picture, you have to get the input of people inside and outside of the company and to share information, so communication skills are essential.
On the other hand, it is not always necessary to have scientific knowledge to get started in this kind of job as you can pick up the basic knowledge required for your research by studying.
There are two items without which I could not perform experiments: the bamboo stirring paddle that I made when I first joined the company and the stand I need for emulsifying (to enable me to see directly down into beakers from above). I’m not doing experiments myself right now, but these items are still precious to me…
I made my stirring paddle by using a knife to shave a piece of split bamboo, then I filed and flattened the bamboo to fit my hand. Temperature control is important during emulsification experiments, so I attached a thermometer to the paddle using a rubber band. This rod has been through the highs and lows of product development with me, and even though I am not using it right now, I don’t want to give it to anyone else!
Now that I am a manager, my three most treasured items are a three-color, ball-point pen that I use to check my team’s paperwork, a mechanical pencil that I use to organize my thoughts and some spring water, which I always have close at hand for refreshment (I drink at least a liter of spring water every day!).

I want POLA Chemical Industries to lead the way in opening up a new era for cosmetic products.
POLA Chemical Industries is responsible for researching and manufacturing products conceived within the POLA ORBIS Group. Passively waiting until work arrives from within the group before beginning to generate ideas and think about how to progress limits creativity. By proactively moving forward with research that is based on the conditions and vision of each company, we can take advantage of our in-depth knowledge of each company and allow the meaning of being in the same group to emerge. When thinking about where we want our brand to be 5 years from now, I want us to continue taking on new challenges and to think about what moves we need to make now. Even if nine out of every ten endeavors end in failure, having just one major hit will help the group to grow and create the perception that only POLA Chemical Industries is capable of making certain products. This will encourage a surge in OEM requests from companies outside of the group.
Our company needs to look forward in order to create skin care, makeup and other products that stay one step ahead of those of our competitors.

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File.8 Manufacturing Department, Fukuroi Plant
Fumiaki Goto


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