Chairman, Ricoh Company
Born: April 28, 1933, in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.
Education: Tokyo University, 1957.
Family: Married; children: three.
Career: Ricoh Company, 1957–1975, various positions; 1975–1983, director; 1983–1996, president; 1996–2003, chairman and chief executive officer; 2003–, chairman.
Awards: Ranju-hosho (the Blue Ribbon Medal), 1991; named an officer of the Légion d'honneur, 1998.
Address: Ricoh Company, 1-15-5, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8544; http://www.ricoh.co.jp.
■ Hiroshi Hamada took the post of director of Ricoh Company, which manufactures and markets electronic equipment, in the mid-1970s. His many innovative ideas contributed to the growth and successful positioning of the company in the worldwide market. He instituted a more global strategy and expanded the company's operations into the United States, Europe, Canada, China, and South Korea, and he developed and refined Ricoh's product line. Coworkers described Hamada as brilliant, kind, and empathetic and credited him with the concept of "Oyakudachi," or "walking in the other person's shoes." He also served as a high-level government adviser and founded a school where urban children can practice farming.
Hamada was born in April 1933 in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. He graduated from the prestigious Tokyo University with a degree in economics, married, and had three children. In 1957 Hamada went to work for Ricoh Company, which manufactures and markets electronic equipment, such as copiers, fax machines, data-processing systems, cameras, and measuring instruments. He became the company's director in 1975, and in 1983 was promoted to president. Under Hamada's direction, Ricoh pursued a more global strategy. Hamada felt that the company should change its practice of conducting new-product research overseas, with a heavy emphasis on the United States, and then transferring operations to Japan for manufacture of the products. He devised a plan for Ricoh to develop more products at home and boost its production capability by manufacturing its goods both domestically and abroad. Ricoh merged its U.S. research-and-development operations (Ricoh Systems) with its production facility (Ricoh Electronics), both of which had reported independently to the parent company in Japan, thus making its operation more responsive to the American economy. The company also established an entity in the United Kingdom in 1983 (Ricoh UK Products), offices in Italy and France (Ricoh Nederlands) in 1984, and an office in Belgium in 1985.
In the mid-1980s Ricoh introduced a local area network called the RINNET System, an electronic whiteboard, an electronic filing system, a color copier, and two minicomputers that were cooperatively developed with AT&T. This led to a 20 percent growth in annual sales from 1982 to 1985. The alliance between Ricoh and AT&T had begun when Ricoh agreed to use AT&T telephones on its fax machines. The partnership was expanded in 1984 when Ricoh was permitted to market AT&T minicomputers in Japan. The two companies established a joint venture in 1985, AT&T Ricoh Company, to manufacture and market modified forms of AT&T's compact phone systems. AT&T gained use of Ricoh's marketing-and-service network in Japan and, in turn, helped Ricoh enter the telecommunications market.
In 1984 Ricoh's plant in Atsugi, Japan, created a production-technology research center and was honored for its factory automation with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Award. Ricoh Finance and Ricoh Research Institute of General Electronics Company were also established. The firm expanded its Fukui factory to include a toner and thermal-paper production facility. Sindo Ricoh Company began production of zoom plain-paper copiers and toner. In the United States construction began on Ricoh Research and Development Center, and a fully automated plant that manufactured thermal paper was opened.
Ricoh Corporation in Canada (formerly Rapifax of Canada) opened a new facility in Ontario in 1985. In 1986 Ricoh founded two marketing companies, a wholly owned subsidiary named Ricoh France and a joint venture with a Spanish company that distributed Ricoh products, Ricoh España. In May 1986 Ricoh UK Products began production, making Ricoh the first Japanese company to produce copiers in the United Kingdom. By 1988 production of fax equipment and supplies had been added. Under Hamada's guidance, Ricoh launched its second manufacturing subsidiary in Europe, Ricoh Industrie France, a producer of office-automation equipment and supplies and plain-paper copiers
In 1987 the company, seeking a foothold in the semiconductor market, purchased the semiconductor division of Panatech Research & Development. In May of that year Ricoh established a semiconductor-design firm in San Jose, California, which broadened its research-and-development endeavors for its semiconductor products. At that time these included a large-scale integrated mechanism called CMOS, which was part of Ricoh's copiers, cameras, and fax machines.
Ricoh maintained its position as the leading manufacturer of plain-paper copiers when, in 1987, it introduced a number of new copiers, including a multifunctional, high-speed desk-top model. In addition, a new product line, called Imagio, was introduced in Japan. It consisted of office-automation equipment that utilized a digital system to produce 20 copies per minute, process images, and function as an electronic filing station input/output center.
Hamada, keen to continue Ricoh's globalization efforts, oversaw the consolidation and reorganization of the company's U.S. subsidiaries. The move was designed to create a North American Ricoh that would gradually take on greater independence across its operations. In 1987 Hamada also unveiled plans to establish another independent European Ricoh, the first step of which was to increase production capacity.
In 1988 Ricoh offered a compact, lightweight 8-mm camcorder to its Japanese and U.S. markets. It also established Ricoh Software Research in California, which would design custom software for database and three-dimensional computer-aided design markets. Also in 1988 Ricoh's domestic sales were exceeded by sales abroad for the first time. Richoh was one of a few companies that made four different types of copiers: the plain-paper copier, the electrofax, the diazo, and the duplicator.
While the high value of the yen in the mid- to late 1980s resulted in decreases in export business for many Japanese companies, Ricoh's overseas sales expanded. This success was attributed to significant gains in fax machine and laser printer sales, as well as the major U.S. market share earned by its two primary office products, fax machines and copiers. Despite an aggressive sales approach, Ricoh's profits declined in 1986 and 1987, in part due to decreased profit margins brought about by the yen's appreciation in value. To counteract this loss, the company planned to maintain increased overseas production. It began manufacturing copiers at a third U.S. factory in the late 1980s. In the 1990s Ricoh expanded its manufacturing operations to plants in China and South Korea. In 1996 Hamada became the company's chairman and chief executive officer.
In 2003 Hamada became the chairman of Ricoh. The firm's operating profit was at record high levels and poised to expand. Its line of optical disks was struggling, but the company was expanding its sales channels from personal computers to other consumer electronics. Its mainline office equipment, led by color copiers and printers, was showing brisk overseas growth. Ricoh was also introducing high-speed color ink-jet printers for office use. As chairman, Hamada was considered a man whose brilliance was tempered by kindness and a deep empathy for others. One of his greatest legacies is the concept of "Oyakudachi," or "walking in the other person's shoes," a guiding principle in Ricoh's approach to customer service and sales since the early 1980s.
After assuming the responsibilities of chairman, Hamada took on a more diplomatic bent. He was active as a high-level government adviser, serving on a number of prestigious committees, including the National Commission on Educational Reform beginning in 2000 and the Council of Labor Policy beginning in 2001, and as adviser to the Japan Business Federation starting in 2003. He had a thorough understanding of economic forces and asserted a need for reform in that area. His deep commitment to education was reflected in the launch of the Ichimura Nature School in 2001. In a rural Tokyo suburb, young urban girls and boys practiced farming through a nine-month cycle from sowing to harvest. Each year requests exceeded available slots.
"Hiroshi Hamada," Forbes.com , http://www.forbes.com/finance/mktguideapps/personinfo/FromPersonIdPersonTearsheet.jhtml?passedPersonId=186062 .
—Amanda de la Garza