Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015 Observations - Ricoh, MFPs help “Save the Memory” for Victims of Japanese Disaster

Ricoh, MFPs help “Save the Memory” for Victims of Japanese Disaster
March 2015 Observations

Earlier this March (2015) I received an email about an uplifting story from Japan involving one of our industry leaders, Ricoh, and its efforts to help earthquake and tsunami victims recover their photos lost amidst the horrible disaster that occurred four years ago, on March 11, 2011. The story moved me in several ways, and it also made me proud to be part of the worldwide imaging and printing industry.

In a summary press release - with the full story available on Ricoh’s web site (a work in progress at http://www.ricoh.com/csr/savethememory/) – the company relates how its quest begun in the aftermath of what is now referred to in Japan as the Great East Japan Earthquake (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_T%C5%8Dhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami). The company applauds the volunteers from Ricoh and many other organizations, including governments, NGOs, and other companies (including familiar industry names such as Fujitsu and NEC), who used Ricoh Multi-Function Printers’ (MFPs’) scanning and cloud communications capabilities, in addition to plenty of “elbow grease” in finding, cleaning, organizing and displaying the photos (see below). In the end, after establishing four recovery centers for photo identification and return to their owners, over 400,000 photos have been scanned with almost one-fourth of those claimed, so far. (The recovery portion of the initiative is considered complete.)

A Few Details from the Leader of the “Save the Memory” initiative
Just a few examples of the work involved, and then how the photos were displayed in hopes of being found by their owners

To get this full story of a great humanitarian effort, I encourage readers to explore Ricoh’s dedicated website (as mentioned, a work-in-progress with more content coming in April). It includes many more details as well as images, only a few of which I’ve borrowed for this post. In addition to what is covered there, though, I did have a chance to exchange emails with Mr. Hidenao Ubukata, the Ricoh executive from the Management of Technology Center in Ricoh’s global headquarters, who was the leader of the “Save the Memory” initiative. I have included that email conversation here:

Q1. Can you share more information about where the photos were found, and if there are any especially interesting/poignant locations or situations? 
A1. Due to extensive damage to the buildings and roads caused by the earthquake, there was a lot of debris. As teams began to clear away the rubble, photos that were scattered on the ground were collected by the first responders. Then, those photos were gathered in one location by people from government organizations, private sector NGOs and NPOs, and other volunteers involved in initial recovery support activities. 

Q2. Any accounting for the large disparity in returns - from an average of 22% to a peak of 59% in the one center? 
A2. This project proceeded largely with the help of local government, which enabled a stable and long run of returning photos. In some local governments, it was clear which department we should work with for this project, while in other areas, it was not as clear. The photo center that had the highest return ratio was the one where it was clear which division of local government we should begin working in concert with on this project.  This collaboration enabled returning photos continually over a longer period, and lead to a nearly 60 percent returned ratio.

Q3. Any new numbers? The program has been in place since August 2011, but when were the photos beginning to be returned? And are there still photos begin found? (Is the 418,000 number still growing?) 
A3. We’ve now returned 91,477 photos as of March 25, 2015. Following the launch of this project in August 2011, photos began being returned in September of that same year. As for your second question, there are no more photos being found so the number of photos digitized will remain at 418,721.

Q4. When missing photos are identified are the owners provided with printed versions or digital only? 
A4. Basically, what we returned were the original photos. We also returned digital data to those who asked for it.
People search physically and in the cloud for recovered photos which they may recognize

 My personal recollections

It was Friday, March 2011 when here in the US we got word early in the morning that Japan had experienced a very powerful earthquake and tsunami. The news sounded very grim, and I remember it becoming a bit more personal while during a meeting coffee with a friend a favorite coffee shop, she received a text message from a mutual friend who was in the Narita (Tokyo) airport, planning to fly back to the US but dealing with interrupted air travel. Also making it more personal was the contact I received later in the day from my University’s Public Relations representative, looking for a media contact in the form of an economics professor (me) to speak to local news representatives about the potential financial impact of the disaster. The connection never materialized that afternoon, but as I saw the local news that evening focus on the potential for our local economy to gain as a result of rebuilding across the Pacific in Japan, I felt very ashamed to be part of a society jumping so quickly to economic prospects with not nearly enough attention paid to the human suffering and loss. The shallowness of this short-term, economic-focused view has bothered me ever since.

