Co-creation key to sustainable manufacturing and the world of print

Posted on: 31/07/2023

The state of the print and digital manufacturing industry and ‘needs’ of customers

Despite the ‘Covid hangover’ which somewhat looms over the traditional print sector, the overall recovery of the manufacturing industry has been evident. With an annual output of £183 billion, the UK remains the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, and today, digital manufacturing in the UK continues to grow.

However, the most successful and ‘leading’ businesses are those who have been able to diversify and meet the demands of a developing landscape. This means catering for a broad spectrum of industries, markets and transformative technologies and changing customer needs, and in some cases, an expanding provision of products and services.

In addition to technological advancements enabling efficiencies such as print automation, integrated workflows and AI, a common theme across print and manufacturing markets now and moving forward is the greater need for collaboration. Customers are recognising that the pace of technology and, in some cases, the barriers to entry in certain markets, means they need to learn from or partner with other organisations in order to be successful. Consequently, customers are increasingly looking for partners, not suppliers.

Naturally, with customers demanding increasingly quicker developments and achievements of end-goals, businesses must be able to demonstrate that they possess the right cultures, skills sets, unique competencies and technologies to help move customers forward. But ‘success’ isn’t just a metric of profits and productivity… Today’s customers want solutions which actively contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and have an environmentally-conscious mindset.

In the words of Ricoh Chairman, Jake Yamashita: “Any company that doesn’t contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be ignored by the market and will go out of business. Companies in the future will be evaluated not just by their financial performance, but also their contribution to addressing these social challenges.”

The future of digital manufacturing is reliant on greener technologies and ‘conscious recognition’ of how business activities affect the world we live in, and that of future generations. It is these realisations – at a pivotal time, when we face uncertainties, global warming, cost of living crises and many other challenges, which are accelerating the need for collaboration.

Optimising Today. Influencing Tomorrow.

At its two UK manufacturing bases in Telford and Stirling, Ricoh brings together customers and partners to optimise today’s world of print and influence the digital print applications and services of the future. Through a deep understanding of customer domains and challenges, Ricoh has developed a unique capability, in collaboration with customers and partners, to develop, design and construct end-to-end and fully integrated solutions for the customers of today and tomorrow.  Ricoh recognises that maintaining a leading and competitive position in the industry is reliant upon continual iterations of innovation derived from the being at the frontline of its customers challenges and opportunities. Ricoh focusses its talents and resources upon the creation and dissemination of knowledge, to generate productivity and optimisation in market today whilst drawing on the company’s extensive R&D capacity to develop leading edge solutions for the market of tomorrow.

As a forerunner in the digitisation of workplaces, Ricoh seizes upon the opportunities of an interconnected and ‘ever-awake’ global workplace to quickly identify and respond to opportunities for the co creation of value, directly with customers and through an extensive network of strategic collaborations across industries.  The notion of mutually created value as an engine of transformation prevails throughout Ricoh.

A Ricoh employee reflects upon this innovative ethos stating that “whenever a new technology is born, we will explore it, understand it and realise its value at once.”

Innovation within the industry must be supported by a solid foundation of research and development. As new products and services are brought to market, businesses must monitor and evaluate existing products and services ensuring they remain ‘suited’ to customers’ needs and the world around us. Those companies who thrive in the modern manufacturing landscape must consider sustainability within the core of product and service development, and ‘build’ in a way which minimises environmental impact at every stage of a product’s lifecycle.

Ricoh thrives from being customer-centric. The business welcomes customers and partners with ‘open arms’ and works closely with them via a number of means to really understand problems and ‘pain points’ and collaborate to solve problems together. By inviting our customers and partners to our world class customer experience centres (such as the European CEC based in Telford) and leading business areas, they are fully immersed in Ricoh’s technologies, materials, products, services and solutions. By sharing knowledge and working together, often across multiple business lines and Ricoh Groups, we can optimise today’s world of print – and influence print and digital manufacturing activities of tomorrow. 

Sustainability at the heart

Helping to resolve social issues through business is vital to corporate prosperity.

Long gone are the days of simply stating one’s commitment to sustainability… Sustainability is not a buzzword nor social or political fad but is pivotal to corporate philosophy – and all society. It is a non-negotiable societal goal; Everyone has a role to play in ensuring we have the ability to meet our ‘needs’ without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Sustainability needs to be at the heart of all businesses and individuals, globally.

The Ricoh Group’s mission is to pursue excellence, improving the quality of life and driving sustainability based on the Spirit of Three Loves, a dedication to people, one’s country, and a passion for work that constitute the Founding Principles of Kiyoshi Ichimura, 1946.

At RPL, it is in keeping with those tenets and our embrace of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we are accelerating our drive to help materialise sustainability for societies around the world. For instance, at the Telford site, Ricoh builds the recovery and reuse of toner cartridges directly into its business and manufacturing plans. Every reused cartridge represents a direct carbon saving in terms logistical and manufacturing energy consumption, and completely eradicates the need for virgin material consumption.

Furthermore, innovation drives more sustainable activities. An example of this is digital wallpaper, which facilitates on-demand one role batch size wallpaper manufacture. This innovation belies the huge amount of waste associated with traditional analogue wallpaper manufacture where it is not uncommon for a wallpaper manufacturer to produce a whole season’s worth of wallpaper in one production run, only to see up to upwards of 50% of it wasted as cyclical, seasonal and fashion changes affect the industry.

In RPL’s Additive Manufacturing department, Ricoh 3D, Engineers are combating material wastage through the use of ‘next-generation’ engineering design software, to optimise the design of customers’ and Ricoh’s own products and parts, reducing weight and costs – with recent project examples removing 55% of material from traditional models – without compromising on part strength. Simultaneously, further reducing Ricoh’s and customers’ environmental footprint is achieved by only using materials which fall under the global Ricoh Green Procurement Standard.

Future of the industry

It is important that companies continue to collaborate and form mutually beneficial synergies in order to reimagine their businesses and future opportunities, as well as enabling a sustainable future. Ricoh’s path is to continue to transform itself to a digital services company with a key focus to deliver products and services that will positively contribute to society and the planet. 

Print and manufacturing businesses must recognise the importance of ‘profit as a result of contributions to society, rather than profit as the original intention.’ In addition to co-creating to innovate and overcome customer ‘pain points’, a greater collaboration is required with partners and suppliers both upstream and downstream to better enable the principles of a Circular Economy. Print and digital print manufacturers must continue to embrace the application of ‘Design for Remanufacturing’ principles, including the R&D process and selection of recyclable materials for components. By co-creating with customers and partners, the UK manufacturing industry and further afield will be able to meet even the most stringent requirements which contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Ricoh Company, Ltd. has set a 2050 net zero target for all direct emissions relating to the operation of manufacturing plants including indirect emissions from the consumption of electricity and heat. Ricoh UK Products Ltd (RPL) has set a stretched 2030 target for net zero and has developed a CO2 reduction roadmap that identifies the key investments that will be made to achieve this.

Overall, the extent to which 100% sustainable manufacturing can be achieved at RPL and the wider industry is a complex question and dependent upon many factors. Both internally and externally, many levers need to be pulled to enable total sustainability, and whilst every year we see more opportunity and progress, a commitment to total sustainability within a given time horizon remains a challenge; a challenge however, we are more than willing to undertake… Are you?

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