Ricoh Company, Ltd. History

Address:
15-5, Minami-Aoyama 1-chome
Minato-ku
Tokyo 107-8544
Japan

Telephone: (03) 3479-3111
Fax: (03) 3403-1578

Website:
Public Company
Incorporated: 1936 as Riken Kankoshi Co., Ltd.
Employees: 67,300
Sales: ¥1.45 trillion (US$14.05 billion) (2000)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Nagoya Fukuoka Sapporo Kyoto Amsterdam Frankfurt Paris
Ticker Symbol: RICOY (ADRs)
NAIC: 333313 Office Machine Manufacturing; 333315 Photographic and Photocopying Equipment Manufacturing; 334111 Electronic Computer Manufacturing; 334112 Computer Storage Device Manufacturing; 334119 Other Computer Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing; 334210 Telephone Apparatus Manufacturing; 334413 Semiconductor and Related Device Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

Our Principles: To think as an entrepreneur. To put ourselves in the other person's place. To find personal value in our work. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

1936:
Riken Kankoshi Co., Ltd. is formed to produce sensitized paper.
1938:
After camera production commences, company changes its name to Riken Optical Co., Ltd.
1955:
Production of office equipment begins, with the debut of the company's first copier.
1962:
First overseas subsidiary is established in the United States.
1963:
Company changes its name to Ricoh Company, Ltd.
1973:
Ricoh becomes the first Japanese company to make copiers in the United States.
1974:
Company produces its first fax machine.
1975:
Ricoh is awarded the Deming Prize for excellence in quality control.
1981:
Ricoh-brand copiers are marketed for the first time in the United States.
1983:
Company introduces its first personal computer and first laser printer.
1987:
The Imagio line of digital office automation equipment makes its debut.
1992:
Ricoh posts its first-ever operating loss.
1995:
Company acquires Savin Corporation and Gestetner Holdings.

Company History:

Ricoh Company, Ltd. is a leading maker of office automation equipment, including copiers, printers, facsimile machines, and related supplies. Other products that the company manufactures and/or markets include personal computers, peripheral devices such as CD-recordable drives, semiconductors, and digital cameras. The company is the world's number one maker of digital copiers and more than 60 percent of Ricoh's revenues are derived from copiers and related supplies. With factories and sales affiliates located throughout Asia, Europe, and North and South America, Ricoh generates about 40 percent of its revenues outside of Japan, with about 18 percent stemming from Europe and 16 percent from the Americas.

Early History: From Photo Equipment to Office Equipment

The company's initial efforts focused on photography, and its ability to win market share was evident as far back as 1936, when Riken Kankoshi Co., Ltd. was formed to produce positive sensitive paper, used to develop film. Under the leadership of Kiyoshi Ichimura the firm instantly took the lead in the Japanese sensitized paper market. In 1938, after deciding to produce cameras as well, Ichimura changed the company's name to Riken Optical Co., Ltd. and introduced the Olympic 4.

The flash bulb and color film invented during the 1930s, and other developments such as new chemicals for film developing and computer-designed lenses originated during World War II, were marketed to the public after the war. In 1950 Riken introduced another camera, the Ricohflex III.

Five years later the company entered the copier market when it developed its first diazo copier, the Ricopy 101. This was followed by the Ricoh Synchrofax in 1959, two micro enlargement copiers in 1960 and 1962, and two duplicators, also introduced in 1960 and 1962.

With a handful of employees and $100,000, the company established its first overseas subsidiary, Ricoh Industries, U.S.A., Inc., in 1962. The subsidiary initially imported cameras, but it soon began marketing copiers when it realized the sales potential in the United States.

In 1963, following the establishment of its successful subsidiary, the Japanese parent company changed its name to Ricoh Company, Ltd. and continued its success in both copier and photographic equipment.

In 1965 Ricoh entered the budding field of office computers with the debut of the Ricoh Typer Standard, a data-processing system. It also introduced the Ricopy BS-1, and electrostatic coated-paper copier.

