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Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. Business Information, Profile, and History

1-1, Ichigaya Kagacho 1-chome
Skinjuku-ku, Tokyo

History of Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.

Dai Nippon was Japan's first modern printing company and is now the largest printing company in the world. Until World War II its only activity was the printing of publications. It now also engages in commercial printing, packaging, decorative interiors, electronics, and business forms. Dai Nippon is an industry leader in high-tech areas such as precision parts, computerized printing, and color filters for laptop computer displays.

Dai Nippon was founded as Sh&umarc;eisha in Tokyo in 1876. Japan's modernization process was just beginning. As it took hold, more newspapers and documents were printed and Sh&umarc;eisha grew. As the only modern Japanese printing firm at the time it was well positioned to get this business. It printed virtually all the metropolitan newspapers at the time, its only competition being tiny printing houses using wood blocks. Sh&umarc;eisha initially printed movable type by hand, but in 1884 the company updated its equipment, installing a steam motor to run its presses, thus becoming the first private-industry user of steam power in Japan. From then on new techniques and improved equipment were added constantly as Japan's papermaking and publishing industries grew. In 1874 Japan manufactured only 35,000 pounds of paper. In 1884 it manufactured 5.3 million pounds, and in 1894 36 million pounds. Most of that paper was used for printing, much of which was done by Sh&umarc;eisha, at least until 1900 when its chief rival, Toppan Printing, was formed.

Many printing innovations were imported from the West. The Japanese government, which coordinated the modernization drive imported foreign printing specialists to train Japanese printers. By 1887 gas and electric printing presses were in use. The rotary press appeared in 1889 for newspaper printing, and in 1899 for magazines. Research on the uses of photo copperplates was begun in 1887, and these plates were used for newspaper printing by 1903. In 1912 offset and photogravure printing equipment were imported from the West.

The Sino-Japanese War of 1894 created an increase in printing orders and demand for paper as more newspapers were read and more documents needed. A slump in printing and papermaking followed the end of the war in 1901, but in 1904 the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War increased the demand for newspapers and magazines. Japan defeated China and Russia. A period of military and economic expansion began, assisted by a modern currency system, established during the 1880s. As the economy grew, so did the demand for printing.

Printing boomed during World War I. By 1927 printing and publishing were approaching Western scales; nearly 20,000 new book titles and 40 million magazines were published that year. In 1935 the company changed its name to Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.

During the 1930s Japan was ruled by an increasingly repressive military dictatorship that suppressed publishers and writers and banned books, making printers cautious about what they printed. Publishing, and thus printing, did not flourish in such an atmosphere. Paper shortages and the devastation of the Japanese economy during World War II further hurt the printing industry. The industry recovered fairly quickly after the war, however, growing rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s. The most important printing during the boom was encyclopedias and the complete works of authors. Periodical printing was also important. Dai Nippon was growing at about 6% a year by 1966.

After the war Dai Nippon expanded from printing, which accounted for all of its prewar business--into industrial areas, such as packaging, construction materials, and electronic precision devices. The expanded product range let the company expand at times when there was no growth in publications. The company invested heavily in research, setting up its own research plants, before any other Japanese printing company, in Tokyo. By 1991 Dai Nippon had eight research plants in Japan and one overseas. It soon claimed that it could print on anything but water and air.

As Japanese industry began its slow but steady postwar expansion, Dai Nippon took advantage of opportunities in new sectors of the economy. For example, Dai Nippon perfected a technology to print imitation woodgrain on the dashboards of cars. Dashboards and other curved surfaces are difficult to print on, but Dai Nippon printed the grains on a water-soluble film, then immersed the dashboard and film together, causing the woodgrain to transfer to the dashboard. When the Japanese auto industry began exporting heavily, orders for Dai Nippon's printed dashboards grew. Dai Nippon also moved into electronics and television, producing shadow masks for color television sets using photoprocess and etching technologies, then moving into color filters for liquid crystal display. The televised wedding of Japan's crown prince in 1959 led to a boom in color television sales in Japan and more business for Dai Nippon. Several of Japan's large publishing houses launched new, successful weeklies in 1959, bringing further business to Dai Nippon. The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games gave the printing industry a boost.

