Epson’s ambition and the future
VDI nachrichten interviewed Epson President Minoru Usui, who explained our company strategy through to 2025.
Epson President on ambition and the future: “We’ll need a lot of people.”
Epson will soon be restructured as part of a new medium-term strategy designed to take the company through to 2025. German magazine, VDI nachrichten, sat down with the company’s president, Minoru Usui, to discuss the future. You can find the full text of the interview below:
Mr Usui, Epson has established a new medium-term strategy to take the company through to 2025. You announced a new business unit as part of the plan. What will it be doing?
We will be concentrating on four key areas of innovation, but our main focus will be on creating unique value for our customers.
What do you mean by that?
Take printing technology innovation, for example. Our core technology – Micro Piezo – was developed in-house. We have since developed it further to create our PrecisionCore system. Our plan now is to take a look at all sides of the technology and see how much further we can take it. This does not mean combining it with parts from other manufacturers. We want to use this technology and analyse exactly what the market needs. Then we can develop it into different versions in order to really satisfy the market requirements.
Indeed, we keep a very close eye on global trends. We analyse our customers’ needs and then develop our products one step further, so they can also anticipate these needs in the future.
That is the philosophy on which we are building our company. And it is also the key strength on which we are building our innovation plan.
Which is the core technology that is Epson’s beating heart?
These are our “Sho Sho Sei” technologies: efficient, compact and precise. They are unique to Epson. One example are our inkjet print heads, the core components of our Micro Piezo technology. It is not just the design of the print heads themselves, but also the manufacturing processes and the ways in which we apply them to different markets.
How can Epson contribute to the Internet of Things (IoT)?
We believe that we can contribute to the IoT in many different ways. A large number of products today include sensors. We make electronic components, including sensors, that are very accurate and highly precise, for example for medical applications. Smart technologies will play a critical role in society. We believe that our products will make a significant contribution to fields such as projection technologies and robotics.
Our corporate philosophy is to create unique value for the world we live in. And we will continue to focus on these strengths and in particular on some areas in which we believe we can make a meaningful contribution if we keep on developing. For us, it’s about both the smart technologies that will form the foundations of our society’s infrastructure, and the environment. I believe that we can make a big difference here.
In the end, our company’s objective is to make a positive, meaningful contribution to society. We want to see a sustainable society, and help people to live more happily and enjoy a more prosperous lifestyle using smart technologies.
You mentioned robotics and smart technologies. Where do you see Epson’s future robotics markets?
For the time being, our main area of focus is the manufacturing environment.
Speed and repeat accuracy have always been the main criteria for robots used in industrial automation up to now. How do you think this will change with collaborative robots?
Wherever you find robots, you also find people. We are moving into a time in which robots are beginning to take on roles normally carried out by humans. Robots are becoming increasingly complex, but they are still quite weak when it comes to complex tasks.
We envision a world in which people and robots work together. Robots can take over the hard work such as lifting objects, while people can focus on the more creative roles.
At the moment, robots only do what they are programmed to. We are working on fitting robots with sensors so that they can feel and sense objects more like humans do. We are very close to a solution.
One great example of this problem is inserting a key into a keyhole. People can do it by feel. But for robots, it is fairly difficult. We want robots to be able to manage tasks like this.
At the Automatica trade fair in Munich in 2014, Epson presented a two-armed collaborative robot. How is that project going? Will it be part of Epson’s future in robotics?
We would like to use these robots to assemble our printers. It is a very complex process. The robots have to be able to see individual parts, determine whether they are positioned correctly and adjust them.
At the moment, only people can do this, but we would like to develop the robots in this direction. And even beyond. We want to enable them to apply their knowledge of assembling one printer type to another.
So they would be real “learning” robots?
We would really like to have the robots learn from their experiences and get better and better and better. We believe that this could lead to a variety of applications in other areas. For example in terms of service robots, in shop warehouses or in geriatric care.
What is Epson doing in the field of 3D printing?
Currently, we are focusing on research and development with 3D printers. There are already a variety of technologies and many different 3D printers on the market. We do not want to develop products that are comparable to those from other manufacturers.