We continue to offer technology that leads the world so that more people can use our products with ease.
Behind all of this is a history of continuous obstacles and amazing triumph.

Understanding How and Where the Product is Used
and Putting this Knowledge to Work in Design

Products Designed for People

As a computer peripheral, scanners are more than just 0 and 1 digital calculations. Turning on the power, inserting documents into the feed tray and using the scanned images are all actions performed by people. Under which conditions do people use scanners? What information do they want to acquire by scanning? Does scanning cause stress for the user? For every scanner, there is a customer who operates it.

To our product development team, this means that they must take into account factors that cannot be captured in simple numerical equations such as people's feelings and actions. In order to make products with which our customers feel at ease, our engineers go to the locations where our scanners are used so they can see, touch and experience it for themselves. This is the first step in product development at Ricoh.

Confounded by Paper Types and Sizes

Minoru Masuda,
head of our imaging products division

As an engineer, there is one project that Minoru Masuda, head of our imaging products division and leader of product development, cannot forget. This was the development of a production level scanner for a Chinese bank over 10 years ago. The customer’s order led to our first high-speed model to be equipped with a high-capacity and high-speed automatic document feeder (ADF).

First, Mr. Masuda went to visit the bank in China where the scanner was to be used. Upon observing the bank staff at work, he was astonished to see that they used many more different types of paper than he had envisioned.

"The material being scanned by the Chinese bank included small slips the size of business cards as well as A3 documents and bankbooks. They also implemented the practice of using tape to stick together all checks and other forms associated with a particular transaction and needed to be able to scan documents more than a meter long," Mr. Masuda said.

To find the best solution, Mr. Masuda collected more than 100 different paper forms used in China. By testing different samples and making improvements, he came up with an optimal paper feed mechanism that could be relied on to leave even the most fragile of paper undamaged.

Easy to Remove After Scanning

Paper feeding was not the only area where the insights obtained at the bank were put to use. The "Elevator Stacker" was developed in response to the realization that work efficiency would be impaired if the ejected paper was difficult to remove. This mechanism detects how high the stacks of ejected paper are and automatically controls the height of the collection trays to facilitate stacking. It is also designed to make paper easier to remove by orienting the collection tray at an angle so as to align the top edges of the placed sheets.

The scanner also incorporated a variety of other intricate design features based on how and where it would be used by the customer, including allowing the device to be opened wide to make routine maintenance easier. As a product that fulfilled customers’ latent needs and based on knowledge of where it was to be used, the scanner became accepted not only in the Chinese market but also worldwide.

User Feedback as "Seeds" of New Technology

In one instance, a customer complaint was passed on by the sales department about a prototype supplied to customers in Turkey. The problem, they were told, was an inability to scan plastic cards. The engineers could not believe their ears upon first hearing this. During development, they had collected plastic cards from around the world and designed a model that could cope with even the thickest of such mediums.

Unconvinced, an engineer flew out to Turkey only to find that the complaint related to thick laminated cards. Laminated cards are mainly used due to how many people in Turkey carry these cards around in their pockets, and if the cards were not laminated they may have a tendency to snap whenever people would sit down. Drawing on this experience, they quickly developed a scanner with an improved feed path. The convenience of being able to scan various types of cards enabled it to become widely accepted among Turkish customers. In this way, suggestions obtained directly from customers become "seeds" to developments in new scanner technologies.

Globally Acknowledged Quality Originating from Extreme Evaluation

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