Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. History

Address:
26-30, Nishiazabu 2-chome
Minato-ku, Tokyo 106
Japan

Telephone: (03) 3406-2111
Fax: (03) 3406-2193

Website:
Public Company
Incorporated: 1934
Employees: 29,903
Sales: ¥1.08 trillion (US$10.20 billion) (1996)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Nagoya Fukuoka Niigata Sapporo
SICs: 2796 Platemaking & Related Services; 3695 Magnetic & Optical Recording Media; 3861 Photographic Equipment & Supplies; 5043 Photographic Equipment & Supplies; 5065 Electronic Parts & Equipment

Company Perspectives:

We will explore the farthest reaches of technology and continue to create a dynamic Imaging and Information culture. This is our corporate philosophy as well as the conceptual foundation of our technological research. "Imaging" expresses Fujifilm's commitment to design and create new image-recording systems and to research technologies that can continually upgrade the quality of captured images. "Information" represents a broader challenge of adapting the captured image, via computer technology, to create advanced information systems that can serve a wide variety of filing, presentation, and communication needs. Today, Fujifilm is more than a photographic enterprise, with growing involvement in the wider realm of Imaging and Information. We, the Fujifilm Group of the world, are about to take a great leap forward into the 21st century.

Company History:

Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. originated as a cinematic-film producer and has grown into a multidimensional manufacturer and marketer of imaging and information products. Fuji is the second-largest maker of photographic film in the world, trailing only Eastman Kodak, and the largest in Japan. In addition to its wide variety of film for still cameras, Fuji also makes motion picture film, videotape, audiotape, and floppy discs; still cameras--including its highly successful disposable cameras--camcorders, and digital cameras; photofinishing equipment, paper, and chemicals; and various related imaging and information products for office and medical use. The company is also a leading supplier of photofinishing services.

Early History

In 1934 Dainippon Celluloid Company, Japan's first cinematic film manufacturer, spun off its troubled photographic division. Named Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd., the new company already employed 340 people and named Shuichi Asano as its first president. Its product line included motion picture film, dry plates, and photographic paper. The company struggled for three years, mainly due to the poor quality and high prices of its products relative to imports.

Fuji's first task was to build a reputation in the domestic market. Brand reliability proved critical in the photosensitive-materials industry, since buyers were not willing to risk losing a desired image to inadequate materials, regardless of cost. During its first three years, the company continued to lose sales, increase debt, and struggle to meet research expenses. Fuji could not expand without first addressing quality, so it employed a German specialist to assist in the area of emulsion technology.

The combination of outside consultation and its own research allowed the company to introduce its first film as an independent in 1936, as well as a motion picture negative film. The negative film was much harder to produce, and demonstrated Fuji's new technical competence to Japanese studios.

Fuji built a second factory in Odawara in 1938. Color research began in a new laboratory in 1939, but World War II halted such work. During the war the government set aside all sensitized materials for the military, so consumer-film development had to wait out the war. In 1945 Allied bombing raids partially damaged two Fuji factories, but recovery during the postwar era involved more than infrastructural repair.

The Allied powers allowed civilian trade to resume in 1947, and Fuji immediately began exporting to outlets in South America and Asia. Japanese producers still enjoyed a good reputation in optical products, enabling Fuji to export its cameras and binoculars. In the area of film and other sensitized materials, however, Japanese technology still lagged behind U.S. and European producers.

Although it produced x-ray and cinematic film, Fuji did not produce large amounts of film for the amateur consumer market until the 1950s. In the meantime, it resumed color research and produced its first color film in 1948. In 1949 Indian buyers received a shipment of Fuji motion picture film, the company's first substantial postwar sale.

Domestic and Overseas Growth in the 1960s and 1970s

As the 1940s ended, so did a shortage of raw materials--including silver, paper, and petroleum-based chemicals--that kept Fuji from producing amateur photographic products in large quantities. Licensing agreements between Fuji and Eastman Kodak of the United States allowed Fuji to equal Western producers in terms of black-and-white amateur roll film quality. Fuji, now able to supply its products in large quantities, introduced its first amateur roll film in 1952. By 1958 Fuji had introduced three additional black-and-white roll films.

