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01-19-2022, 06:39 PM - 5 Likes   #1
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Ricoh/Pentax new strategy: Shift to e-Commerce and "studio-style" manufacturing

An interesting announcement has appeared on the RICOH IMAGING website today, which outlines a shift in their marketing strategy towards digital. To be honest, this is likely to be a bigger deal in Japan, where Ricoh still has some retail presence. I think Ricoh's absence at CP+ might be part of this.

Here it is in Japanese. I'm not sure if an English version will follow.
??????????????????? ???????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????RICOH IMAGING

I'm posting an online translation here, using DeepL. I think there will still be plenty of scope for disagreement about what it means!

---------------

Ricoh Imaging Corporation (President and CEO: Noboru Akahane) is pleased to announce that it will renew the manufacturing and sales structure of its digital camera business in Japan on April 1, 2022. We will establish a new business structure to further enhance the value of the two brands, PENTAX and GR, and to further sharpen and deepen the appeal of the two brands through direct connections with customers using "digital" methods and "studio-style" manufacturing.

Message from Noboru Akahane, President and Representative Director
Up until now, we have conducted our business while sensing the strong feelings of our customers toward the PENTAX and GR brands. While we would like to respond to their wishes as much as possible, we feel that the conventional way of doing business, which is based on mass production and mass sales, is becoming unfriendly to the recent changes in the market environment.
However, the activities of people taking pictures, sharing them and enjoying them are rather unstoppable. We will continue to respond to the diversified needs of our customers and challenge new paths together with them.
Ricoh Imaging will take on "two challenges".

(1) To be close to our customers by making full use of "digital" methods.
(2) Realize "studio-like" manufacturing
Going beyond the conventional wisdom, we believe in our customers' strong desire for both PENTAX and GR brands, and we will develop as a manufacturer that works together and creates together.



<Specific initiatives for the "Two Challenges

1. Strengthen relationships with customers using "digital" methods and "studio-style" manufacturing
(Deliver what you want to the people who want it. Enhance user communication.)

We will further strengthen online and offline contact points between Ricoh Imaging and its customers, and build a co-creation community where each customer is connected and mutual communication is activated.
In addition, we will expand opportunities for customers throughout Japan to experience a wide range of PENTAX/GR cameras and products.

The PENTAX brand
PENTAX has gained the support of customers mainly through its SLR cameras. PENTAX has been gaining support from customers mainly through its SLR cameras, and we will expand the range of customization to further reflect customers' requests and provide studio value. We will also build a system that allows us to work together with our customers from the product planning stage through communication via online fan meetings.

GR Brand
GR is committed to the concept of "the most powerful snapshot shooter" and pursues the universal value of snapshots. The GR brand will pursue the universal value of snapshots by focusing on the concept of "the most powerful snapshot shooter. In order to connect directly with customers and create a snapshot culture, we will focus on activating fan communities through social media and interaction through offline events to strengthen two-way relationships.

2. Shift to "digital" sales methods and "studio-style" production
(Strengthen Ricoh Imaging Stores, open directly managed malls in major marketplaces)

We will shift from a sales method mainly based on a distribution network via dealers to sales via the Internet to improve the efficiency of business operations. In addition to our own direct EC sales sites, we will open directly managed malls in major marketplaces to expand opportunities and venues for direct connection between Ricoh Imaging and customers.
In addition, by utilizing digital sales methods, we will be able to understand market demand in more detail and achieve optimal production that differs from the conventional model of mass production and mass sales. At the same time, through direct contact with customers, we will reflect their voices in our manufacturing more than ever before, aiming to provide products that are more attractive to customers.

Strengthening the Ricoh Imaging Store (direct EC sales site)
As the brand value of PENTAX and GR deepens, we will enhance the independent content of each site and use it as a place for interactive communication with customers.

Opening directly managed malls in major marketplaces
We will open directly managed malls for both Pentax and GR in major marketplaces on the Internet. By doing so, we will increase the number of points of contact with customers and expand opportunities for customer purchases and communication.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)


Last edited by JPT; 01-19-2022 at 08:50 PM. Reason: Changed title for clarity
01-19-2022, 06:48 PM - 15 Likes   #2
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This reads like it is straight from the Department of Redundancy Department.
01-19-2022, 06:58 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
This reads like it is straight from the Department of Redundancy Department.
OK. But you have to remember it is a Japanese announcement, and communication style is different. Also, you are reading it through a translator, so there is that to contend with as well.
01-19-2022, 07:20 PM - 3 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
OK. But you have to remember it is a Japanese announcement, and communication style is different. Also, you are reading it through a translator, so there is that to contend with as well.
Oh, I understand. I didn't mean it as a criticism of R-I, just amusement.

I'm curious about what "studio style manufacturing" means. Is that some sort of variation of "just in time" manufacturing?

01-19-2022, 07:22 PM - 5 Likes   #5
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Well, during the Pentax 100 year celebratory media posts, they did state that they were going to be doing more support based services. They didn't specify what type of support, but from how this reads, it seems that building customer relationships is what they were talking about. Getting the customer involved from the planning stage and up is still a form of support(ing) the customer through interactions and getting them involved directly with the products. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out though.

---------- Post added 01-19-22 at 09:25 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
Oh, I understand. I didn't mean it as a criticism of R-I, just amusement.

