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Fujifilm and Digital Imaging


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How Fuji survived the shift to digital imaging.

Published in: Business, Devices & Hardware
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Fujifilm and Digital Imaging

  1. 1. Fujifilm means digital?
  2. 2. It sounds like a contradiction in terms?
  3. 3. And it is. With the rise of digital imaging, many film manufacturers have gone out of business or suffered.
  4. 4. Kodak has demolished many of its buildings in Rochester (NY).
  5. 5. Ilford collapsed.
  6. 6. Agfa went bankrupt and was demolished in 2005.
  7. 7. Konica is also gone.
  8. 8. Polaroid is resting in peace.
  9. 9. The explosion 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Number of film and digital cameras sold in the United States (guess which one is digital…)
  10. 10. With the shift to digital imaging, many film manufacturers have become business history.
  11. 11. But what about Fuji?
  12. 12. I couldn’t find images of spectacular Fuji explosions on flickr or youtube…
  13. 13. While this may not be the most scientific method, one can conclude from this that Fuji has been better off than the others…
  14. 14. We’ll take a look at Fuji and try to figure out what happened…
  15. 15. Our story starts in Greenwood, South Carolina.
  16. 16. One of those small, heartland America places, far away from Hollywood, the White House and Wall Street.
  17. 17. The city is dressed up in many colours during the annual South Carolina flower festival.
  18. 18. Guess who sponsored this one?
  19. 19. Fuji moved to Greenwood in 1988-89 and this became the US headquarter for the firm.
  20. 20. Entering the United States was a big step for Fuji since this was the homeground of its main rival…
  21. 21. Kodak…
  22. 22. Before entering ‘Kodak land’, Fuji had expanded in Europe and Asia.
  23. 23. This was the last resort for Kodak in the bloody price war back in the 1980s and 90s.
  24. 24. Fuji had been on the rise for some decades.
  25. 25. Kodak used to be more or less alone as a global, strong player in the film business.
  26. 26. Fuji was the only true challenger…
  27. 27. … With aggressive price policies, clever marketing and good products, Fuji entered market after market.
  28. 28. … And forced Kodak to fire thousands of employees.
  29. 29. If Kodak was the Ford of the camera industry which popularized photography and made it affordable for everyone…
  30. 30. … Then Fuji can be thought of as the Toyota or Honda of the camera industry…
  31. 31. … Initially they competed on lower labour costs, but emerged as a serious threat through operational excellence and lower prices.
  32. 32. The Greenwood site expanded and employed more people.
  33. 33. In 1996, new manufacturing sites were built:
  34. 34. quot;The success of our four existing Greenwood factories has enabled us to add Fujifilm's primary product, color 35mm film, to the growing list of goods produced by Fujifilm Greenwood's excellent Associates…
  35. 35. … The growth of the Greenwood complex is unparalleled in Fujifilm's history and is due not only to our increasing presence in the U.S. market, but also to South Carolina's superior business environment.quot; //Akira quot;Mikequot; Kumai, President of Fujifilm's South Carolina operations
  36. 36. quot;We are very proud to announce the opening of this new facility for packaging our Fujicolor 35mm film.quot; // Osamu quot;Samquot; Inoue
  37. 37. Those were happy days, for Greenwood and Fuji.
  38. 38. But at the same time, a threat to the entire film business started to emerge…
  39. 39. … Digital Imaging.
  40. 40. In 1981, the camera industry was shaken when SONY launched their Mavica, a camera that used floppy discs instead of film.
  41. 41. In Japan it was referred to as ’the Mavica shock’. This event put digital imaging on the roadmap.
  42. 42. Many companies invested in and launched their own ’Mavicas’ during the 1980s.
  43. 43. Should a company like Fuji then enter this market and cannibalize on its film business?
  44. 44. Well, if they won’t then someone else would capture the market since many companies invested in digital imaging already in the 1980s.
  45. 45. So Fuji entered and came up with a Mavica style camera came up with something similar in 1988.
  46. 46. The “DS-1P” was the world's first digital camera with removable media.
  47. 47. But that did not imply any revenues. In fact, none of the Mavica style cameras lead to any commercial success.
  48. 48. The Mavica was simply not the way forward to digital imaging.
  49. 49. But Fuji had learnt a lot about digital imaging by entering at this point.
  50. 50. A lot of internal development had been done and with this competence, it became much easier to follow the advances in the field.
  51. 51. Advances were made in the area of digital imaging, but Fuji was not part of the coming applications of digital imaging.
  52. 52. One of the first digital cameras was a Kodak/Nikon product, launched in 1991.
  53. 53. Digital backs were developed for high-end professional cameras.
  54. 54. In 1994, Apple launched the QuickTake camera.
  55. 55. After 1988 and through the early 1990s, Fuji was not very active in the area of digital photography.