1970s: Product Expansion and U.S. Growth

The 1970s marked a decade of growth and change for Ricoh and its U.S. subsidiary. During the 1970s Ricoh began to sell cameras and other electronic goods on the U.S. market. Ricoh Industries U.S.A., whose annual sales had climbed to $1.3 million by 1970, was renamed Ricoh of America, Inc. In 1973 Ricoh established its second U.S. subsidiary, Ricoh Electronics Co., Ltd., in Irvine, California. Created to assemble copier supplies and parts, the subsidiary made Ricoh the first Japanese company to produce copiers in the United States.

During the mid-1970s Ricoh made advances in three important markets. The Rifax 600S, the world's first high-speed digital facsimile machine, made its debut in 1974 along with the Rinac 1000 System, an information-retrieval system. This was followed by the Ricopy DT1200, the company's first plain-paper copier, in 1975. Also in 1975, Ricoh was honored with Japan's highest award for quality control, the Deming Prize.

In 1976 Ricoh introduced the Ricoh Printer 40, an impact (daisy-wheel) printer, followed by the Ricoh WP-1, a word processor. By this time the company's products covered the field of office automation.

In 1978 Ricoh established Rapicom, formed to develop and market stand-alone, high-speed digital facsimile products, as well as satellite facsimile equipment. Ricoh of America opened a research and development facility in Santa Clara, California, in 1977. In 1979, however, the company assigned U.S. research and development functions to a new entity, Ricoh Systems, Inc.

Early 1980s: Expanding the Ricoh Brand

Despite the fact that it now operated four U.S.-based companies, Ricoh did not have much U.S. visibility, due in part to the company's agreement to sell copy machines in the United States under the labels of Savin and Pitney Bowes, two U.S. manufacturers. Early in the 1980s Ricoh announced its intention to market copiers under its own name and to become a major player in the worldwide office-automation market. Takeshi Ouye, president of Ricoh, planned to move carefully into the office-automation market, predicting in June 1980 in Modern Office Procedures: 'We will be in a position to market a total automation system within ten years.' Ricoh already held the leading position in the international plain-paper copier market, and its additional office products--offset duplicating equipment and systems, diazo copiers, and facsimile, microfilm, word-processing, document, and storage-retrieval equipment--gave the company a boost in its quest for a leading rank in office automation.

In 1981, Ricoh of America began to market Ricoh copiers in the United States. By 1984 the company had achieved a seven percent share of the U.S. market. The firm then decided to venture into more advanced copying machines, moving from the $5,000-and-under price range to the $6,000-to-$13,000 range. This step put Ricoh in direct competition with Xerox Corporation.

Ricoh's four-year-old Rapicom subsidiary landed a major account for Telepress, Ricoh's satellite facsimile product, when it agreed in 1982 to supply the product to Gannett Company, publisher of USA Today. Telepress eliminated the practice of physically transporting the newspaper for printing and then again for distribution.

In 1983 Ricoh introduced an ultra-compact hand-held business computer, the Ricoh SP25, in addition to its first personal computer, the Ricoh SP200, and its first laser printer, the Ricoh LP4120. The company also added two more printers to its line the following year: the Ricoh JP5320, an ink-jet model, and the Ricoh TP3220, a thermal printer.

Longtime Ricoh President Takeshi Ouye was elected chairman in 1983, while Hiroshi Hamada became president. Under their leadership, the company continued to globalize. Previously, much of the company's new product research was done overseas, particularly in the United States, and then transferred to Japan, where the products were manufactured. Hamada felt that Ricoh should develop more products domestically and boost production capacity by manufacturing the products both at home and overseas. In the United States, for example, the company made its operation more independent and more responsive to the U.S. economy, merging its U.S. research and development operation, Ricoh Systems, with Ricoh Electronics, the production facility, both of which had reported separately to Ricoh in Japan. In addition, the company established Ricoh UK Products Ltd. in the United Kingdom in 1983, while Ricoh Nederlands opened offices in France and Italy in 1984, as well as a Belgian office in 1985.

In the mid-1980s the company continued aggressive marketing and product development efforts with the introduction of the RINNET System, a local area network; a color copier; an electronic filing system; an electronic whiteboard; and two minicomputers developed in cooperation with AT & T. As a result, sales grew 20 percent annually from 1982 to 1985. Ricoh's alliance with AT & T began with a three-year original-equipment-manufacturing (OEM) contract, in which Ricoh agreed to equip its facsimile machines with AT & T telephones. This was followed, in 1984, by an agreement allowing Ricoh to market AT & T's minicomputers in Japan. In 1985, the two firms created AT & T Ricoh Company, a joint venture to produce and market modified versions of AT & T's compact telephone systems. Ricoh lent its Japanese marketing-and-service network to AT & T, and AT & T helped Ricoh enter the telecommunications field.