Fuji enjoyed burgeoning domestic demand for the next 20 years, due in part to tariffs on film imports. During the 1950s Fuji captured the Japanese market for consumer films--a market that would quickly comprise 15 percent of the world's total film sales.

After setting up an export sales division in 1956, Fuji reached 27 export agreements by 1958 in Asia, North America, and Central America. Fuji first entered North America in 1955, and established its U.S. subsidiary ten years later.

As Fuji's international base grew, it still had to fight a perception of poor quality. In order to make a serious drive abroad, the company first had to develop film and paper compatible with the processing systems most commonly used worldwide. In 1966 Fuji introduced its first amateur slide film compatible with overseas processors. By 1969 all its films, photo paper, and chemicals were fully compatible. Employing the sales network it had established in the 1950s, exports began to flow.

In 1970 Fuji had nine overseas offices, and by the end of the decade it had 14 offices and subsidiaries abroad. These subsidiaries then branched out. Fuji's U.S. subsidiary, for instance, opened six offices between 1971 and 1982.

Recognition in these markets proved more difficult. Eastman Kodak's dominance in consumer films forced all producers to make compatible products in the postwar decades. Fuji learned this after it introduced a cartridge-film eight-millimeter home movie system in 1967. Fuji's product had the support of 14 Japanese and European manufacturers, including AGFA-Gevaert, Europe's largest photographic manufacturer. Kodak introduced its own system shortly after, which quickly gained control of the world market. Fuji had to abandon its system and rushed to develop compatible films. Fuji's overseas growth was slow during the 1970s, adhering to the industry's pace of product development.

In 1970 Kodak held more than 90 percent of the $400 million U.S. market, but Fuji's color films were already faster than Kodak's--meaning they required less light for adequate exposure. In addition, Fuji films were better on warmer tones, including red, orange, and flesh tones. While Kodak pursued the convenience-based mass market, Fuji targeted professionals and serious amateurs. Although it would take several years before Fuji posed a serious threat to Kodak, its quality created a position of strength.

Relative to its competition, Fuji strengthened itself during the 1970s, partially due to the appreciation of the yen between 1971 and 1980. One factor in the growth of Fuji's non-Western markets was its development of manufacturing facilities. Operations in Brazil, Korea, and Indonesia began with Fuji assistance. The operations began with package assembly, but eventually produced presensitized materials, color processing chemicals, and optical products for export. Such manufacturing bases made the company less vulnerable to currency fluctuation and reduced overhead.

Where Fuji saved on manufacturing it spent heavily on research. Fuji began magnetic research in 1954, introduced products by 1960, and in 1963 produced videotape for domestic television. Magnetic products became the key to Fuji's long-term growth. In 1977 this research led to the introduction of Japan's first eight-inch floppy computer discs.

Fuji also developed products related to the photographic process for other industries. In 1967 for instance, Fuji, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Konan Camera Institute developed a system to photographically trace blueprints onto construction materials. In addition to such new applications for heavy industry, Fuji continued to develop new technology for x-rays and other electronic systems for medical technology.

Fuji's core business continued to be film, however, and it pushed for additional access to lucrative Western markets just as Japanese film sale growth began to slow. Fuji had first entered the U.S. market as a private-label film supplier in 1960, and produced its first color film there in 1970. In 1972, it marketed the first film under its own brand name. Fuji went directly to retailers with its new film and received a 2 percent share of the American market, which more than doubled during the 1970s. Fuji's marketing was well-timed, and in 1976 Fuji also caught the attention of professionals and serious amateurs when it beat Kodak with an introduction of faster film (400 ISO speed), something it accomplished in 1984 as well (1600 ISO speed).

Fuji spent heavily to build its U.S. share but had relatively little success. Kodak's research expenditures were still large by comparison, and when Kodak introduced Kodacolor II film in 1972, Japanese companies had to hurry to put comparable films on the market. The recession during the late 1970s complicated Fuji's international drive. Industrywide production overcapacity and price increases for silver and oil-based chemicals cut into earnings.

