Kyocera: The Single Pass Story

                                                     Kyocera 1200 DPI Inkjet Printhead

                                                     Kyocera 1200 DPI Inkjet Printhead

Kyocera is participating at InPrint for the first time at InPrint 2015. Along with over 50 new exhibitors, proving that the show is continuing to evolve after its first outing, Kyocera will bring their innovative head technologies and their new products to market for the industrial sector.

I visited them recently near Stuttgart in Southern Germany and met with Mr Kazumi Honda, the European Product Line Manager for inkjet and it was very interested to discover more about Kyocera.

Kyocera began life as a ceramics component supplier 56 years ago. No, not ceramic decoration, but highly formed ceramics components for electronic manufacturing. Mr Honda was quick to point out that Kyocera as a business started small, with very little apart from a small number of very dedicated employees. Today the business has grown considerably and has 200 affiliated businesses and a greatly expanded the scale and reach of the business.

The company now employs 70,000 people worldwide and generates €11 Billion revenue per year. All of this is revenue is generated through the creation and manufacture of unique component products that are leading the respective marketplaces they are in.

Since its inception, Kyocera has retained a focus on producing customised parts for manufacture from diverse industries such as ceramic and organic packaging, telecommunications through to solar cell components that are housed within some of the huge solar power plants that are located in some of the islands off of the coast of Japan. Kyocera are also involved in producing cutting tools for metal parts and automotive engine components. They have the patented technology that can make the perfect crystal structure utilising Sapphire technology, they also make ceramic knives, synthetic quartz crystals chip resonators and many more products that cross a number of industries. But what unites them all is the fact that they are produced to a precise and exacting level, utilising highly developed scientific method resulting in high end production.

                                              Kyocera printheads (KJ4A 30kHz and KJ4B 40kHz)

                                              Kyocera printheads (KJ4A 30kHz and KJ4B 40kHz)

Kyocera began their journey in the digital printing sector through their development of thermal print heads for OEMS in paper based printing production. They then produced photoconductors for laser printing within office equipment which led eventually to the creation of their single pass inkjet head system that was launched in 2008. Originally designed for paper based printing, in particular for transpromo, the launch of the system was such as success it even surprised Kyocera.

The head system impressed so much that it is now arguably the leading head in the market for very high resolution, high speed single pass image reproduction particularly used in industrial textile printing machines. The success of the Kyocera head technology has meant significant growth to the extent the company now leads in certain sectors despite being relatively recent to market.

Mr Honda explains, “The technology enables 1200 dpi for textile printing at single pass meaning it is suitable for industrial textile production. This particularly suits the prestige end of the textile marketplace where digital textile production, particularly in Italy, is leading the world in terms of integration and production. We know that the bulk markets are still in places such as Turkey and China but really the sophisticated work is being done in Italy and Germany.”

As a business, Kyocera has never been in deficit and Kazumi Honda puts this down to the fact that the company has a unique approach to leadership, a philosophy and a system they call the ‘Amoeba’ management system.

Mr Honda explains about the philosophy. “The philosophy relates to life and management. Its central principle is ‘Do what is right as a human being'. And this is a principle we abide by in all of our decision making. By showing the importance of fairness and diligent effort, it serves as a paradigm for our conduct."

Mr Honda went on to explain that every single company within the Kyocera group will be broken down into groups or 'amoebas' of 20 people where everyone has a clear understanding of the balance sheet and is aware of the core objective to minimise expenditure and maximise revenue generation. This means that people within the business are aware of this on a monthly basis and this helps us to properly focus as a business. Yes it is very strict but everyone and it is very transparent -everyone knows the performance of the business.”

This system has proven highly successful as the business itself is in robust health in all of its operating territories and all of its market segments. The founder and now Chairman Emeritus, Dr Kazuo Inamori is widely recognised as a leading business thinker as well as highly successful leader – indeed, in 2010 he was drafted into rescue and re-establish Japan Airlines after Bankruptcy.

Dr Inamori explains the principles of the Amoeba system himself, “From the time Kyocera was founded, I felt that the long-term development of the company required an infallible management philosophy shared by all employees, as well as a management accounting system that allowed for accurate and time awareness of the realities of operations in every area of the organisation. Therefore, while concentrating on technological advancements, product development and business activities I put every bit of spare energy into establishing such a philosophy and management system.

As Kyocera rapidly developed and grew in scale, I earnestly longer for a business partner with whom I could share the joys and sorrows of work, as well as the heavy responsibilities of management. This led me to divide the company into small, organised unites, which I called “amoebas”. Leaders selected from within the company were entrusted with the management of individual amoebas. In this way, I developed many leaders with the managerial awareness. In other words, business partners."*

As well as Japan airlines, over 300 companies worldwide have and now use the amoeba system to manage their businesses. It pulls together employee accountability and interest in the progress of the business."

With an enlightened approach to innovation, an ethical philosophy and clear vision it is clear that Kyocera will continue to grow and develop within the field of industrial print technology.

For now, Kyocera have planned some exciting new developments for new industrial applications at the InPrint Show and announcements will follow as we get closer to the show itself.