In 1984 the company's Atsugi, Japan, plant established a production-technology research center and received the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Award for factory automation. Ricoh also established the Ricoh Research Institute of General Electronics Company, and Ricoh Finance. In addition, the company added a thermal paper and toner-production facility to its Fukui plant, while Sindo Ricoh Company began producing zoom plain-paper copiers and toner.

In the United States, Ricoh Electronics opened a fully automated thermal paper manufacturing plant in Irvine, California. In addition, Ricoh began construction of Ricoh Research and Development Center.

Late 1980s: Further Globalizing and Increasing Overseas Production

In 1985 Ricoh Corporation (Canada)--formerly Rapifax of Canada--opened a new facility in NePean, Ontario. Ricoh also established two marketing companies in 1986: Ricoh España S.A., a joint venture with a Spanish distributor of Ricoh products, and Ricoh France S.A., a wholly owned subsidiary. When Ricoh UK Products began production in May, Ricoh became the first Japanese company to manufacture copiers in the United Kingdom. By 1988 the firm had also added facsimile equipment and supplies to its production capabilities.

Under the guidance of President Hiroshi Hamada, Ricoh established its second European manufacturing subsidiary, Ricoh Industrie France S.A., which produced plain-paper copiers and other office-automation equipment and supplies at a new plant in Alsace.

The firm also strengthened its position in the semiconductor arena with the purchase of Panatech Research & Development Corporation's semiconductor division in 1987. In May 1987 Ricoh opened a semiconductor-design center in San Jose, California. The center expanded research and development efforts for Ricoh's semiconductor products, which so far included CMOS, a large-scale integrated device that was incorporated in its copiers, facsimiles, and cameras.

In Japan in 1987 Ricoh introduced Imagio, a new line of office-automation equipment that utilized a digital system that processed images, produced 20 copies a minute, and functioned as an input/output station for electronic filing systems. In addition, the introduction of several new copiers, including a high-speed, multifunctional desktop model, enabled Ricoh to maintain its position as Japan's leading plain-paper-copier company.

In April 1987 Ricoh reorganized and consolidated its U.S. subsidiaries. The move, calculated to create a 'separate Ricoh in North America,' was another move toward globalization for Ricoh. According to Hamada, in the company's annual report for 1988, the new unit, called Ricoh Corporation, was to 'gradually assume greater independence in virtually all aspects of its operations.' Hamada also revealed plans to create another independent Ricoh in Europe, a plan that would begin by increasing production capacity.

In 1988 the company released a lightweight, compact eight-millimeter camcorder in the United States and Japan. The company also opened Ricoh Software Research in Santa Clara, California, to develop custom software for three-dimensional computer-aided design and database markets. The software products were designed for existing and future OEM clients. Also that year, Ricoh's overseas sales exceeded domestic sales for the first time--though this proved to be a short-lived development. Ricoh's product line included facsimile machines, data-processing equipment, cameras, and copying machines and supplies. It was one of only a few companies making four different types of copying machines: the diazo, the electrofax, the plain-paper copier, and the duplicator.

While many Japanese companies suffered decreases in their export businesses during the mid- to late 1980s because of the high value of the yen, Ricoh's overseas sales grew. Its success was attributed to substantial gains in sales of facsimile machines and laser printers. In addition, Ricoh's two main office products, copiers and facsimile machines, had earned a major share of the U.S. market. In 1987 Ricoh's share of the laser printer and scanner market was about 24 percent. Ricoh's goal was to double that share by employing more aggressive marketing efforts through an expanded sales force and its American network of dealers, distributors, and OEM arrangements.

