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An Inside Look at Canon's Corporate Culture
Canon's corporate outlook

Fujio Mitarai
Canon Chairman Fujio Mitarai
Tsuneji Uchida
President of Canon Inc. Tsuneji Uchida
Canon Headquarters
Canon Headquarters

Tokyo, Japan--In a country that dates back to 660BC with a history made up of outside influence followed by long periods of isolation, it's no wonder that Japan itself is a mixture of globalization interacting with domestic developments. Such a legacy also seems to be the backbone of Canon Inc.'s corporate outlook which is based on creating ground-breaking technology and achieving a global platform for such innovation, as touted by Chairman Fujio Mitarai during a press conference in the company's Shimomaruko headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. The press conference was held during the Canon U.S./Canadian Media & Industry Analyst Tour, which also afforded us a glimpse into the company's Toride factory.

Indeed culture and tradition are important to the company that had its first 35mm rangefinder camera in 1935. Now, in its 70th year, Canon can pat itself on the back, gaining $35 billion in worldwide sales in 2006. Mitarai proclaimed that Canon will reach the No.1 standing in all of its market segments in the next few years. He also spoke about his uncle, Takeshi Mitarai, who was one of the original founders and the first president of the company. "He developed two strategies," Mitarai noted. The first, to create "unique technology" and second, to establish "a global viewpoint." The speech did not go without pointing out that Nikon lags far behind Canon: "Our profit is 10 times larger than the profit that Nikon makes annually," Mitarai said. Canon employs over 120,000 people worldwide, and is among the top three company's with original patents annually.

Culture and diversification seemed to be on the tip of every Canon executive's tongue during the event.

Masaya Maeda, Director & Chief Executive of Canon's image communication products operations, heralded "a new photo culture for the digital age." Tsuneji Uchida, President of Canon Inc. announced the "creation of a camera culture with optical technology." Even Canon's Chairman Fujio Mitarai jumped on the "cultural" bandwagon, boiling Canon's success down to two ingredients: "a culture of global unity and our [Canon's] own original technology."

Katsuichi Shimizu, the printer division CEO, dropped another name that has been the cause of turmoil for Canon in recent months: Kodak. "We will not chase Kodak," he said in reply to Kodak's cheap pricing for ink cartridges. "We believe that consumers appreciate printing in the privacy of their homes, rather than in the public forum," he noted. Shimizu said he wasn't afraid of losing any business to other companies with inferior technology. "Our multifunction printers are now very affordable, and give both the consumer market and the home office market very high-quality printing capabilities," he said.

As for expanding, President Uchida announced Canon's ambitious R&D spending plan, which was recently raised to 8% of Canon's income. Uchida said that Canon plans to increase this 8% to 10% in coming years. He also said that diversifying Canon products was key in maintaining their prestigious position in the global market, and plans to grow in the future by focusing in on technologies in the medical field, digital commercial printing, semi-conductor projection equipment, and robotics. Uchida noted that the professional markets, although small, are integral to the whole of the imaging community because they not only build awareness, but also influence companies like Canon to look for better solutions through their products.

Although no products were unveiled during the junket, attending press did get to see the upcoming imagePROGRAF iPF5100 and iPF6100 printers as well as color management technology in development.

President and CEO of Canon U.S.A., Inc., Joe Adachi—also in attendance—focused on what Canon does for the community outside of its product lineup. "Over 800,000 children go missing each year in the United States, we at Canon U.S.A. are trying to change that," Adachi said.

Canon U.S.A. and the National Coalition for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), have collaborated since 1997 to raise public awareness about the growing issue of child abduction. Canon has provided more than 1,200 photographic and printing products to law enforcement agencies to aid in the recovery of missing children through its Canon4Kids program spearhead in 2003.

CEO Mitarai said, "The strength of the North American market is essential for us at Canon. I have great expectations for Canon U.S.A."