Toyo Ink Celebrates its Centennial

By Tim Wright | January 17, 2007

Having grown to one of the largest ink companies in the world, Toyo Ink has marked its 100th year. Moving forward, the company is focused on growing its paint pigments business.

It is a rare company that continues to succeed in its field for a century. The company must have strong leadership and the ability to develop innovative approaches that meet the needs of the marketplace.

Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd. is definitely such a company. Founded in 1896 and incorporated in 1907, Toyo Ink has grown into a $2 billion (236,200 million yen) corporation employing 6,500 people in its 70 subsidiaries spread over 16 countries.

Toyo Ink is the fourth-largest international ink manufacturer in the world, as well as one of the world's largest pigment producers. While graphic arts accounts for 45% of its annual sales, the company has branched out successfully into a wide range of related fields, such as polymers and media materials, which include the growing high-tech field such as LCD screens.

"Our printing ink business is the core business of Toyo Ink," said Fusao Ito, president, Toyo Ink International Corporation and Toyo Ink America, LLC. "Building on the core business, our polymers business and materials business related to media have been growing recently at a high rate. Media materials is now becoming a core business for us."

While the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month Toyo Ink was incorporated on Jan. 15, 1907 the company's roots actually started in 1896. Kamataro Kobayashi, a founder, opened a private shop called "Kobayashi's Ink Shop" at Honshirokane-cho, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, and formed Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd. 11 years later.

Over the years, the company has a lot of landmarks to its credit. In 1920, the company produced its first red organic pigments, Brilliant Carmine 3B and Lake Red D2. By 1937, the company was manufacturing phthalo blue.

"We started manufacturing organic pigments for internal use at a very early stage of the company's establishment," Ito said.

Global Operations

Toyo Ink has long been a worldwide power. As early as 1926, Toyo Ink opened branch offices in Shanghai, China, and followed that with more offices in China as well as locations in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

All told, Toyo Ink has 70 subsidiaries in 16 countries. China has been among Toyo Ink's greatest successes. The company's visionary approach to the Chinese market has placed it in the leadership of the ink market with Tianjin Toyo Ink Co., Ltd., Tianjin-city, China, the largest ink manufacturer in China. In addition, the company has 13 other subsidiaries in China, manufacturing inks, pigments, resins and plastic colorants.

"We are very strong in China," said Ito. "We have a long history in China. We have created a family atmosphere at our factories, and have many second- and third-generation employees. They have grown up with our company, and there is a sense of trust."

Toyo Ink's entry into the North American market came in 1950, when Toyo Ink set up a technical cooperation agreement in printing ink with Interchemical Corporation.

In 1976, with the dissolution of the Interchemical agreement, Toyo Ink set up operations in the U.S. by forming Toyo Ink America, LLC. It would follow that in 1988 by opening Liochem in Conyers, GA, a key center for manufacturing plastic colorants as well as gravure inks.

The North American market is one that Ito believes also offers opportunities for growth.

"We can create opportunities to create a new business model here," Ito said. "I feel we need more R&D for the North American market, as it is different from other regions."

Growth in Paint Pigments

Fusao Ito, president, Toyo Ink International Corporation and Toyo Ink America, LLC.
Today, Toyo Ink is an industry leader in classical pigments as well as high-performance pigments, including its Lionogen, Lionol and Catulia pigments for the automotive paint industry.

"Key growth areas for Lionogen pigments are the automotive OEM and refinish segments," said Ito. "An international paint project team has been set up to combine the application and R&D strengths in both France and Japan supported by our global marketing team with regional managers in Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris and New York."

The Toyo series of high-performance pigments were developed to provide beautiful colors to exterior surfaces exposed to grueling environmental conditions. In addition to cars, Toyo high-performance pigments meet this need in other applications ranging from boats to buildings. They are typically characterized as having good light and weatherfastness, and good solvent and migration resistance.

"Moving forward we will continue focusing more on high-performance pigments," Ito noted. "Lionogen, Lionol and Catulia pigments are used not only for paints and coatings, but also for applications of media-related materials, one of our high growth segments."

Also on the coatings front, another area the company is focusing its R&D efforts is in the development of zero VOC coatings. "In response to the trend toward zero VOC coatings in general, Toyo Japan has developed a new line of dispersions in addition to furthering the development of water-based automotive OEM coatings," said Ito.

Research & Development

R&D is the lifeblood of Toyo Ink, as the company moves forward in high-performance pigments, inkjet, optoelectronics, flat screen display technology and LCD color filters, and RFID. The company's reputation for R&D has helped drive these innovations

"Through our reputation in the marketplace and a loyal customer base, we are presented with a lot of opportunities to exchange ideas, discuss the possibility of new businesses and develop new products," Mr. Ito said. "New products lead to new topics, which in turn lead to new opportunities. The relationship of mutual trust can be adapted to emerging new markets. Toyo Ink treasures its reputation as a trusted 'Business Partner.'

"We are a technology-oriented company, and specialize in developing new raw materials for our customers," Ito added. "We are adapting our technology in each region, and creating more localized products."

"The technologies related to key materials, such as pigments, polymers and additives for printing inks contribute to increasing value for our customers," Ito said.

"Our sources of strength are our loyal customer base and our manufacturing expertise," Ito added. "We have a long tradition of quality manufacturing based on our capabilities in pigments and polymers, mainstays of our technology platform."

Environmental Awareness

Toyo Ink prides itself on its citizenship. One area of great importance to Toyo Ink is the environment, and the company has long been active in setting the highest standards. As far back as 1973, Toyo Ink set up Environmental Awareness Committees at each plant to control pollution. In 1997, Toyo Ink earned the ISO14001 certification at its Fuji plant, and of much significance, its aroma-free newspaper ink received the first "Eco-Mark" in Japan.

In 1999, Toyo Ink opened its Ecology Center and published its Environmental Report. Its 2004 follow-up, "Environmental and Social Report," noted the progress Toyo Ink has made in areas as diverse as chemical substance management, developing environmentally conscious products and corporate social responsibility.

"We recognize the importance of protecting the environment," Ito said. "Conventional subterranean resources are limited and will eventually become depleted if we continue to use them. As our responsibility to the future, we have to create new clean and safe resources for our children, by effective and environmentally conscious utilization of limited natural resources."

The Future of Toyo Ink

Toyo Ink has long been preparing to celebrate its first century of accomplishment. Back in 1993, the company set up "Take Off 2007," its vision for the future. A far-reaching document, Take Off 2007 encompasses ideas such as Corporate Social Responsibility and improving human culture. Ito believes the company has met its goals, and must now look toward meeting new responsibilities.

"Customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and social satisfaction is so important for Toyo Ink," said Ito. "We must contribute to improving human culture and individual's lifestyles. It is our duty as a chemical manufacturer for our children and their future.

"We are making solid progress toward becoming 'a company creating new values for human culture throughout the world,' a concept that we believe is rooted in Corporate Social Responsibility," Ito said. "Through creation of new products and businesses that bring new value to society, we will base our sustainable growth on the provision of high quality products in harmony with the environment."

"Take Off 2007, which started in 1993, created a dream of our company, and we are working to create our vision for our next century," Ito said.

As Toyo Ink heads into its second century, the company will no doubt look toward its heritage and its sense of responsibility as it plans for a successful future.

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