Epson Innovation Center in Hirooka, Japan.
“April is the cruelest month, raising lilacs from the dead land.” The famous beginning of The wasteland, by the poet TS Eliot, is printed backwards at Epson. April was a time of affection for the multinational Japanese printing company. In that month of 2020 Yasunori Ogawa, who has been with the company for about 32 years, was appointed world president, and last April Yoshiro Nagafusa reached the position of European president. And the land will never be barren. Epson means “the son of the electronic printer.” In English, electronic printer are.
And the offspring grow, they get older, they become independent and they think about the future. One of the largest printer manufacturers in the world has set its sights on 2050. That year its carbon emissions will be zero and it will not depend on metals or oil. A green revolution based on the circular economy. This creek path, which grows slowly, like a bonsai, has a budget of 100 billion yen (753 million euros) until 2030 to go through the path. Before, when the calendar discounted 2023, all electricity will come from renewable sources. “It is a new vision, which seeks the circular economy, improve the quality of life of workers and reduce the environmental impact,” summarizes, by videoconference, Yasunori Ogawa, who is also CEO of Epson. He speaks in Japanese and an executive translates the words into English. And from there they travel to Spanish. So his sentences are short and clear: “The pandemic has had a negative impact. The priority was the health of the workers. But we knew how to turn the situation around. Working from home had a very positive impact on the home printing business, ”he details. “In addition, as we have ink suppliers in different countries, we were able to ensure its distribution.”
The dynamics had to be changed. Most of the factories are located in South Asia and Japan and, until the health crisis, they sent engineers from other Japanese plants to improve processes, create new products. Without being able to travel, it was necessary to develop a digital communication structure. “We had to radically change the way we operate. The contact with customers, employees and suppliers was online ”, recalls Yasunori Ogawa. TS Eliot’s verse continues like this: “Mixing memory and desire, stirring murky roots with spring rain.” They continued to do that, paying for their growth: “Despite covid-19, we are committed to innovation, digitization and sustainability,” says the head of Epson.
But in times of virus, growing requires reducing expenses. In Europe it means firing people. In Japan it translates into seeing the rings of the poplars grow from the other side of the road. “What we did was improve the design processes, which increased productivity,” says Ogawa. “And logically, transport costs also fell.” Something similar to folding sheets of paper. Find the precise angle. In fact, they have created a system (Dry Fiber) for recycling paper that transforms used into new. Meanwhile, in the business division, in some lines, growth exceeded 40% compared to the previous year. In addition, digital textile experienced its particular gold embroidery from mid-2020, both with solutions aimed at large producers and SMEs. And the water flow is protected, just like a solid sky. “Our textile printers reduce more than 90% of their consumption compared to traditional ones and save 30% of energy”, explains Epson in a note.
Yasumori Ogawa, CEO of Epson.
There is something in Japanese culture that mixes slowness and speed. Before the interview, there is an extensive presentation of that green movement. Printed more in figures than in words. It is a quick way to solidify the message. Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 8.56% per employee, the company has saved 1.1 million tons of plastic (it is developing one from biomass in Japan), the heat-free technology of injection of ink, they say, reduces energy consumption by 83% compared to laser printers and reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
This is the new company. So new that Yoshiro Nagafusa was appointed in April. His speech is a printed line; a headline: “Our goal is to facilitate people’s lives and business growth,” he defends. “There is a great demand for our products both from companies, home (especially projectors and home entertainment) and industrial. Of course, what we have to pay attention to is management costs ”. However, the sequence of points is the same. “Everything under sustainable and environmental growth, and, in case you ask, Spain and Portugal are a priority for us,” he says.
The world rotates and seems to be doing it in favor of the company. “Society is highly decentralized, both in offices and factories, and this favors Epson’s products, which will be increasingly valued. It is something that has driven the coronavirus crisis ”, anticipates Yasunori Ogawa. And he adds: “All our articles are based on safe technologies.” Although there are some inertias that still resist a society like the Japanese, even, perhaps, more than the European. The presence of women in senior management positions on the board. They are missing from Epson. Nagafusa wants to change this absence, which he sincerely acknowledges. Some things start to be different. With the new European president, the marketing and communication departments, as well as the human resources department, both led by female executives, went on to report directly to the presidency. They are still second levels and are the “expected” charges. $ 753 million can be spent to move the organization to a green future by 2030. But, remembering the verses of TS Eliot, without the women, only “hollow men” remain.
A giant of 8,000 million
In life there is always a before. Before a kiss, a caress; before a farewell, a sadness. At Epson, its president and CEO, Yasunori Ogawa, before the interview, digitally shows some images that show that sustainability can be “monetized”. Econometrics is provided by the consultancy IDC Report. It gives it 9 points out of 10. “When the industry average is 5, based on April data,” says the executive. They are the “small” numbers of a giant: its turnover is around 8,000 million euros, it employs more than 79,000 workers and 82 delegations are distributed throughout the world. The head office finds its land in Japan.