“We started without adequate capital or machinery in a less-than-impressive building,” writes Kazuo Inamori in a handbook for workers at Kyocera, the company he founded as Kyoto Ceramic in 1959. “So, I decided to manage this company using human minds as a basis."
Dr Inamori’s Kyocera Philosophy “places the principle of ‘doing what is right as a human being’ and human bonds at the foundation of its management,” explains Hironori Ando, the president of Kyocera Document Solutions, which joined Kyocera following an acquisition in 2000 and now accounts for around 20% of group sales. “Respecting human relationships through the human touch is at the base of our business,” he says.
More than 20 million printed copies of books authored and co-authored by Dr Inamori on his management philosophy have been distributed worldwide. Today, with more than 78,000 employees around the globe, Kyocera’s global operations include a diverse range of businesses, operating in sectors from advanced materials to components, devices, equipment, networks and services.
Although many organisations reported improved productivity when they transitioned to working from home (WFH) during the covid-19 crisis, research has also linked remote work to increased isolation and stress, with one source of strain being the pressure to be “always on”. In dealing with these issues, Kyocera’s human-centred philosophy has proved an asset. For example, when Kyocera Document Solutions was moving to remote work in 2020, it distributed a short guide providing staff and customers with tips for setting up their workspaces, maintaining physical and mental health, and communicating effectively in video meetings and via instant messaging.
In the pre-pandemic environment, when working from the office was the default, Kyocera placed an emphasis on including the whole team in regular communication. “One of Kyocera’s customs is to always get together in each team at the start of work in the morning and share the tasks and issues of the day,” says Mr Ando. Now, with remote and hybrid work the norm, Kyocera has simply moved these valued traditions online. “Even when working from home, we continue this custom of the team meeting through a web conference. In this way, we keep up the corporate culture that helps us work together.”
The focus on the human touch has helped Kyocera Document Solutions ride an accelerating trend towards remote work that was already set to define the future workplace. “Even before the spread of covid-19, companies had been trying to create more flexible working styles,” says Mr Ando. Nearly a year before the pandemic disrupted businesses, the International Workplace Group noted that more than half of workers globally were away from their office headquarters for at least two-and-a-half days per week, and 85% of respondents to a survey it carried out said greater flexibility had increased their business’s productivity.
As a provider of printers and MFPs (multifunctional printers), as well as Content Services (also known as ECM) and content services platform (CSP) solutions, Kyocera had been helping organisations increase the level of flexibility they offer employees even before the pandemic hit. Now, with WFH or a hybrid approach becoming the norm in many countries, there is an increased focus on how to maintain and improve working styles and productivity. “The sudden shift to WFH due to the pandemic has given many people the chance to realise they can work remotely as long as the working environment is properly managed,” says Mr Ando. “It has given us the opportunity to reconsider the future of the workplace.”
Understanding what that future workplace will look like is an urgent requirement for Kyocera Document Solutions. Operating in more than 140 countries, the company has had to adapt to being unable to conduct face-to-face meetings with customers and branches overseas. To explore new ways to enable interactions with staff and customers, Kyocera Document Solutions created a reconfigurable studio and event space at its headquarters in Japan. Knowledge Place Osaka can be used for live streaming demonstrations, holding meetings with partners, product and service launches or sharing customers’ experiences of success. “Virtual communication will become more important in the new normal,” says Mr Ando. “With the keyword ‘flexibility’, we plan to use this as a site to connect with customers and partners globally, sharing information and knowledge.”
85% of respondents said greater flexibility increased business productivity
“Putting knowledge to work” is a central tenet of Kyocera Document Solutions. In practice this means transitioning from selling equipment to providing solutions. For example, the firm’s products, including its scanning-capable MFPs, have contributed to the digitisation of information and workflows that has made working from home possible. “As the amount of document information has increased dramatically,” says Mr Ando, “we have aimed to transform ourselves into a partner that helps customers ‘put knowledge to work’.” That has entailed a greater focus on ECM and CSP, which enables the management of data and documents across an entire organisation, and the automation of document-based workflows.
To fully appreciate the value of managing an enterprise’s content, it is useful to distinguish between information and knowledge. “Information is scattered in a variety of formats, including text, images, video and audio,” says Mr Ando. “We can transform information into ‘knowledge’ and put it to work by understanding what the information signifies and using it for taking action or making decisions.” Drawing on its own range of hardware and software, as well as third-party technologies, Kyocera Document Solutions works with clients to implement tailored solutions that make that information actionable. “We make it easier to access information, process it through workflows and learn from it, with the aim of contributing to the growth of their businesses,” says Mr Ando.
The focus on solutions has prepared Kyocera to help customers adapt to new ways of working amid the covid-19 pandemic, when collaboration has proven difficult for many. In a 2021 survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 32.6% of executives reported that their organisation had experienced decreased productivity when forced to adopt remote work. Of those, 70.6% cited difficulty in remote collaboration as a cause of that decrease. “ECM and CSP can support collaboration among employees working in different locations,” says Mr Ando, “so we have focused on these solutions to help achieve hybrid and smarter workplaces as customers were forced to work from home.”
While grappling with the shift to remote work along with its clients, Kyocera has found MFPs and printers that suit home and satellite offices valuable tools, along with cloud-based printing and scanning solutions. “As a solution partner that understands customer pains and works closely with them to support their business,” says Mr Ando, “we aim to support each member of the organisation regardless of where they work, to change information into knowledge and put that knowledge to work wherever they are.”