Despite the aggressive sales strategy, Ricoh suffered profit declines in 1986 and 1987, due partly to slimmer profit margins caused by appreciation of the yen. To cope with the high yen, the company planned to continue increasing overseas production. In the late 1980s, it began making copiers at its third U.S. manufacturing plant. This, and a fourth plant, which opened in Lawrenceville, Georgia, in 1990, doubled Ricoh's U.S. production. About 20 percent of the products made at these facilities, which included copiers, facsimiles, sorters, automatic document feeders, and supplies, were exported to Japan and Europe.

1990s and Beyond: Weathering Recession and Digitalizing the Product Lines

During the early 1990s Ricoh had to contend with the difficulties of the recessionary Japanese economy, which cut demand for office machinery, as well as the high yen, which made exports from Japan more expensive. Despite its efforts at increasing overseas sales and production, only about 27 percent of revenues were derived outside of Japan at the beginning of the decade, while most of its products were still built in Japan. The culmination of these trends came in the fiscal year ending in March 1992, when Ricoh posted its first-ever operating loss. Net income for that year was just US$15.4 million on sales of US$7.65 billion, the latter figure a modest seven percent increase over the previous year.

Ricoh embarked on a major cost-cutting initiative in the wake of the disappointing 1992 results. No workers were laid off, but the company no longer replaced every worker who resigned or retired. Ricoh also made major cuts in the products and parts it sold, reducing the number from 5,000 to 3,100. Work was halted on several new products. The company's management was also restructured. Attempting to bolster its overseas operations, Ricoh took a 24 percent stake in Gestetner Holdings PLC, a U.K.-based office equipment firm. Ricoh and Gestetner had worked together since the mid-1960s, and in the early 1990s Ricoh was selling office equipment to Gestetner, which marketed the products in Europe under its own name. Ricoh shifted production of low-end office automation products for the U.S. market from Japan to South Korea. And the company established several subsidiaries and joint ventures in China and Hong Kong for the manufacture of copiers, fax machines, and parts.

On the product development side, Ricoh began revitalizing its product lineup through an increased emphasis on digital products. The company had already introduced its first full-color plain-paper digital copier, the Artage 8000, in 1990, and moved into the burgeoning market for multifunctional digital copiers the following year with the Imagio MF530 (multifunctional copiers were also able to perform other functions, such as sending faxes and/or serving as a computer printer). Ricoh made an early entrance into the CD-recordable (CD-R) device sector, introducing both CD-R discs and CD-R drives in 1992. Making its debut in 1993 was the Preter 500/550, a full-color multifunctional digital copier. The company moved into the scanner market in 1994 with the Ricoh IS20 and into the digital camera field in 1995 with the Ricoh DC-1, which recorded both still and moving images as well as sound.

Ricoh's restructuring and new product development prowess paid off by the mid-1990s as the company posted healthy net income of US$214.8 million on sales of US$11.79 billion for fiscal 1995. Ricoh continued its drive to boost international sales by acquiring Savin Corporation for about US$42 million and taking over Gestetner Holdings for about US$286 million, with both purchases occurring in 1995. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, the financially troubled Savin had been marketing Savin-brand copiers and fax machines made by Ricoh and would continue to do so as a Ricoh subsidiary.

Longtime President Hiroshi Hamada was named chairman and CEO in 1996, while Masamitsu Sakurai was promoted to president and COO. That year, Ricoh helped develop the CD-ReWritable (CD-RW) platform, which enabled users to read, write, and rewrite computer data on compact discs. It introduced the first CD-RW drives and discs in late 1996 and early 1997. Also in 1996 the company began using the Aficio brand for all of its digital copiers sold outside of Japan. In 1997 Ricoh established a new R & D and venture capital financing subsidiary in San Jose, California, called Ricoh Silicon Valley, Inc.