  56. 56. The company developed various digital imaging services but stayed away from the cameras…
  57. 57. It was still not obvious what a consumer friendly and cheap digital camera should look like, so Fuji waited and kept itself updated.
  58. 58. And besides, the price war against Kodak required a lot of resources.
  59. 59. All this changed in 1995…
  60. 60. … When Casio launched the QV10.
  61. 61. This is a landmark event in the history of digital imaging.
  62. 62. It had an image quality of 0,25 Megapixels and required 4 AA batteries.
  63. 63. Not the greatest gadget mankind has invented.
  64. 64. But the concept of having a LCD screen and this design turned out to be very attractive.
  65. 65. The Japanese camera firms now realized that this was the way forward to a mass market for digital imaging and started to invest heavily.
  66. 66. Fuji and the others worked jointly in an industry association to solve critical technical issues.
  67. 67. Moreover, they made sure that the structure was modular, so that each individual component could be improved separately.
  68. 68. Instead of fighting battles about standards, each company could instead focus on the product and reducing R&D costs. This created a healthy competition - each one differentiated within the defined settings.
  69. 69. The modular, standardized structure also implied that consumer electronics companies could work on each component.
  70. 70. Memory cards…
  71. 71. Image sensors…
  72. 72. LCD screens…
  73. 73. Each component was now subject to rapid improvement.
  74. 74. From 1996 and on, Fuji kept launching better and cheaper compact cameras all the time under the ‘Finepix’ brand.
  75. 75. During the years up until 2000 film sales actually increased. 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
  76. 76. So it must have been tempting to go for film and avoid cannibalizing on it, especially bearing in mind how big and bulky the digital cameras were at this point.
  77. 77. But Fuji chose instead to go further into digital imaging. In 1999 they launched a series of what they refer to as Super CCD sensors.
  78. 78. Many of the Japanese camera firms like Nikon and Olympus just bought those components from firms like Sanyo.
  79. 79. But Fuji chose instead to develop their own image sensors. New generations of those CCDs were now launched at a furious pace.
  80. 80. This big guy, the FinePix 4700, was launched in 2000. It had 4,3 Mpixels and 3X Zoom.
  81. 81. Look at the charger! Back then those products consumed quite a lot of energy and had poor batteris.
  82. 82. Indeed a bulky product - but the cameras became smaller, cheaper and better very rapidly.
  83. 83. New models became old within only a year since better ones were introduced at such a pace.
  84. 84. Unlike the others, Fuji kept investing in their own CCDs. They bought the manufacturing plant of Tohoku Semiconductor Corporation in July 2003 and started production in 2004.
  85. 85. The market for compact cameras started to decline already around 2005 after having grown about 50 percent annually for many years.
  86. 86. Who needs 12 Megapixels anyway?
  87. 87. Around this point, digital cameras and mobile phones started to converge…
  88. 88. Since Fuji produced image sensors and other components, they could sell those to Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung, thereby turning the threat into an opportunity.
  89. 89. In addition to this, Fuji started to develop more advanced models, focusing on other attributes such as optics.
  90. 90. Fuji also started to manufacture Digital SLR cameras for professional photographers and ’prosumers’.
  91. 91. Though this market was also highly competitive, it kept growing and being here seemed better than the fading compact camera segment.
  92. 92. Fuji also built a business around printing digital photos:
  93. 93. So this means that Fuji did fine and prospered?
  94. 94. Wait a minute…
  95. 95. Remember? 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
  96. 96. While Fuji climbed the new mountain, its film business was collapsing from 2000 and on. 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
  97. 97. Back in Greenwood, Fuji had to lay off people in 2006, for the first time ever.
  98. 98. The coating and film facilities for 35mm film were closed and 200 people had to leave Fuji.
  99. 99. After these layoffs about 1000 employees were still working at the Fuji plant.
  100. 100. The decline in film was inevitable.
  101. 101. Many other towns like Greenwood suffered from the death of film.
  102. 102. In March 2008, Fuji stated that the decline in film forced the firm to close two more film processing plants.
  103. 103. The site in Crawfordsville, Indiana, lost 105 jobs.
  104. 104. These kind of layoffs can be particularly hard to cope with for smaller towns…
  105. 105. quot;Several people are struggling with the closingsquot; //David Long, Crawfordsville chamber of commerce
  106. 106. Many other Fuji sites throughout the world have been closed over the last years.
  107. 107. A look at Fuji’s annual reports gives the impression that the growth in digital imaging did not entirely match the company’s decline in film.
  108. 108. Below, you can see the revenues and operatin income for Fuji’s ’imaging solutions’ business, which includes both film and digital photography (in billions of Yen). Revenue Operating income 2002 746,6 48,7 2003 831 56,7 2004 815,5 43,5 2005 743 -7,1 2006 689,4 -75,7 2007 605,4 -42,6 2008 547,1 -2,4
  109. 109. Fuji has been through some tough times.
