In an interview with Asahi, the CTO of the newly-created OM Digital Solutions answered several questions about the company, its products, and its future. In it, why the imaging division was sold off, how long the company intends to keep the Olympus brand, and other details were revealed.
Asahi’s Koichi Akagi (who is a photographer and familiar with what camera fans are looking for) spoke to OM Digital Solutions’ Chief Technology Officer Setsuya Kataoka about a number of subjects and received several surprisingly frank answers. For starters, he asked Kataoka upfront about the future of the Olympus name, and how long the company intended to use it.
“At least for the time being, we will use ‘Olympus,'” he said. “However, it is better to move away from Olympus as an entity and continue to work under the name Olympus? I want to think about it.”
That said, Kataoka admits he doesn’t want to abruptly change the company’s name in a way that will “cause anxiety” to fans. That is to say, it might feel weird to buy an Olympus camera that doesn’t have the Olympus name. As OM Digital separates itself, fans may become confused by inconsistent branding.
Akagi asked Kataoka why they decided now, amidst a shrinking camera market, to spin off the Imaging brand as a separate company. Kataoka gave an especially revealing response:
“First of all, I would like to clarify the reason why this new company was established. So far, we have created a video system under a company called Olympus. We sought out what was the best way to make the system sustainable. After that, I came up with the idea that it would be better to work independently of Olympus,” he explains.
“The background to this is the shrinking camera market. It is not only our company, but it is quite difficult to grow the company by increasing sales as it is. In order to generate profits, it is necessary to reduce costs and reform the structure for that purpose. Olympus is becoming more and more a ‘Medtech Company’, that is, a company centered on medical devices. Then, the manufacturing process as a medical device manufacturer will be strengthened, and the video business will have to follow it as a company rule.”
In short: “It is quite difficult for Olympus to change the contents of the organization in response to fluctuations in the camera market. For example, even if the supply chain is lightened, there are restrictions such as having to use the bases owned by Olympus. It is difficult to make bold structural reforms.”
Kataoka says that without the ability to make such structural reforms, it would be difficult for Olympus to continue its imaging business. In his eyes, the only way to assure the survival of the imaging division was to spin it off.
“If the camera market shrinks, we will make products simpler, deliver them, and sell them to our customers. In order to create a structure that can do that, it is better to be independent of Olympus and to be able to do various things with our own difference so that we can continue our business,” he explains.
Japan Industrial Partners was an ideal candidate for the imaging acquisition given its history of restructuring businesses, according to Kataoka.
“JIP is good at cutting out businesses from the company, turning them into the black, and revitalizing them,” he says.
OM Digital remains dedicated to the Micro Four Thirds mount, citing its press release that stated the mount is the most popular in Japan. Additionally, Kataoka promises new products are on the way by the end of the year.
“I can’t tell you when, but I’m working hard now,” Kataoka says, and additionally indicated that more than one product is on the near-term roadmap. Kataoka confirms “more than one” product coming, and some of them will have “special features” that will make fans say “oh!”