While silver was still necessary for photographic imaging, its price jump demonstrated the wisdom of Fuji's research into electronic imaging technologies and its mid-1970s hiring campaign for electronics engineers. While many companies posted declines, Fuji's profits were only stagnant for 1977 and 1978.

Fuji was then the third-largest filmmaker behind Kodak and AGFA-Gevaert, but the Japanese companies responded to the setbacks more aggressively. Fuji and its domestic competitor, Konishiroku, raised their film prices only 7 percent--while competitors raised their prices from 10 to 30 percent--despite silver prices skyrocketing from $6 to $49 an ounce in 1979.

Silver inflation alone had cost Fuji ¥15 billion in 1979, and exchange losses on export sales cost an additional ¥4.6 billion. By 1979 consumer demand for magnetic products such as audio- and videotape began to climb dramatically, providing Fuji a faster recovery than its competition. Despite continued increases in raw material costs, Fuji's earnings improved quickly due to escalating demand served by the new magnetic-products division.

Diversification Drive in the Early 1980s

In 1980 earnings jumped 130 percent. Silver prices dropped, and sales for magnetic products still grew. Magnetic products, now 9 percent of sales, pushed exports up to 32 percent, where they remained for the entire decade. Fuji was well poised for a renewed assault on Western film markets.

In the 1980s the U.S. amateur film market changed rapidly. Consumers preferred higher-quality 35-millimeter over Kodak's disc, cartridge, or instant photography. Although the market changed to the advantage of manufacturers like Fuji, who specialized in 35-millimeter films, consumers still demanded convenience. Autofocus cameras and faster film required more sophistication from manufacturers.

Despite this favorable shift in consumer preferences, the photo industry as a whole had matured. Further, while Fuji hoped to gain ground in the U.S. market, that market was only twice as big as the Japanese market in terms of photo sales. Fuji entered the 1980s resolved not only to increase its portion of film sales worldwide, but also to find growth for its products in imaging and electronics.

Minoru Ohnishi replaced Kusuo Hirata and became Fuji's youngest president ever in 1979. Ohnishi had worked for five years in the late 1980s as head of the U.S. subsidiary. His nontraditional appointment overlooked older officers, but he was able to use his experience in the U.S. market to establish a sales network for new products like magnetic tape, optics, and hybrid electronic systems.

Fuji's growth through the early 1980s had come at the expense of smaller film manufacturers such as 3M and AGFA-Gevaert. Now the second-largest firm in the industry, it set its sights on Kodak's core. By 1982 Fuji's share of the U.S. market had slowly climbed to 5 percent, and Ohnishi set a 10 percent goal.

There were several factors behind Fuji's confidence. First, Kodak's product development in the 1970s was weak. Fuji had kept up with increasingly sophisticated demand by introducing faster and higher resolution films for both cinematic and amateur uses several times. Second, Fuji's research investments had been well placed. Kodak turned from chemical research to electronics late, while Fuji had already recognized the technology's long-term value in processing and imaging. Although Kodak's research expenditures dwarfed Fuji's, Fuji spent a larger share of its earnings on research. In 1979, Kodak applied for 255 patents in the U.S. and Japan, compared to Fuji's 270.

Fuji was the first non-U.S. company to produce videotape. The consumer and trade press praised Fuji tape quality from its introduction. By 1982 magnetic products were already 12 percent of revenues. With broad distribution, a good reputation, and a skyrocketing market, Fuji made large gains.

Magnetic products, like film, provided high margins. Unlike its position in the consumer film market, Fuji enjoyed a prominent role in the magnetic-products marketplace. Between 1978 and 1982 magnetic-division sales increased almost five-fold to $97 million. By 1983 films were only half of Fuji's business.

Newer areas such as biotechnology and office automation had been paid for not with debt but with cash generated from film products and stock sales. Such electronic systems, such as microfilm records for offices and electronic imaging for x-rays, began to contribute to earnings on their own. In addition, Fuji enjoyed high profit margins in all areas. Pretax operating margins increased one-third to 24.4 percent from 1976 to 1981. Fuji's film, tape, and computer-disc manufacturing was highly automated, allowing workers to circulate among factories for increased productivity.

