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From Value One, Spring 2013 No.40
Siecop Europe GmbH
Electrical Steel Sheet Service Center Supports Cutting-Edge Transformer Technology
Plant Relocated to Rhine River Inland Port

Siecop Europe GmbH is a steel service center that slits grain-oriented electrical sheets used in transformer cores. Its corporate predecessor was Siegen Coil Processing GmbH, founded in the suburbs of Siegen, Germany in January 2004. Partly due to historical circumstances involving European heavy electrical machinery manufacturers' production and development of transformers, Siecop's major customers are transformer manufacturers at European sites, including cutting-edge technology leaders ABB Ltd. and Siemens AG.
The company's name was changed to Siecop Europe GmbH in September last year, preserving the abbreviated nickname by which it was known, Siecop (pronounced "zee kohp"). The plant was simultaneously relocated from Siegen, nestled among the mountains, to Duisburg, more than 100 kilometers to the northwest in a section of the Ruhr industrial belt. Adding a new slitter line, it began operating a total of three lines. The new location, Duisport (the Port of Duisburg), is the world's largest inland harbor, boasting approximately 100 million tonnes in cargo trans-shipments per year. Relocating made maritime transport using the Rhine River possible, with substantial cost reductions anticipated compared to the inland route used previously.


Siecop's new plant

Three Types of Culture Shock in Germany

About three years have gone by since I was posted here, and I still find the German language amazingly difficult. I attend language classes weekly but have made no progress whatsoever. One difficulty is that there are 24 different articles (equivalent to "a" and "the" in English) that change according to grammatical cases and the noun's gender—masculine, feminine, or neuter. On top of that, a single verb can have six variations because verbs change according to the person… I am carrying on, half ready to throw in the towel, half wanting to struggle on and master the language.
I am also amazed at the working hours in Germany. There is an obligation to completely use up the annual average of 30 days of paid leave, and additional time off for sick leave. According to certain 2011 statistics, Germans averaged 1,411 working hours for the year compared to 1,725 hours for Japanese. I cannot hide my surprise when statistics indicate that German labor productivity exceeds ours by 39 percent. Japan, land of my birth—is this good enough?!
Yet one more surprising thing is that Sunday is a day of rest. There is a law that businesses must close then, and opening on Sunday is banned except for services such as certain dining establishments and petrol stands. It is even a rule that you need to go easy on cleaning and laundry. When I was first posted here I had too much free time on my hands, but now I have come to think that there is nothing quite so luxurious as a Sunday on which I do nothing at all.


View of the famous German Christmas market (Markt) in Duisburg
Grateful to Employees Who Led the Relocation

The relocation project was also accompanied by the difficult experience of having to let go employees who could not move. At the final farewell party at Siegen I presented a crystal memento engraved with the Japanese phrase ichigo ichie (treasure every encounter as if it were your last) to the employees who were leaving. When I explained what the words meant, factory workers who were ordinarily rough in temperament became teary-eyed with emotion. If they had not worked until the last without giving up, we probably would not have been able to pull off the relocation. The experience is something for me to treasure, and the final embraces as we said farewell represent a valuable memory from my time posted here.




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