Case study: Toshiba In 1875, a new engineering company was founded in a newly industrializing Japan. The company, Tanaka Sheizo-sho, began by make – in telegraph equipment. Under the brand name of Shibaura Seisaku-sho the company became a manufacturer of heavy electrical equipment, eventually merging in 1939 with Tokyo Denki, Japan’s largest manufacturer of domestic electrical products. The new com – pony’s official name, Tokyo Shibaura Denki, quickly became shortened to Toshiba, and the company adopted this as their official name in 1978. During World War II, Toshiba was cut off from world markets and sources of raw materials: the company developed the first Japanese radar systems during this period, but it was not until after the war that it was able to begin expanding again. This time, in common with other Japanese companies, the shortage of raw materials became a spur to invention. Toshiba developed transistor tech – neology from a laboratory novelty to a fully fledged set of techniques: it developed the first transistor TV set in Japan, the first microwave oven, and was involved in devil – opting space communications equipment. In 1970, it unveiled the world’s first video telephone, and in 1971 the world’s first expanded integrated circuit TV. Toshiba was not slow to see the poss. – abilities of computer and communications technology, either. In 1978 it unveiled the first Japanese word processor, and launched a communications satellite; the following year saw it release the world’s first optical disk data storage system (the first CD, in other words). In 1985, Toshiba launched the world’s first laptop, a combination of its en – gingering brilliance and its ongoing parsimony with raw materials. During the 1990s a further stream of new devices appeared from the Toshiba labs: the world’s smallest transistor, the first subnotebook PC, the micro filter color TV tube, the DVD, the flat TV screen, the DVD video player and recorder, and the first MPEG device. The twenty-first century saw Toshiba developing high-definition TV and high definition DVD recording devices, as well as NAND flash memories and broadband processors. The company’s basic commitment is stated in its corporate documentation: We, the Toshiba Group companies, based on our total commitment to people and to the future, are determined to help create a higher quality of life for all people, and to do our part to help ensure that progress continues within the world community. Toshiba manufactures a wide range of electronic products for industrial use. Its high definition cameras are used in food sorting, security systems, inspection of in accessible places such as pipelines, and in aircraft sys – teems. Because the cameras are extremely small and light, and yet provide high definition, the yare extremely useful anywhere where weight and size are a problem. The company has a policy of running regular research sessions with customers to uncover new needs and refine existing products. This research ranges from inter – views to questionnaires, and the results are taken very seriously indeed – as a direct result of Toshiba’s discussions with customers, the following changes were made in recent years:
¦ Exposure to X-rays from Toshiba medical equipment was halved.
¦ Shock-resistant mobile PCs were de – eloped following observation of how people handled the equipment.
¦ A 0.85-inch hard disk drive was de – eloped for use in miniature computers (palm tops) and portable GPS units. Recently, the company has started to use questionnaires sent to mobile telephones of customers. This has increased response rates dramatically – often several thousand responses come in from each questionnaire, giving the company some extremely rapid feedback on new products. As in its new product development, Toshiba wants to be at the forefront of technology in its customer research. For the past 130 years, Toshiba has maintained engineering excellence without losing sight of customer needs.
1 What type of innovation strategy is Toshiba pursuing?
2 What is the role of customer input in developing new products?
3 How might Toshiba improve its innovation strategy?
4 What have been the main drivers of innovation at Toshiba? 5 What is the role of the brand in Toshiba’s success?