At the same time, U.S. publishers were beginning to use Japanese printing companies because their products cost less than those of U.S. printers. In 1964 the company built a plant in Hong Kong, primarily to print for U.S. publishers, who paid only half what it cost them to print in the United States. Dai Nippon was looking for less expensive labor and equipped the Hong Kong plant with modern European presses. The plant initially confined itself to offset printing, specializing in color work. It established an apprenticeship program that sent young Chinese technicians to Japan for training. This plant, with that of rival Toppan opened in 1962, was the kernel around which the Hong Kong printing industry grew. By the late 1980s the Hong Kong printing industry rivaled that of Japan.

In 1968 Dai Nippon continued overseas expansion, opening offices in New York and Düsseldorf to promote its printing and binding. Dai Nippon was cautious, however, about expanding into foreign markets too rapidly because company officials believed that printing was closely related to local and community needs. Still, as business continued to expand steadily during the 1970s and 1980s, Dai Nippon launched joint ventures that included printing plants in Singapore and Jakarta, and opened offices that did not include plants in Sydney, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in Santa Clara, California.

The 1970s brought advances in rotary offset printing, particularly in color. Soon after, U.S. publishers began giving more four-color work to Japanese printers, including Dai Nippon, an industry leader in color printing. The decade also brought computerized typesetting, which changed the Japanese printing industry, making it far more efficient. In 1972 Dai Nippon established P.T. Dai Nippon Printing Indonesia, mainly to produce food packaging and decorative cartons for the Indonesian market. By the 1980s the Indonesian firm also exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, and other areas. Japanese food companies operating overseas also used its services.

By the 1980s the company had diversified into so many kinds of printing and other businesses, that it built new, more specialized research institutes to replace the general ones it had built immediately after the war. Because Dai Nippon manufactured so much food packaging, it used food sanitation experts to help research the best materials for food preservation, and often built the machinery used for packing food. The company, which put about 1% of sales into research and development, often developed technologies that it was not at first certain would apply to printing. These technologies, however, were often applied to the printing of non-paper materials. The non-paper sector of the printing industry grew greatly during the 1980s, increasing 20.5% in 1986 alone.

In 1980 Japanese-language word processors came into use, making electronic publishing feasible in Japan. As the 1980s progressed, computers and word-processing programs became popular and less expensive, and by the end of the decade even small businesses could afford a laser printer. Businesses with laser printers had less need for commercial printers, since they could now do small, simple jobs themselves. Because these developments affected its traditional business niche, it was a logical step for Dai Nippon--and competitors like Toppan--to move into information processing. Dai Nippon believed that printing was the first information processing industry, and printing companies therefore should have a leading role in the computer age.

This view was shared by many of Dai Nippon's competitors and by the Paper and Printing Committee of the Industrial Structural Council, an advisory organ of Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1988 the Paper and Printing Committee released a report predicting a decline in demand for conventional printing, and urging the printing industry to use its knowledge of information processing to contribute to an information-oriented society. The shipment value of printed matter in Japan had reached ¥6.2 trillion in 1986, and the committee predicted that it would continue to grow at an annual rate of 6.5%, reaching ¥15 trillion by the year 2000. The committee said printing firms should aim to develop new high-tech printing techniques and information processing.

Dai Nippon had been concentrating on information-related technologies throughout the 1980s. By 1985 the company had developed the technology to manufacture a laser card the size of a credit card to hold information. The card was only 0.76 millimeters thick, used a photosensitive material to read information. While suitable for mass production, there were problems recording information on the card. In 1985 the company also developed a computerized printing transfer technology for textiles and a very large screen for projected television, and introduced a credit-card sized calculator developed with Casio Computer.

In 1986 Dai Nippon developed a compact-disc-based telephone directory system, jointly developed a digital color printer system with JVC, and developed a special aluminum foil top for paper cartons. In 1987 Dai Nippon announced several more developments in information technology. It jointly developed a Japanese-language word processor with a spelling-check facility, introduced a foldable magnetic identification card made of a polyester resin sheet, and signed an agreement to supply American Bank Note with holographic technology and services. It also developed a smart card with 128 kilobit storage capacity and developed the technology to produce urinalysis paper at 20% lower than the usual cost. In 1988 Du Pont agreed to sell Dai Nippon's high-precision color printers and transfer materials in the United States, and Dai Nippon revealed that it was investing ¥70 billion a year in research and development.