So when I received the email about Ricoh’s “Save the Memory” program, marking four years since the disaster, I felt a special connection and a need to take a good look at the story and share it with my readers. It goes beyond the headlines of loss of life and property, and takes on, in the words of Ricoh, “conceived to support the recovery of the people’s morale.”

Photo Recovery and… Ricoh Gives More

Beyond the photo recovery project, has been and will continue to help to the area in a variety of ways. I offer, from their March 2015 release, “Ricoh continues to carry out recovery support in the disaster-affected area on other fronts, too. Activities include providing support for hands-on programs at elementary schools and events in Higashi Matsushima via the Ricoh Science Caravan “Try to be a copier machine!” project; helping to rebuild the fishing industry in Minamisanriku (Miyagi prefecture) by getting around 200 new employees involved every year as part of their training; organizing events showcasing produce from the Tohoku region at group company offices; taking part in the Japan Association of Corporate Executives’ “IPPO IPPO NIPPON” project; and making ongoing donations via Ricoh’s Social Contribution Club “FreeWill,” an employee-led endeavor. The Ricoh Group will keep thinking about ways in which it can help as it continues to make a broad contribution to the development of a more sustainable society in the hope of rebuilding and reconstructing industry in the disaster-affected area.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Madness - When "Printable" Rules

Something about filling out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket this time of year just seems the right thing to do - a true rite of Spring. And though it can be done online, to me at least the process just doesn't feel right unless it's via an old-school, printed bracket.

This year, I'm doing mine (only one so far anyway) using the Printable PDF that comes from SB Nation, and can be found here.

As far as hardware, I printed this one - ready to fill out - on my HP Chromebook and printed on my HP LaserJet 1102W, via Google Cloud Print.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fun with my new Canon PowerShot SX520 Digital Camera

My very first photo with the Canon SX520 - Mourning Dove in the backyard beds. Not the greatest shot but still a nice way to start!

A few minutes later, the bird (one of three) moved to the fence and was quite patient!
A few days ago, I made the decision to pull the trigger and get a new "super zoom" digital camera as this year's spring birding season starts in earnest. My attention quickly was drawn to a $200 model, the PowerShot SX520 by Canon, my preferred supplier, which offers 42x optical zoom with very high user reviews (the newer SX530 takes it up to 50x, but the price more than doubles). I had long ago decided I am not interested in making a bigger commitment to standalone cameras (e.g Digital SLRs), and my iPhones and related gadgets have taken over for about 90% of my digital photo needs, but that big zoom is something necessary for good bird shots and those phones and tablets can't touch, and my old Canon "only" goes to 20x.

Impressed! 42x zoom gets the moon to start to fill the frame!
So the camera arrived and I have a little time to get acquainted with it! And somewhat magically, after I got it unpacked, with battery and SD card installed, my first shooting opportunity turned out to be three backyard Mourning Doves which proved fairly cooperative subjects. I say "magically" because though the Doves are frequently present in the neighborhood (seemingly more so in recent years) and we even had an observable nest a few years ago in the backyard sycamore, to see three on the ground, and then lingering on the fence, was an all-time first for me and led to some great moments for my initial experience with the new Canon.

I will be posting more about my experiences and comparisons with the old one, but for now I am quite pleased, after last night's inaugural shots and today's walk-in-the-park, though I found out that shipping with a charged battery was a delight but not to assume it's a fully charged battery!