The climate for high-technology industries proved intense in the 1980s, due in part to trade friction and yen appreciation. In addition, Fuji was relatively new to electronic systems, and other companies had a large lead in areas such as medical technology. In order to remain competitive in these new areas, Fuji had to keep cash available and increase momentum in film sales. Fuji steadily increased its U.S. advertising budget, peaking when it outbid Kodak as sponsor to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Eventually spending $7 million on the campaign, Fuji entered the event with a 6 percent share of the U.S. market. Meanwhile, Fuji had become a sponsor of soccer's World Cup in 1982, and continued to sponsor the event into the mid-1990s.

Simultaneously, the company strengthened distribution. In 1979 Fuji sold film in 30 percent of all film outlets in the United States; by 1984 it sold in 60 percent, expanding beyond specialty photo outlets. By the end of the Olympic year its share jumped to 8 percent, allowing Ohnishi to predict not only a 15 percent share in ten years, but also to carry out a more aggressive approach late in the decade. As Fuji stepped up its efforts to reach the professional market in 1986, its market share approached 10 percent.

Fuji did not face the same battle abroad that it faced in the United States. It already sold over half of the film and photo paper in Southeast Asia, and the 1984 opening of a Chinese office gave it a lucrative foothold in an untapped and huge market. Brand loyalty was not as significant outside the United States, and in 1982 Fuji enjoyed a 10 percent share in Europe, Fuji's second-largest market. One year later it captured 15 percent of that market, prompting the company to construct its first European plant, in the Netherlands, in 1984. Producing selected sensitized materials, the plant paved the way for continued growth on the continent and lessened difficulty with currency fluctuation.

Expanded U.S. Presence in the Late 1980s

By the mid-1980s the U.S. market had begun to open to Fuji. Despite growth, profits there were still elusive. Videotape prices dropped sharply due to overproduction, and advertising costs continued to climb. While a U.S. market that declined overall was bad for Kodak, it helped Fuji, which was not as reliant on photography. Fuji could still pursue market share while continuing to find growth industries for other forms of imaging.

Fuji's renewed drive in the late 1980s came with more confidence. After a surprisingly successful introduction in Japan, Fuji was first on the U.S. market with a disposable camera. In Japan, a market less receptive to instant-photography items, Fuji sold 1.5 million cameras in six months. While the traditional market declined, Fuji managed to discover a completely new segment of consumer photography. By 1992, Fuji was the number one maker of cameras worldwide.

By 1988 Fuji had achieved its 10 percent share and the exchange rate was favorable for building in the United States. It built a plant in Greenwood, South Carolina, to make presensitized plates and related products. In 1989 a factory opened in Bedford, Massachusetts, to manufacture 3.5-inch floppy discs in a joint venture with BASF Corporation (Fuji bought out BASF in 1994 so that the facility was then wholly owned by Fuji). Another factory opened in Greenwood in 1991 to make videotapes. Moving production to the market served by the factory provided faster delivery and immunity from currency exchange losses, and eliminated charges of dumping.

With a double-digit market share firmly in place, Fuji sought to increase use of its processing systems, since Kodak's Colorwatch processing network still provided an obstacle, steadily enlarging its share of the photofinishing market. Launching its own system, Fujicolor Circle, Fuji offered technical support and promotional discounts. For the first time in 15 years of U.S. activity, Fuji put its logo on the back of its paper, no longer fearing consumer preference for Kodak. Fuji's distribution was now strong enough, and it had been successful with its mini photoprocessing labs. Quicker to respond than retailing, processing systems allowed Fuji to capture 16 percent of the U.S. market for photo paper.

