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Epson’s Tanaka talks Filipino progress

August 13, 2018

Toshimitsu Tanaka (Credit: Philstar)

The Managing Director of Epson Singapore has given a new interview in which he discusses the pleasures and pitfalls of the printing industry, and how the OEM is responding through innovation.

Talking to the Manila Bulletin, Tanaka explained how the OEM’s growth is built on the bedrock of constant innovation.

“Our strength is derived from a vertically integrated business model, where we develop, manufacture, and offer products based on our core technologies and devices,” he explained. “Epson’s products are anchored on our key pillars of innovation – inkjet printing, visual communications, wearables, and robotics.”

Tanaka also discussed Epson’s environmental responsibilities, and its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint through ecological innovations such as its high-speed Linehead Inkjet MFP, which consumes less energy compared to other laser printers.

“We will see a shift in businesses adopting more environment-friendly equipment, with more businesses moving away from laser printers to inkjet printers that can help to greatly reduce energy consumption and bring greater cost savings,” he predicted. “With Epson’s upcoming PaperLab technology that recycles paper for office consumption, Epson will be able to contribute significantly towards reducing the impact on the environment.”

Epson is also investing in Research & Development in order to drive this innovation, with a global expenditure forecast of ¥55 billion ($496.6 million/€435.3 million) on R&D. Such attention pays off, with the OEM recently being announced as one of the inaugural Top 100 Global Technology Leaders as listed by Thomson Reuters, and one of Clarivate Analytics Top 100 Global Innovators in 2017.

Discussing his company’s achievements, Tanaka offers a run-down of products that “did not exist before they were developed by Epson.”

“I believe that technology’s number one role is to make our lives easier and better,” Tanaka elaborates. “I see IT as a key tool for people to enjoy life. IT helps improve people’s lives by bringing convenience in their personal lives as well as for business. For example, when I first joined the company, we used a blackboard to take notes manually in our sales focused meeting, and much time was spent calculating the numbers. Today, we use automation in a PC environment, and the discussion focuses on strategies and evaluation of the figures.”

He continues: “Technology frees us to focus on the business and creative solutions and not to focus on the technical and operational matters. In the home, for example, I see more people adopting home automation application technologies for the home – remote access for turning on lights and electricity. Robotics will better support our personal lives in future as well. Right now, they are confined to be used in factories and business, but in the future, they can assist the elderly and even in daily chores such as cooking. Technology is a tool to help people enjoy life better. I believe that we can achieve more if we use IT as a tool for creating a sustainable future by working to innovate and create environmentally-sound technologies.”

Tanaka also discussed the OEM’s new B2B promotional campaign, ‘It’s in the Details’, which allowed Epson to highlight its attention to detail and its history of artisanship in its products.

“With Epson’s obsession to precision and details, we continue to innovate to deliver new technologies that bring a big difference in the way customers’ businesses work. We understand the changing needs of customers,” he asserted. “With technology enabling personalised, valuable, and real-time experiences, organisations are urged to exceed their customer expectations. That is why we are doubling our efforts to offer businesses technologies to tackle their specific needs. We want to be their partner in addressing the demands of their customers in varied segments through our core technologies and devices.”

The interview also took in Epson’s performance in the Philippine market, where it has enjoyed 20 percent average growth across the past half decade. The IDC Quarterly Hardcopy Peripherals Tracker further reflected Epson’s dominance, revealing its inkjet market share as 55 percent.

“These achievements inspire us to deliver innovative products, services, and solutions to further help our customers in varied segments and industries in exceeding their vision,” explains Tanaka, who has been with Epson since graduating from the University of Japan in 1971.

Tanaka explains that he wanted to work for the sales division of a manufacturing company so that he could see the products he was going to sell.

“I wanted to handle actual products and gain a better perspective of the whole manufacturing process,” he elaborates. There were multiple potholes along the journey to becoming Managing Director, but Tanaka believes his optimism has carried him through. “Difficult situations can help us improve our skills and knowledge when we overcome the challenges.”

As much as he sings the praises of innovation on the technological side of things, Tanaka insists the priority will always be the customers.

“New products may not have breakthrough innovative technology but the support given to the customer can bring greater value, leading the customer to buy the product,” he postulates. “Also, when the product fits the customer’s hidden requirements, that is, bring new and undiscovered value to the customer, he will buy it. However, it is also important to have an innovative product that is hard for competitor to emulate.”

Tanaka continues: “A company must continuously provide good products that meet the needs of customer, so as to be indispensable. And being indispensable is part of our Management Philosophy – to contribute to society as an indispensable company by maintaining high aspirations and creating customer value. We are committed to use our technology to provide new customer value so as to play a central role in realising a better world.”

This customer focus also extends to the dissatisfied, as well as the satisfied. “Every time there is a customer complaint, we learn how to be better in serving them,” Tanaka explains. “Through the customers’ complaints, we can understand what is lacking and as such we think about how to improve and avoid the same complaint. As such, our products, activity and support will improve.”

Discussing his motivations, Tanaka highlights the need to “make a difference,” particularly to young people in IT.

“What motivates me is when I believe we have opportunity or chance to make a difference. In sales, our performance is visible and as such it is motivating to achieve the sales targets.”

Focussing on the next generation, Tanaka offered this guidance:

“My advice for young IT practitioners is to keep in mind to build a career in an organisation where they can grow as a professional while making a global difference. I believe that the IT sector has a huge potential to contribute to achieving a socially and economically sustainable tomorrow. So, as the future leaders, I encourage them to inspire, create, and support purpose-driven innovations. Next on a more personal note, it is important to be curious and ask questions to understand the customers’ needs. And with the insights, it is important to deeply think about how to meet the customers’ requirements. It is also important to build relationships with many people, not just internal but also externally.”

The interview concluded with Tanaka discussing his leadership style, which he portrays as benevolent: “I would prefer to have a discussion and reach an understanding with my staff. And it is important to set a timeline and be decisive. I believe in explaining my decisions and help my staff to understand, and to help them learn.”

“It is important to understand how as an individual, each person, sees the big picture and understands his contribution towards the company,” he added. “The point of sharing this story is to highlight that as a leader, my role is to motivate my staff to see the bigger picture and inspire them to do their best for the company.”

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