Dream Realizers Vol.1
Giving Young Employees Opportunities for Challenge—a Part of IHI’s Corporate Culture
The Republic of Turkey will be celebrating its centennial in 2023, and Vision 2023 was announced as its national policy for growth in various fields. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Izmit Bay Crossing Bridge, constructed by IHI, will be one of the first tangible items completed under this vision.
The 2,682-meter-long bridge—also known as Osman Gazi Bridge—is the longest suspension bridge in Turkey and the fourth longest in the world (as at the bridge’s opening in June 2016).
Hiromitsu Kikuchi joined this national-scale project in March 2012 when he was still in his first year of joining the company. He said, “To tell you the truth, I thought at the time that the project would be of no concern to a young employee like me.” But, he added, “Giving young employees opportunities for challenge is a part of IHI’s corporate culture. Thinking back now, that may be one of the reasons why I was selected.”
Since Mr. Kikuchi had not yet completed his first year with the company, only anxious thoughts passed through his mind at first. For example, he thought he might experience problems living abroad. However, the anxiety was quickly replaced by his desire to take on the challenge. He said, “To begin with, I had joined IHI because I wanted to eventually work abroad. Another reason was that I wanted to construct a bridge with my own hands. So, I thought that this was a chance for me to achieve the aspirations that I’d had when I joined the company. It was just that the opportunity arrived much earlier than I’d expected!”
“Succession of Techniques” Is an Important Role of the Overseas Project for Long-span Bridge Construction
After being assigned to the project, Mr. Kikuchi spent the first two years working in Tokyo. He handled such tasks as carrying out structural analysis of the temporary equipment to be used for the erection of suspension bridge towers, and designing attachment items, access facilities and other ancillaries for a suspension bridge. It was not until January 2014 that he left for Turkey. Once there, his primary duties were the supervision of works, such as local production of the structural members designed in Tokyo and their installation on the suspension bridge.
Mr. Kikuchi said, “The first time I saw the location where we were going to construct the bridge on-site at Izmit Bay. I thought, ‘Wow, we’re going to construct a suspension bridge at this incredible distance.’”
Of course, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and that was how things proceeded.
“I swore that I would ensure that the processes that I was involved in would adhere strictly to our quality standards and meet construction deadlines. I think everyone involved in this project felt that way—that they would get that bridge constructed without fail. They took pride in their work,” Mr. Kikuchi reminisced.
At its peak, there were more than 1,200 people involved on-site in the construction of the suspension bridge. Mr. Kikuchi’s preceding words show the strong conviction he held toward the construction of Izmit Bay Crossing Bridge, even if he was one of the younger members of the project.
One of the things that surprised him after starting to work in Turkey was how well IHI was known locally. He recounted, “If I told people that I worked for IHI and that I was in Turkey to construct a bridge and most people reacted in a positive manner. They thought it was fantastic.”
Actually, IHI has a long relationship with Turkey. Actually, IHI has a long relationship with Turkey. In 1974 and 1998, IHI constructed the Golden Horn Bridge and the New Golden Horn Bridge, and in 1988, the Second Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey. They are widely known as being bridges that had been constructed by IHI. Mr. Kikuchi said, “I was proud of the history shaped by those before me. At the same time, I can say with confidence that the work that I am carrying out contributes to Turkey’s development.” He feels that constructing bridges overseas plays the important role of passing down IHI’s technical expertise, and by extension, Japanese techniques to that country
Everyone in the Company Worked as One to Overcome Adversity
“It was not all smooth sailing. An accident also caused a delay in the construction schedule. However, such difficult circumstances were overcome by mobilizing IHI’s full potential. We had people from other divisions, such as nuclear power and plant, come to Turkey and provide us with prolonged on-site support. It was ultimately decided that we would adhere strictly to the June 30, 2016, scheduled date for bridge opening. Erection of girders by Lifting devises” began on March 23. From there, we completed installation of the girders in one month, and we made it all the way to the bridge opening in another two months or so. This was unthinkably fast as compared to past suspension bridge construction. I see this as having been possible because it was IHI, with its advanced technical capabilities in quality and construction management, that was handling the construction.”
IHI carried out the whole Izmit Bay Crossing Bridge project on its own, from design to foundation installation and bridge erection. Mr. Kikuchi said, “We proved that we can construct a bridge of this scale on our own, and I think this will be a major benefit for us in the future.”
Of course, it was not without its difficulties. Mr. Kikuchi said truthfully, “There wasn’t anything about this project that I thought enjoyable. It was really difficult, including meeting deadlines and addressing the problems we encountered.” However, he continued, “I should be able to overcome any difficulties in my future work for the very reason that I was able to experience many difficulties through this project.”
IHI’s Mission—To Construct Bridges Where They Are Needed
The opening ceremony for Izmit Bay Crossing Bridge was held on June 30, 2016. Mr. Kikuchi reminisced and said, “When I first saw the construction site three years ago, I wondered if we’d really get a bridge constructed across a place like that. I was filled with a sense of fulfillment when we were able to do just that.” It was also a moment when he was glad that he had been involved.
Mr. Kikuchi said, “The lives of people in a community become enriched when a bridge is constructed. I consider it to be work that contributes to society.” True to those words, what used to take 60 minutes by car or ferry in the past now only takes six minutes. Travel time by car between Istanbul and Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, which can currently take up to 10 hours, will be reduced significantly to 3.5 hours when the 420-kilometer-long expressway that the bridge is a part of is completed.
He said, “I believe that the essence of our work is to construct bridges where they are needed. In the future, I think we’ll even see distinctions, like domestic and overseas work, disappear.”
Glimpses could be seen of the confidence Mr. Kikuchi has built through involvement in a major overseas project after less than a year of joining the company. He turned 30 this year, and it will be talent like him, with a global perspective, who will support IHI of the next generation.
Joined IHI in April 2011. Assigned to the Bridge Design Department, Engineering Headquarters of IHI’s subsidiary, IHI Infrastructure Systems. Transferred in April 2012 to the Overseas Project Division, IZMIT Project Department. Relocated to Turkey in January 2014. Has been involved in such work as structural analysis of the equipment to erect the towers; design of ancillary items like access facilities; production and construction management; design of erection equipment, construction planning such as girder erection and dismantle of equipment for Transition span; and sag adjustment during cable erection. Has been assigned to the Sakai works since September 2016, working in the Trial assembly & Painting Section of the Production Department. He primarily carries out shop painting management related to the bridge and floodgate in Japan.