I'm curious about what "studio style manufacturing" means. Is that some sort of variation of "just in time" manufacturing?
I think studio style manufacturing is build per order. Not really just in time, but a slot between JIT and Mass production. Only build what you need from the orders that came in. Most likely with next products, it'll be based on only pre-orders and there may actually be no more Pentax in stores at all, period.
01-19-2022, 07:43 PM - 5 Likes   #6
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Well, this is sounding confusing & like they're heading towards a more expensive direction. I guess we'll see what happens on April Fool's Day.
01-19-2022, 07:47 PM - 7 Likes   #7
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My image of "studio" manufacturing is more like a computer build to order page, where you order direct from the manufacturer, but you get to choose options. At the light end of the scale, it would be just cosmetic changes. But at the ambitious end of the scale, it could be things like the sensor, the buffer size, even a fixed or tilt screen. It's interesting to see what they would offer, but the six options for customizing the K-3 III they recently talked about gives a hint, I think.

01-19-2022, 09:02 PM - 7 Likes   #8
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I just looked at the original Japanese in more detail, and I think the "studio-style" phrase is probably better translated as "workshop-like manufacturing", which means not using mass production techniques and making things in a smaller-scale way, but with more care.

In a sense, this sounds like the way Pentax has been making Limited Lenses for years, and the way they make the J-Limited models. It does seem to imply they might need a different kind of manufacturing facility, with differently skilled workers. Also that they might be able to customize products more easily.

I guess it could mean costs increase, but it's interesting that there has been a significant price cut on their 70-200/2.8 lens in the last few days, which has got a bit of attention. I don't think they are about to go full Leica on us.
01-19-2022, 11:01 PM - 9 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
probably better translated as "workshop-like manufacturing", which means not using mass production techniques and making things in a smaller-scale way, but with more care.
In a Nutshell: Going the way of Leica
01-19-2022, 11:03 PM - 1 Like   #10
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"Studio style manufacturing" is typically considered "small batch, fast turn-around" manufacturing. That seems to fit in with the concept of "workshop manufacturing."

Maybe rather than producing a large run of items and storing them for sale, they'll produce monthly or semi-annually. For example, based on orders which have arrived over the last 4-6 weeks or some similar metric? It would mean they have a set of plans and specs on the shelf at manufacturing plants (theirs or contracted out), to be pulled off and produced in a small run at short notice.

It will be interesting to see how this is actually implemented, but seems to fit in with their recent pricing schemes. The newest body and lenses are priced somewhat above mass-produced levels, it seems.
01-19-2022, 11:55 PM - 3 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by luftfluss Quote
I'm curious about what "studio style manufacturing" means. Is that some sort of variation of "just in time" manufacturing?
I think it means we'll be ordering new gear via GoFundMe

I'm only partly joking... If they mean what I think they mean, it's "on-demand manufacturing" - which could be implemented a number of different ways, such as smaller production runs on a more frequent basis, to fulfilling only pre-committed orders. Either way, it avoids having a lot of unsold stock in their warehouses, with distributors, and with mail order firms / retail partners.

So, yes - I think you're probably right... it's a variation on JIT manufacturing...

Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-20-2022 at 12:05 AM.
01-20-2022, 12:07 AM - 1 Like   #12
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The really interesting points are the direct sales strategy (which I read as ditching the sales distribution network) and the use of “fan” online meetings to determine product requirements. Direct sales isn’t the Leica model, as far as I’m aware, unless they’re talking about some factory-owned boutique stores (I can only recall seeing one, in Sydney’s premium inner-city Queen Victoria Building). Apple does that, too, but they use licensed dealers in places where they can’t make it work.

Direct sales would presumably reduce prices accordingly.

I presume they would still appoint repairers in all major markets (or would they?), but I don’t know if technical services alone would be attractive to existing firms who have a stake in both sales and service.

Maybe we’ll get listened to from here. Maybe it’ll just be Japanese “fans”. Much more information needed.

PS: On re-reading, the opening (translated) paragraphs say “in Japan”, so perhaps the international market arrangements will stay.
01-20-2022, 12:09 AM - 5 Likes   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
I just looked at the original Japanese in more detail, and I think the "studio-style" phrase is probably better translated as "workshop-like manufacturing", which means not using mass production techniques and making things in a smaller-scale way, but with more care.

In a sense, this sounds like the way Pentax has been making Limited Lenses for years, and the way they make the J-Limited models. It does seem to imply they might need a different kind of manufacturing facility, with differently skilled workers. Also that they might be able to customize products more easily.
I can remember how the computer industry changed when Dell came along and implemented a 'build to order' model. It upended the PC business, and has proved to be successful business model.

It will be interesting to observe how Ricoh implement this, and whether they offer a differentiated 'build to order' payment up front type product.
01-20-2022, 12:23 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RobA_Oz Quote
The really interesting points are the direct sales strategy (which I read as ditching the sales distribution network) and the use of “fan” online meetings to determine product requirements. Direct sales isn’t the Leica model, as far as I’m aware, unless they’re talking about some factory-owned boutique stores (I can only recall seeing one, in Sydney’s premium inner-city Queen Victoria Building). Apple does that, too, but they use licensed dealers in places where they can’t make it work.

Direct sales would presumably reduce prices accordingly.

I presume they would still appoint repairers in all major markets (or would they?), but I don’t know if technical services alone would be attractive to existing firms who have a stake in both sales and service.

Maybe we’ll get listened to from here. Maybe it’ll just be Japanese “fans”. Much more information needed.

PS: On re-reading, the opening (translated) paragraphs say “in Japan”, so perhaps the international market arrangements will stay.
You're right, that's potentially a much bigger shift than the manufacturing element... if indeed it were to happen internationally. I can't imagine not being able to order Pentax gear from SRS here in the UK...
01-20-2022, 12:23 AM - 1 Like   #15
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It does sound like J-limited did make through and they will be offering customisation for your camera, perhaps not as'wild', but more practical.

Sounds fun.
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