My new camera - Canon PowerShot SX520 16 Megapixel Digital Camera with 42x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom with 3-Inch LCD (Black), $199 via Amazon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

HP Launches new LaserJet Printers, JetIntelligence Toner

Today, HP announced a new toner formulation - JetIntelligence - that allows three new printer/MFPs also part of today's news - to deliver more energy efficient, faster printing from smaller footprints.

Some of my thoughts on this latest step, and the all-important nature of the toner when it comes to laser printing, can be found in my guest post at Actionable Intelligence, "It All Starts with the Toner..." 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 2015 Observations - HP Alums Take On 3D Printing World

My sabbatical has given me opportunities to explore new and exciting things - some close to home...

This month, I had the chance to visit and follow up with a new 3D Printing business in my local area, Intermountain 3D, owned and operated by long-time friends and fellow HP alums Lynn and Brian Hoffmann. And I want to again share a little of what I have been learning recently about the nascent business of 3D printing, aka “additive manufacturing,” with this month’s version made possible via great insights from the Hoffmanns.

And OK - if you read my January Observations you know I am in the middle of what I believe to be a long-overdue sabbatical, which includes — in part — taking myself off the hook for a monthly “Observations” post. But part of a sabbatical is having time to explore and learn about different areas of interest, and yes, for me at least, that means making and sharing observations!

My explorations in this case includes getting a bit closer to the hands-on side of 3D printing, as opposed to my normal higher-level business strategy approach (for example, see my recent review of HP’s history in the 3D printing market). This month I continued by visiting with a pair of long-time HP colleagues who are a husband-and-wife team bringing many years of experience in engineering, marketing, and general management.

Brian Hoffmann, serving as the new company’s president, is an HP R&D and engineering veteran who left the company a couple of years ago. Lynn Hoffmann, Intermountain 3D’s CEO, has experience concentrated more on marketing and general management; like Brian (and me), mostly in the printing and imaging world. Their new business started at the end of 2014 is focused on serving the greater Boise market as both a 3D printing service bureau as well as sales representatives for current world market leader 3D Systems (ticker symbol DDD).

In addition to their reseller role for 3D Systems, Intermountain 3D makes printed parts for customers
As far as market focus, the Hoffmanns believe their most lucrative market will be manufacturing prototyping and concept modeling, rather than educational or hobbyist interests. Along these lines, one of their first moves, along with the alliance with 3D Systems, is forming a partnership with the local university (Boise State) and their “TechHelp” organization, a branch of BSU that owns equipment and has been providing limited 3D printing services; e.g., prototyping parts for product concepts and the like, for several years. (And the site of a very earlier field trip for me, now over two years ago, when I was even more clueless about the whole 3D printing world.)

With equipment sales opportunities spanning not only Idaho but also Wyoming and Montana, they are understandably excited about the challenge and opportunity. In comparing their startup firm, Intermountain 3D, to others around the country, they know that their portfolio of skills and experience is a strong asset. They note that other peer companies that market the DDD product line are, in many cases, existing firms that either have specialized in other machine tools and basic prototyping and low-volume, specialized manufacturing, or are familiar design and drafting companies who see 3D printing as an extension of their capabilities.

“3D printing is not really printing,” but …

A visit to their business in recent weeks proved both impressive and instructive. As we have so often heard from printing industry veterans, “3D printing is not REALLY printing,” but there are commonalities I am fascinated by, and the Hoffmanns agree. Noting their long tenure in HP’s printing business, Lynn began by recalling their certification process with 3D Systems. As their trainer described the familiar basics of the 3D printing market, including technologies that are laser-based and inkjet-based, they began to feel themselves on fairly familiar ground.

