28 April 2019 Business

Ricoh lays out ambitions for packaging and textile printing

The Japanese technology company has told investors of plans for huge growth in industrial inkjet operations.

Ricoh is planning a huge expansion in the scope of its print operations, with an emphasis on what it terms industrial print, namely textiles and packaging.

The company is “poised to undertake extensive forward investments” to enter the label, flexible packaging and other packaging fields with a presence in flexible packaging within three years.

The plans were outlined at Ricoh’s 2019 investor day where Tetsuya Morita, general manager of the Industrial Printing business group outlined plans to increase sales for the group to ¥80 billion in the 2022 financial year.

Ricoh already has a stake in textile printing with four direct to garment printers on the market, but it wants more of this expanding sector. Morita’s presentation pointed out that digital printing is gaining ground because it is inherently less environmentally damaging than analogue methods of textile printing. Textiles are reckoned to be responsible for 20% of industrial use water pollution, 5% of all landfill and 10% of industrial carbon emissions. This is pushing textile producers to switch to digital printing.

He described the company’s micro factory concept, where orders for garments and payments are taken through the internet, triggering automated digital printing, cutting, sewing, inspection and dispatch. It reduces over production and the number of returns. This will bring in ¥10 billion by 2022 Morita says,

There are plans for a new 3D printer and to expand collaborations using Ricoh technology in digital embroidery where Ricoh inkjet print heads apply colour to a white thread at the point of stitching, in printing wallpapers and flooring.

The current Gen5 print head is already responsible for 45% of wide format graphics printing in China. Now the Gen6 head is coming to market offering a higher flow rate, improved impact accuracy and able to print UV, solvent and aqueous inks. It is at the heart of the Pro VC70000 flagship continuous feed press. There is potential for ¥8 billion in sales from a single-pass thin film print head.

The Pro VC70000 is considered the machine capable of accelerating the transition for offset printing to digital according to Sergio Kato, general manager of the Commercial Printing group. Kato and Morita have taken over from Peter Williams, global head of the Commercial and Industrial Printing group, who has retired.

Kato is running a group where there is a need to protect the core business, an opportunity for growth in print of demand applications and the challenge of driving the offset to digital transitions that consultants have predicted is here for many years. During his presentation to analysts and shareholders, Kato declared that “Ricoh’s and rival offerings to date have failed to sufficiently satisfy strong demand for print quality and productivity” let alone meet rising expectations that digital printing can deliver high value add applications.

As with the plan to attack the packaging market, this will require Ricoh to “undertake extensive forward investments” and to deliver software and service models for commercial printers, expanding non hardwire revenues.

The impact will be a growth in revenue in the group from a forecast of ¥186 billion sales in the 2018 financial year to ¥225 billion and an operating profit of ¥35 billion by 2022 at the end of its five year transition plan.

Currently the company is completing the second year of the Ignite phase of its transition ahead of the Take Off phase beginning in 2020. By the end, Ricoh Ricoh have doubled operating profit from ¥98.8 billion now to ¥185 billion.

The opportunity comes says president and CEO Yoshinori Yamashita from across office, the printing operations and in healthcare where Ricoh is behind scanners and the use of inkjet technology of the deposition of cells, and using its technology for environmental management applications.

By Gareth Ward

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Ricoh will enter the flexible packaging market within three years investors in the Japanese company have been told. There will also be a stronger presence in textile printing as well as commercial print supported by developments in inkjet heads.

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