Turbulent Times in the 1990s

Fuji entered the 1990s in a very strong position in its home market and enjoying increasing success in foreign markets as well. The company then posted three consecutive years of record sales in the early 1990s, culminating in 1992's ¥1.14 trillion in sales. Net income fell 18.7 percent in 1992 from 1991 levels, however, as Fuji began to feel the combined effects of the prolonged recession in Japan and the sharp appreciation of the yen. Nevertheless, Fuji continued to develop and introduce innovative new products, such as 1991's Fujix Digital Still Camera DS-100, which used a memory card to store images; the Fujix Simple-Hi 8 camcorder, introduced in 1993 as the smallest and lightest camcorder in the world; and the Pictrostat instant color print system, also launched in 1993, which could produce color prints from prints, slides, and objects in one minute without using any processing chemicals.

From 1993 to 1995, Fuji saw its sales stagnate. The company was affected overseas by the continuing strength of the yen and at home by unexpected competition, highlighted in 1994 when the largest Japanese supermarket chain, Daiei, began selling store-brand 35mm film made by AGFA-Gevaert. Fuji's share of the Japanese film market fell from 74 to 69 percent from 1993 to 1994. Meanwhile, Kodak charged Fuji in 1993 with dumping color photographic paper in the U.S. market. To avoid having to pay threatened punitive tariffs, and to counter the effects of the strong yen, Fuji added to its Greenwood facility a factory to make color photo paper. This factory began operation in 1995. The Greenwood complex also saw the addition of a factory to produce Fujicolor QuickSnap disposable cameras that same year and a fifth factory, opening in 1996, for packaging and shipping 35mm Fujicolor film manufactured at its plant in the Netherlands.

The long-term war between Kodak and Fuji was far from over, however. On the U.S. front, Fuji aggressively sought throughout the 1990s to capture more of the wholesale photofinishing market. It was largely successful as its network of U.S. photofinishing labs grew to 21 in 1996 when it spent $464 million to buy six labs from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The deal also included a ten-year contract through which Fuji was to supply all photofinishing services to the more than 2,250 Wal-Marts nationwide--taking business away from Kodak's photofinishing business, Qualex Inc. Wal-Mart was the leading photofinisher in the country at the time. Later in 1996, Fuji scored another coup when it signed an exclusive agreement with Ritz Camera Centers Inc. to supply paper to Ritz's chain of 550 minilabs, the third largest minilab chain in the country.

On the Japanese front, the battle was being conducted as another trade dispute. This time, Kodak accused the Japanese government and Fuji of illegally restricting access to the Japanese market for film and photographic paper. The U.S. government took the case to the newly formed World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1996, with the European Union soon joining the Kodak side. Fuji contended that Kodak's policies in pricing and marketing its products in Japan were to blame for the company's low market share, and that Kodak faced an environment in Japan similar to what Fuji faced in the United States. In fact, both companies held about 70 percent of their respective home markets, while Kodak held about 12 percent of the Japanese market and Fuji still only 10 percent of the U.S. market. Observers offered no consensus on how the WTO might rule in the case.

Ironically, while these battles were being waged, Fuji had joined the Kodak-led consortium of film and camera companies (the others were Nikon, Minolta, and Canon) to develop the Advanced Photo System (APS), an effort to revitalize the stagnant still photography market. APS offered easy film loading and the ability to select from three photo sizes (4 inch by 6 inch, 4 inch by 7 inch, and a panoramic 4 inch by 10 inch) as photos are taken. In 1996 Fuji introduced a full range of APS products--films, compact cameras, disposable cameras, photofinishing equipment, a Digital Image Workstation, a Photo Player for displaying images on a television, and an Image Scanner for converting images to their digital equivalent for manipulation on a PC.

