Canon to Use Automation to Lower Laser-Printer Costs, Will Also Expand into Commercial, Package Printing

Currently, Canon sees a paradigm shift from offset to digital printing in the commercial printing market, a market that’s estimated to be around 90 trillion yen in size. However, currently, digital printing accounts for only about 14 percent of the market, but this is expected to grow as digital printing is used not only in printing documents, but also in printing packaging, labels, and graphic-arts output.

Canon, along with its Océ group, says that it’s especially interested in expanding into package printing, where it says high market growth is expected.

Ultimately, Canon says its “aim is to develop new products with the same level of image quality as offset printing. We will also work to further expand sales in the commercial-printing area, adding high-speed devices to our existing copier business.”

Second New Business: Network Cameras

Canon’s second new business is network camera and security solutions. In 2015, it acquired Axis, a Swedish maker of network video-surveillance equipment.

The firm notes that the use of network-camera applications isn’t just limited to the monitoring of towns, airports, etc., but that applications keep growing, including, for example, identifying the status of production lines, and analyzing customer behavior in retail establishments for marketing purposes.

It also notes that, last year, in preparation for an event that will be held in Canon’s Japan headquarters, it hosted anti-terrorism exercises led by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and that Canon products were used in the process to locate suspicious objects even in the dark. Canon also launched software that can count more than 1,000 people at one time, providing information on congestion in order to support safety measures as security-personnel placement and emergency escape-route planning. Such technology may also be used for marketing-related research, and, currently, Canon’s also researching facial-recognition technology.

Third New Business: Industrial Equipment

Up until now, Canon has been acquiring companies such as Tokki, Anelva, and Machinery to grow its automated production and in-house production of manufacturing equipment. It says, however, that these companies are also contributing to Canon through businesses they manage directly.

For instance, Tokki’s OLED production-equipment business was the world’s first to produce equipment that could be used in the mass-production of half-sized G6 OLED panels. This equipment is said to be “contributing significantly to the productivity improvement of panel manufacturers.”

Currently, Canon says its OLED vacuum-process equipment “is completely overwhelming the competition,” and that, in order to meet demand, Canon is working to increase its production capacity.

Four New Business: Healthcare Solutions

Canon, which acquired Toshiba Medical Systems late last year (see story here), notes that its activity in the healthcare-solution market is nothing new: a few years after its founding, Canon developed Japan’s first indirect X-ray camera in 1940, and Canon’s also been involved with ophthalmology-related equipment. The acquisition of Toshiba Medical Systems “represents a new start of our medical business,” it says.

In order to grow in the healthcare market, Canon says that, in the diagnostic imaging-equipment market, it must overcome competition coming from leading companies in Europe and the United States.

It will also combine its distinctive medical technology, such as genetic testing and photo-acoustic mammography, with Toshiba Medical Systems’ research-and-development capabilities.

Canon says it will also leverage the optical technology that it’s cultivated with its cameras, as well as its micro-fabrication technology, and its cost-reduction and production technologies with Toshiba Medical Systems’ products – and ultimately, make its healthcare business into a core business of Canon.

Summary

Overall, Canon’s strategy appears to be two-fold: grow its four new businesses, and reduce production costs for two existing business group that currently provide most of its profits, laser printers and digital cameras. The chart below shows how Canon forecasts its four new businesses will increasingly contribute a greater share to sales and earnings over the next several years:

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