In 1989 Dai Nippon announced the development of Hi-Vision Static Pictures, a method of converting data into a form used by high-definition television. The latter was expected to be the next generation of television sets and an area of tremendous growth during the 1990s. The company also developed sophisticated printing technologies used for high-quality reproductions that were equal to those of western printing companies. Dai Nippon printed art books in the United States with high-quality color plates using computer technology. Profits for 1989 were US$222 million on sales of US$6.4 million.

At the end of 1990, Dai Nippon had 20 regional offices in Japan, with 51 sales offices and 21 printing plants, and 11 overseas offices and 5 overseas plants. Sales and profits increased for the 41st year in a row, although the company suffered from the nationwide labor shortage and struggled to keep up with the rapid transition to an information-oriented society. To make that transition, the company opened an information-media supplies division in 1990 and founded the Information Media Supplies Research Laboratory in Saitama, Japan. One of the division's most important products, is thermal transfer ribbon, used in word processors, fax machines, and bar-code printers; and another is dye sublimination transfer ribbon, which can print images of almost photographic quality from computer graphics with various printers.

The company also strengthened its production base, investing US$486 million to expand its microproducts plant, which constructed audiovisual systems and electronic components, and its business-forms plant, which manufactures various forms for offce-automation systems and cards. In the same year, Dai Nippon broke ground for a new research and production center, and bought land in Tokyo and Osaka where it planned to build highly automated manufacturing plants.

Dai Nippon also concentrated on overseas operations in 1990, marketing photomasks through a partnership with Du Pont Photomask. It increased its share in Tien Wah Press--the largest printing company in Singapore, and an important distribution center for southeast Asia--from 31% to 85%. This made Singapore Dai Nippon's largest overseas printing base. The company moved into the global market for projected-television screens, beginning production in Japan and at the Denmark plant of a new subsidiary, DNP DENMARK. The subsidiary soon bought another Danish company, Scan Screen.

Continuing its progress in the information sector, Dai Nippon began to use satellites to communicate data from its Tokyo headquarters and to distribute its business-oriented television programs, which were part of its work in audiovisual systems. It established the Multimedia Communications Center to work on high-definition television, videodisks, and read-only-memory compact discs, which are expected to become an important publishing format. The company announced breakthroughs in holograms, computer graphics, and medical imaging. It also began a joint venture in smart cards, called Spom Japan, with France's Bull. The company started mass production of a smart card with one of the world's highest memory levels, aimed mainly at the Japanese market.

As electronic media grew, traditional printing slowed. Dai Nippon sought business in niche-market magazine printing. Because of growth in advertising, business forms, and precise electronic devices, book and magazine printing made up an ever-smaller portion of the company's printing sales during the 1980s. Printing Japanese magazines is good business for printers because many magazines use several kinds of paper and printing techniques in a single issue. Books for Europe and the United States also suffered from the appreciation of the yen, though this decline was partly offset by strong magazine sales in Australia and New Zealand. By 1990, books and magazines accounted for 18% of printing sales, commercial printing for 52%, and packaging and special printing for 30%.

The growth of commercial printing during the late 1980s was fueled by the expanding Japanese economy and its need for business forms, advertising, and credit cards. With more and more Japanese traveling, travel brochures became important. The Japanese trend for household electronics, often containing integrated circuits and other electronic components printed by Dai Nippon, also increased commercial sales. Packaging sales were hampered by changes in the Japanese lifestyle, particularly the trend toward eating out. The demand for packaged daily necessities was at a near-saturation level. Dai Nippon manufactured metal products such as mirror-finished sheets for appliances during the 1980s. The early 1990s found Dai Nippon continuing to expand into new technologies, while maintaining a sizable presence in its traditional printing market.

Principal Subsidiaries: Dai Nippon Printing Co. (Hong Kong) Ltd.; Dai Nippon Printing Co., (Singapore) Ltd.; Tier Wah Press (Pte.) Ltd. (Singapore); P.T. Dai Nippon Printing Indonesia; Dai Nippon Printing Co. (Australia) Pty. Ltd; DNP (AMERICA) INC. (U.S.A.); Dai Nippon Printing (Europa) GmbH (Germany); Spom Japan Co. Ltd.; DNP DENMARK A/S.

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Company HistoryPrinting, Binding, and Related Services

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