Workflow Q&A: Joe Adachi, Chairman and CEO, Canon U.S.A.

Joe AdachiAccording to Canon U.S.A. Chairman and CEO Joe Adachi, for years the company has continued to advance its service and solutions-based offerings. While Canon U.S.A. enjoys a longstanding reputation as one of the world’s leading digital imaging companies, some people may not be aware that the company’s focus goes beyond innovative products and equipment. The company also maintains a solid and growing leadership position in the business-to-business services segment.

Canon Business Process Services (CBPS) is a subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., and as Adachi points out,  exemplifies this dedication to being a significant, innovative force in the services sector. By leveraging CBPS’s services expertise, Canon U.S.A. makes a strong case for leadership as a provider of managed services that enable organizations to improve efficiency while reducing risk and cost. This includes the ability of CBPS specialists to apply quality management principles and tools such as Six Sigma to help clients drive performance to a higher level.

CBPS offers services to medium- and large-size enterprises that include business process and accounts payable outsourcing services, document imaging and records management as well as print, mail and electronic discovery services. The company’s vertical industry presence spans a significant number of Fortune 500 companies in financial services, insurance, manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and legal. Regarding the latter, last year CBPS provided outsourced document management and electronic discovery services to 64 of the Am Law 200 firms.

Like Canon U.S.A., CBPS stresses internal and client-focused excellence; and its approach has not gone unrecognized. CBPS has been named a Global Outsourcing 100 Leader by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) for the past eight consecutive years.

We caught up with Adachi to find out more about Canon U.S.A.’s emphasis on leadership in services and how CBPS is helping to support this priority.

What are the biggest challenges you believe CEOs are facing in 2014 and beyond? How can Canon services better enable business leaders to meet these challenges?

Recently I read industry research that reveals companies are focused on business growth and changing customer expectations. I believe that these are among the biggest challenges that CEOs will face over the next few years. One way to meet these challenges is to concentrate on achieving what we at Canon call operational excellence, which is about continually improving business processes to achieve a range of benefits. These benefits can include saving money, paying invoices faster, reducing risk, enhancing compliance, streamlining operational efficiency, and enabling the organization to devote more resources to its core business. Or, some organizations may pursue operational excellence to realize all of these and other advantages.

Many people consider Canon first and foremost as a digital imaging company but Canon also has a strong presence in the business-to-business services market. What would you say is the link between Canon’s focus on equipment and services?

I would say that the most evident link is our emphasis on innovation. Behind our relentless pursuit of innovation in imaging technologies is the desire to help enhance human creativity. In the office equipment sector, we leverage innovation to provide organizations new ways of working that are tailored to constantly changing business environments. In the managed services field, through our CBPS subsidiary we focus on outsourcing services and customized solutions to help clients compete in a challenging global marketplace by improving their business processes and automating their workflows.

Focusing for a moment on managed services, can you describe key elements of Canon’s approach?

I believe we have a strong approach that supports our way of delivering operational excellence. We refer to it as the Canon BPO value cycle. This term refers to the fact that CBPS can deliver operational excellence across every key step of the business process outsourcing value cycle from an initial assessment of the client’s current state to how we can help bring that client to a desired future state, which includes continuously improving their business processes.

Are there other key elements to Canon’s approach?

There are two other important elements. One is that CBPS can provide a solid level of customization, integrating tightly with a client’s existing systems and technology while implementing solutions. The other element is that CBPS supports this personalized approach with what we call an integrated services delivery model. This means that CBPS can deliver services onsite at the client’s location, offsite or offshore — a flexible approach that is tailored to the client’s culture and business processes.

Can you spotlight how a client might benefit from these kinds of managed services?

I’d be glad to. One example illustrates how the latest approaches can provide new opportunities for accounts payable departments to improve efficiency. A leading commercial bank contracted with CBPS to help it establish a reputation for operational excellence in accounts payable processes. CBPS implemented a new invoice processing workflow. This included invoice receipt, scanning, data extraction and validation, and discrepancy resolution. Other changes included creating a team that manages the bank’s accounts payable help desk function, enabling quicker response to questions raised by staff or suppliers. These solutions resulted in important benefits including a 20 percent reduction in overall accounts payable processing costs and a significant reduction in invoice payment cycle time. Another benefit is a 40 percent increase in the number of invoices paid on time.

Often when people think of business processing outsourcing services, they mainly think about cutting costs. But as you just described, there’s obviously other important benefits that can be achieved.

Yes, that is quite the case. As I mentioned before, operational excellence yields a number of important benefits besides lowering costs such as minimizing risk, enhancing compliance and increasing speed while reducing mistakes. However, operational excellence is also about creating an effective way to measure business process performance.  This helps to ensure quality and continuous improvement. The industry research I referenced earlier also indicated that while businesses are generating more data than ever, they are struggling to discern meaningful insight from it. This is why CBPS has experts who can apply quality management tools and principles like Six Sigma, which can enable clients to advance their performance to a higher level.

You just cited the importance of service providers like Canon being able to provide a quality management approach that drives continuous improvement. Can you give an example of how this approach helped an organization?

Certainly. A leading healthcare provider worked with CBPS to continuously improve its production mailing processes and print center operations. CBPS analyzed existing processes and identified areas where potential problems might occur. Based on its findings, CBPS provided the client with a plan to implement technology, management processes and a reporting system, all designed to prevent mailing errors and equipment malfunctions and create end-to-end accountability.

Is there anything you would like to add about Canon’s focus on operational excellence?

The key challenges for businesses today include growing the enterprise and responding to changing customer needs. For Canon, operational excellence is a methodology and a mindset enabling us to deliver value— in the form of services—that help our clients meet these objectives. Creating meaningful value is at the heart of our approach and informs every client engagement. This is the significance of what we offer. Whether the aim is to help improve the integrity of a records management program or implement a performance improvement system, our job is really about one main goal: providing solutions that give our clients the competitive edge they need to succeed — today and in the future.