When asked about what experiences from HP have come in most handy in their first half-year of business, former HP Vice President Lynn Hoffmann responds, “Working in a high-tech market for a long time, pioneering with a leading-edge tech a la LaserJet [and its early days in the late 80s and 90s], we recognize customers who are as intrigued by the technology in use sometimes as much as the intended task.” Noting her experience primarily with the business-to-business side of HP printing, Intermountain 3D’s focus on industrial and commercial applications is also a good fit. In fact, the “consumer” side of 3D printing, with the Makerbots of the world (marketed by DDD’s competitor Stratasys http://www.stratasys.com/) seems to Lynn to be a better fit with the “3D printing” moniker, with “additive manufacturing” a better but less widely used label for the industrial/commercial applications of primary interest to the Hoffmanns. As Lynn explains the long-term potential in this space compared to a certain amount of “fad” appeal for the more consumer-oriented applications, she asks rhetorically, “How many plastic giraffes do you really have to make?”

As far as getting them started down this road, I asked “What got your attention about 3D printing in the first place?” Lynn responded, “Brian had been watching 3D printing for a long time from his vantage point as part of the HP R&D/Engineering organization. It’s interesting that 2D printing and 3D printing were really invented at the same time, but due to many factors, we’re seeing one nearing the end of its life cycle, with the other really just getting going.” As they looked as part of post-HP “second careers,” they pondered working together and buying an existing manufacturing business, maybe a fairly large one and realized, as Lynn says, “the first thing we do in upgrading the business, we realized the next machine we’re going to buy is a 3D printer, so why don’t we get ahead of this and be on the selling end of 3D printing?”

Any big surprises so far?

Those HP backgrounds, for the most part, are of great utility so far. Working mostly on the back-end of market and product strategy, design, and fairly high-level planning, even with a current product line, is quite a contrast to working squarely on the front-end, says Lynn, in the ultimate “feet on the ground” marketing and sales role. And while the concept of selling has always been important, actually making it happen brings its own challenges.

Brian Hoffmann’s background in engineering and emphasis for many of his HP years on higher-end printing and imaging systems, including commercial printing, leaves him with an excellent understanding of everything going on under the hood of the various 3D printing machines. He explains the relevance of “understanding all the technology telling the printer how to operate via software, embedded firmware and the like, the end-to-end workflow process, whether it’s 2D printing or 3D printing, it’s much the same logic and language.” But being a reseller, as opposed to being part of the engineering effort back at the factory makes a difference. “Knowing how it works and in some cases, how it may not work optimally, now means knowing the work-around and working with customers on that, rather than being part of the team who is upstream and can make direct changes to the product.”

And what about HP in 3D Printing?

And as fellow HP alums and HP-watchers, I had to ask about HP’s 3D printing presence. My question was: “As an authorized reseller of 3D Systems equipment you [Intermountain 3D] are clearly aligned with the current market leader in the space. But what about HP, whose presence was made official with its late 2014 announcements [see links] and whose shadow certainly looms over the category, waiting for some proof points when they first start to ship products. Do you have any thoughts about your potential alignment for/against HP?”

Lynn Hoffmann replied, “Due to timing, we were not tempted to wait for them, and we even started our business before they officially announced. Even following the announcement, we knew it would be awhile. They are focused on faster, higher resolution solutions and, knowing HP can put a superior product, especially in the filament end of the market, and they are saying they have a new technology.” She adds, in reference our shared experiences during those early LaserJet years, “It comes down to ‘Quick, Quiet, Quality’ - just like the good old days! With HP entering a market, introducing it to the world, can really broaden the market.”

Bringing to mind the “Welcome IBM, Seriously” message from Steve Jobs at the time of the original IBM PC launch, she concludes, “The history is there, and us being involved could be an interesting play. We like that it’s a homegrown technology, and not an acquisition. We are encouraged by this.” Spoken by a true old-school HPer, and I should know!!!

Best wishes and thanks to Brian and Lynn Hoffmann, and for those readers in the local Boise area, Intermountain 3D is having a grand opening open house on March 12. And the local Boise newspaper, The Idaho Statesman, did a nice basic write-up (see "Printing in Three Directions" ) on the Hoffmanns and their business in between my visit and press time for this post.

PS - The Open House was a big hit. 3/14/15