In 1996 Fuji enjoyed its best year since 1993, although it still had not recovered to the levels of the early 1990s. Also in 1996, Minoru Ohnishi became chairman and CEO; Masayuki Muneyuki, who had been one of two senior executive managing directors, became president. It would be this new leadership team which would have to deal with the resolution of the WTO suit and the overall battles with Kodak. Having weathered the worst of the difficult economic conditions that faced all Japanese companies in the 1990s, Fuji's future appeared bright. It seemed certain that Kodak would have a serious adversary to contend with for years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries: Fuji Photo Optical Co., Ltd.; Mito Fuji Koki Co., Ltd.; Sano Fuji Koki Co., Ltd.; Okaya Fuji Koki Co., Ltd.; FUJIFILM Microdevices Co., Ltd.; FUJIX Co., Ltd.; FUJIFILM AXIA Co., Ltd.; FUJIFILM Battery Co., Ltd.; F.F.P. Co., Ltd.; Fuji Photo Equipment Co., Ltd.; F.I.T. Co., Ltd.; Fuji Color Trading Co., Ltd.; Fujicolor Service Co., Ltd.; Tochigi Fujicolor Co., Ltd.; Pro-lab Create Tokyo Co., Ltd.; Pro-lab Create Osaka Co., Ltd.; Tokyo Chuoh Genzosho Co., Ltd.; Ibaraki Fujicolor Co., Ltd.; Sanin Fujicolor Co., Ltd.; Hokuriku Fujicolor Co., Ltd.; Fuji Micrographics Co., Ltd.; Fuji Technics Co., Ltd.; Fuji Magne-Disk Co., Ltd; Fuji-Hunt Electronics Technology Co., Ltd.; Fuji X-ray Film Manufacturing Co., Ltd.; FUJIFILM Software Development Center AKITA Co., Ltd.; Fuji Medical Systems Co., Ltd.; Chiyoda Medical Co., Ltd.; FUJIFILM Business Supply Co., Ltd.; FUJIFILM Logistics Co., Ltd.; Fuji Service Co., Ltd.; Fuji Photo Service Co., Ltd.; Fuji Photo Film Canada Inc.; Fuji Graphic Systems Canada Inc.; Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc.; Fuji Photo Film Hawaii, Inc. (U.S.A.); Fuji Medical Systems U.S.A., Inc.; Fuji Photo Film, Inc. (U.S.A.); FUJIFILM Microdisks U.S.A., Inc.; Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals, Inc. (U.S.A.); Fuji Photo Film do Brasil Ltda. (Brazil); Fuji Medical Systems Benelux N.V. (Belgium); Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals, N.V. (Belgium); Fuji Photo Film (Europe) GmbH (Germany); Fuji Magnetics GmbH (Germany); Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals (Deutschland) GmbH (Germany); Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals (Italia) Srl (Italy); Fuji Photo Film B.V. (Netherlands); FUJIFILM España, S.A. (Spain); Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals (Sverige) A.B. (Sweden); Fuji Photo Film (U.K.) Ltd.; Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals (U.K.) Ltd.; Fuji Photo Film (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.; Fuji Photo Film (Singapore) Pte Ltd; Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals Pte Ltd (Singapore); Fuji Photo Film (Thailand) Ltd.

Further Reading:

  • Bounds, Wendy, "Fuji, Accused by Kodak of Hogging Markets, Spits Back: 'You Too,"' Wall Street Journal, July 31, 1995, pp. A1, A6.
  • ------, "Fuji Will Buy Wal-Mart's Photo Business," Wall Street Journal, July 9, 1996, p. A3.
  • Eisenstodt, Gale, "Sharply Focused," Forbes, December 24, 1990, p. 50.
  • "50 Years of Fuji Photo Film," Tokyo, Fuji Photo Film Company, 1984.
  • "Fuji Photo: Lower Market Shares Forcing CEO Out," Tokyo Business Today, May 1995, pp. 18-19.
  • Hamilton, David P., "United It Stands: Fuji Xerox Is a Rarity in World Business: A Joint Venture that Works," Wall Street Journal, September 26, 1996, p. R19.
  • Rosario, Louise do, and Jonathan Friedland, "Developing Negatives: Fuji Photo Film Feels the Pressures of Success," Far Eastern Economic Review, April 14, 1994, pp. 63-64.
  • "Shuttered: Photo Wars," Economist, August 5, 1995, pp. 59-60.
  • Takahashi, Masatake, "Put the Facts in Focus: Another Look at the Kodak-Fuji Dispute," Tokyo Business Today, January 1996, pp. 12-15.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 18. St. James Press, 1997.

comments powered by Disqus