Information has always been at the center of perserving civilization. Once upon a time, monks sat in cold mountain cells painstakingly copying books and manuscripts so that knowledge could be shared. In the 1800’s newsmen burned the midnight oil meticulously laying out text one letter at a time for the next day’s paper. In the 1920’s and 30’s companies employed huge rooms of female typists feverishly clacking away on transfer paper to make copies. The aspect of the Industrial Revolution that changed the world was the ability to make duplicate parts quickly and cheaply.
Similarly, the ability to share information via copies quickly and easily revolutionized the workplace. At the same time, the development of printed images allowed us to capture our memories and stay close to the places and people we love. In today’s Information Age, data is everywhere, and managing that information – whether copies, photos or even thoughts – is both an innovation and a requirement for success.
Ricoh, a digital services company, has been solving these problems for its customers for over 80 years. Stemming back to the introduction of the Ricopy 101 in 1955 (the name Ricopy means to make a duplicate in Japanese) and then again in 1990 when they introduced the ARTAGE 8000 all-in one-color copier that simplified the time-consuming complexity of needing to replace individual color cartridges. Their innovations have reached consumers as well. In 1962 they launched Ricoh Auto Half camera in 1962, one of the first automatic cameras that became hugely popular and in 2011 they acquired Pentax cameras. Now, the company is leveraging that very imaging technology, with added innovation to solve problems for today’s challenges, the same way they’ve done since their inception.
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Ricoh was born with a philosophy of putting customer needs first. When Kiyoshi Ichimura founded the company in 1946, he created what he called the “spirit of three loves” which entailed three guiding principles: love your neighbor, love your country, love your work. Today, that spirit of working from love continues. Great leadership always, always defines company culture. When you start with trust as the main component of your mission, it is guaranteed to trickle down in ways that are profound. In this age of fake news and deep fakes, trust has never been more important.
If you haven’t heard about Ricoh’s information management and digital services technologies, it may be because Ricoh has been quietly focused on creating innovation that fits to what its clients need. Ricoh Americas’ President & CEO, Joji Tokunaga was one of the judges at the 2019 Cisco CHILL Labs, a high-octane two-day start-up incubator that brought together industry heads and top VC’s together to imagine solutions for Industry 4.0, from supply chains in 5G to the future of work. Mr. Tokunaga was given a “most admired CEO” award by the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2020. this award recognizes business leaders for their “vision, commitment to diversity, record of innovation and commitment to quality.”
Just as copiers sped up how work was done in the 1960’s, Ricoh’s technology is now helping companies be more productive wherever their new workplaces are. One of the areas where they have been most impactful, has been in the healthcare industry where care providers are transitioning to values-based care. This transition has revealed areas of challenge that have not been addressed such as reliance on manual faxing, difficulties accessing data remotely and lack of collaboration. The impacts of these challenges can result in failures to change with regulation mandates which can result in fines or not receiving funding. It results in a greater strain on doctors who spend an average of one day per week on administrative tasks, which, if freed from with automated systems, would give them more time to spend with patients as well as providing more billable hours to care providers.
One healthcare provider with 90 interconnected facilities was seeing a 10-30% fax failure rate. Ricoh helped them switch to paper free system which resulted in 64% reduction in paper in one week. Additionally, Apria Healthcare, a provider of home respiratory services and oxygen and other inhalation therapies with 375 facilities in the US switched to Ricoh’s Managed Print Services and saw a $300,000 savings per month, increase customer satisfaction levels and cut their billing time from three weeks to one. That kind of change is as disruptive and profound as when the typewriter was invented.
While many energy sectors firms like Rheem are implementing remote service support, Ricoh has been doing so for years. Specifically with their award winning SmartHands customer program that uses augmented reality to assist technicians in the field. They get real-time advice with remote-based expertise. Picture a technician arriving to fix a device. He quickly sees that there is a part he’s not familiar with and is not sure how to fix. In the past, this would have resulted in the technician leaving and rescheduling, taking days. SmartHands is action learning at its best. The technician speaks with experts in real time and customers get faster help. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Perhaps one of the most exciting areas of the company is Ricoh’s 360-degree camera which stands poised to revolutionize the film and photography worlds by providing easy to download images of an entire space that can be switched to virtual reality viewing fairly easily. So far realtor companies have been rushing to use this tiny but powerful camera to create quick and beautiful virtual home tours, and with Augmented Reality meeting platforms such as Spatial.io, MeetinVR, Altspace VR, creating better remote collaboration experiences and other companies racing to embrace these new platforms, Ricoh is perfectly positioned to lead in this space.
One of the hottest topics today as we know, is privacy, an area that is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to maintain. Ricoh’s data security technology and expertise has been helping those in the legal profession for decades. The company has tenured forensic experts who are licensed private investigators and the Ricoh Forensics Lab was the first private forensics lab in the world to be accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory. Ricoh forensics experts have collected and preserved data in 46 countries. An interesting side branch of this work has moved into a new legal area: determining the legality of emoji’s. A whopping 61% of people surveyed use emoji’s in work emails. In many ways emoji’s represent the same ambiguity and complexity of Egyptian tablets. Issues of race came up and in 2015, multi-racial emoji’s were added. The combination of emoji’s and context can change wildly by personal interpretation. Phew! A new, important, yet (groan) sure way to create wins mostly for lawyers’ area of litigation.
Sustainability & The Future
Ricoh has also invested heavily in sustainability for decades with a strong focus on community support. In 2010, they opened the Ricoh Institute of Sustainable Business and in 2015, they opened RICOH Future House, a commercial facility which offers solutions and services for supporting development and growth of local communities. Further, the company is moving towards a more circular economic framework by actively recycling and mining waste to pull valuable materials from electronic waste. The UN estimates that 10 billion in precious metals are lost in electronic waste every year and approximately 10 billion in gold. Ricoh’s efforts are not only good for the planet, its smart business. Ricoh is also assisting the fashion industry, using its data integration and industrial printing capabilities to reduce paper waste and streamline communication along the supply chain.
Today in this new “normal” of dispersed workplaces and video chat happy hours, we continue to uncover new ways to capture the information we need (and love), efficiently and securely. It all comes down to access to the information and tools we need, when we need it. Taking a look back at what has enabled us in the past, can help deliver a brighter future.