Ricoh was spared the worst effects of the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, thanks to its drive to increase overseas sales. By 2000, nearly 40 percent of revenues were derived outside Japan, with the company aiming for a 50--50 split. Sales and net income fell only slightly in fiscal 1998, while the next two years saw Ricoh post solid gains, culminating in net income of US$407 million on sales of US$14.05 billion for fiscal 2000. Among the company's many product introductions of the late 1990s were the Imagio MF105 Pro, an ultrafast digital copier capable of printing 105 copies per minute (debuting in May 1999); the IPSiO Color 2000, the company's first color laser printer (July 1998); the Ricoh Image Scanner IS450, a flat-bed scanner (March 1999); and several increasingly powerful and compact digital cameras. Ricoh was also placing increasing emphasis on semiconductor devices, including application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which were used in such areas as central processing units and facsimile engine controllers; and application-specific standard products (ASSPs), which included chip sets for digital cameras and PC card controllers for notebook computers. In mid-2000 Ricoh launched a proactive management restructuring to adopt a U.S.-style separation of executive and operating functions, with the heads of the company's divisions and subsidiaries gaining much more authority and responsibility than before. Ricoh's willingness to embark on major restructurings, along with its respected ability to develop new products and its more balanced stream of revenues, placed the company in a strong position in the early 21st century.

Principal Subsidiaries: Ricoh Optical Industries Co., Ltd.; Tohoku Ricoh Co., Ltd.; Hasama Ricoh, Inc.; Ricoh Unitechno Co., Ltd.; Ricoh Keiki Co., Ltd.; Ricoh Microelectronics Co., Ltd.; Ricoh Elemex Corporation; Ricoh Tottori Technical Development Co., Ltd.; Ricoh System Kaihatsu Co., Ltd.; Ricoh Austria GmbH; Ricoh Australia Pty, Ltd.; Ricoh Canada Inc.; Dong Guan Tailien Optical Co., Ltd. (China); Ricoh Asia Industry (Shenzhen) Ltd. (China); Ricoh Dianzhuang (Shenzhen) Electronics Co., Ltd. (China); Ricoh Electronic Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (China); Ricoh Electronic Technology (China) Co., Ltd.; Ricoh International (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (China); Shanghai Ricoh Facsimile Co., Ltd. (China); Ricoh France S.A.; Ricoh Industrie France S.A.; Ricoh Deutschland GmbH (Germany); Ricoh Asia Industry Ltd. (Hong Kong); Ricoh Component (H.K.) Ltd. (Hong Kong); Ricoh Hong Kong Ltd.; Ricoh Photo Products (Asia) Ltd. (Hong Kong); Ricoh Hungary Kft.; Ricoh India Limited; Ricoh Italia S.p.A. (Italy); Sindo Ricoh Co., Ltd. (Korea); Ricoh Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. (Mexico); Ricoh Europe B.V. (Netherlands); Ricoh Nederland B.V. (Netherlands); Ricoh Norge A.S. (Norway); Ricoh Polska Sp.zo.o. (Poland); Ricoh Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. (Singapore); Ricoh España S.A. (Spain); Taiwan Ricoh Co., Ltd.; Gestetner Holdings PLC (U.K.); GR Advanced Materials Ltd. (U.K.); Ricoh UK Ltd.; Ricoh UK Products Ltd.; Ricoh Corporation (U.S.A.); Ricoh Electronics, Inc. (U.S.A.); Ricoh Latin America, Inc. (U.S.A.); Ricoh Silicon Valley, Inc. (U.S.A.); Savin Corporation (U.S.A.).

Principal Competitors: A.B.Dick Company; Canon Inc.; Casio Computer Co., Ltd.; Eastman Kodak Company; Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd.; Hewlett-Packard Company; Hitachi, Ltd.; IKON Office Solutions, Inc.; Lanier Worldwide, Inc.; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.; Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company; Minolta Co., Ltd.; NEC Corporation; Nikon Corporation; Oki Electric Industry Company, Limited; Pitney Bowes Inc.; SANYO Electric Co., Ltd.; Sharp Corporation; Siemens AG; Toshiba Corporation; Xerox Corporation.

Further Reading:

  • Caplan, Brian, 'When Politics Beats Profits,' Asian Business, March 1990, pp. 55+.
  • DeTar, Jim, 'Low-Profile Ricoh Gets Aggressive,' Electronic News, May 11, 1998, pp. 1, 70.
  • Friedland, Jonathan, 'Setting an Example: Japanese Manufacturer Ricoh Slashes Costs,' Far Eastern Economic Review, October 8, 1992, pp. 81--82.
  • Helm, Leslie, and Rebecca Aikman, 'Office Products: A Japanese Slugfest for U.S. Tuft,' Business Week, May 13, 1985, pp. 98+.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 36. St. James Press, 2001.