  110. 110. The CEO, Mr. Shigetaka Komori made the following statements in 2005:
  111. 111. ”Over a two-year period beginning in 2005, we poured approximately 200 billion Yen into carrying out bold, worldwide structural reforms targeting the Imaging Solutions segment.”
  112. 112. ”While thouroughly enjoying a sharp performance improvement with a sense of pride, we cannot at all loosen the reins on our reform and transformation efforts.”
  113. 113. ”In conclusion, I would like to thank or stakeholders for their steadfast support and understanding as we strive to achieve our goals.”
  114. 114. ”Noteworthy examples of our progress include the expanded marketing of digital cameras that incorporate our new technologies to create superior image quality.”
  115. 115. One gets the impression that this transformation has been tough, both financially and emotionally.
  116. 116. Film had been the flagship of Fuji since it was founded in 1934 and it had now gone down to less than 3 percent.
  117. 117. As film declined and the market for digital cameras became increasingly saturated, Fuji chose to move further into medical imaging.
  118. 118. Once again, Fuji decided to expand in Greenwood.
  119. 119. “Fuji Photo Film, Inc. announced today that its Medical Products Division in Greenwood has begun totally-integrated manufacturing of the newest generation of dry medical imaging film for the North American market.”
  120. 120. “Additionally, the company announced a $100 million expansion of the PS Plate factory to expand production of Computer-to- Plate (CTP) printing plates for the graphic arts industry.”
  121. 121. Fuji representative Mr. Watanabe stated: “The production of digital dry imaging film in Greenwood gives Fujifilm the opportunity to provide the North American medical community with the world's newest and best medical imaging products from right here in South Carolina…
  122. 122. … Use of digital CTP printing plates in the U.S. and Canada has grown ten-fold in the past four years and now accounts for over 50% of the market because they substantially increase our customers' efficiency and productivity. This expansion will allow us to expand CTP production to meet the growing needs of our North American customers.quot;
  123. 123. And needless to say, Greenwood and South Carolina were very happy about this:
  124. 124. Governor Mark Sanford: quot;We're very pleased to see one of our leading corporate citizens continue to bring new products and new expansions to our statequot;
  125. 125. quot;Fujifilm's $1.4 billion investment is definitely a nice shot in the arm for our economy as well as a great example of what's to come if we continue our focus on quality of life and improving our state's underlying business climate.quot;
  126. 126. Summing up, it seems that both Fuji and Greenwood survived the digital imaging revolution.
  127. 127. Many learnings emerge from this story, both about how to handle a technological shift and how societies can harness the forces of globalization.
  128. 128. Starting with Fuji…
  129. 129. While entering digital imaging at an early point, Fuji decided to wait with the big investments until the Casio QV-10 camera defined the core elements.
  130. 130. After this, Fuji invested aggressively in digital imaging and built up their own competence in CCDs. This enabled the company to be at the forefront, which is necessary once a ’pixel war’ breaks out.
  131. 131. Producing components also implied that the shift to mobile cameras became an opportunity rather than a threat.
  132. 132. And once the pixel war was over, Fuji started to focus on other performance attributes like optics.
  133. 133. Entering the emerging prosumer segment was also a way to leave the over-populated and maturing compact camera segment.
  134. 134. In addition to this, Fuji showed a willingness to cannibalize on its film business. This is absolutely necessary – if Fuji hadn’t done it, someone else would have…
  135. 135. The diversification efforts related to medical imaging also implied that the company could survive the decline in film.
  136. 136. Today, the ‘Imaging Solutions’ business accounts for around 20 percent of Fuji’s revenues.
  137. 137. Let’s go back to Greenwood one last time…
  138. 138. The town was also hit by the death of film.
  139. 139. Many jobs were destroyed.
  140. 140. But new ones were created, and Greenwood managed to attract those.
  141. 141. A global company like Fuji can choose to locate new facilities anywhere in the world.
  142. 142. And they chose Greenwood.
  143. 143. This illustrates that the winning societies of today are the ones which maintain good relations to their corporate citizens and provide an attractive environment for business.
  144. 144. Greenwood has done so.
  145. 145. So the Fuji-Greenwood partnership lives on, even after the shift to digital imaging.
  146. 146. Image attributions
  147. 147. Sources Annual Reports, 2002-2008
  148. 148. Sources Wikipedia I’ve realized that everyone refers to books, but no one reads them. Wikipedia is the opposite, everyone reads it, but no one refers to it. So I thought I’d start doing so…
  149. 149. Christian Sandström is a PhD student at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He writes and speaks about disruptive innovation and technological change.