AiThority Interview with Sam Yoshida, EVP & GM of Canon USA
Hi Sam, please tell us about your current role at Canon and how you reached here.
Thank you for taking the time. Over the span of my more than 35-year career working at Canon, I’ve worked both inside and outside of the United States in various roles across the organization. Today, I serve as Executive Vice President and General Manager overseeing the Business Information Communications Group and Hybrid-workplace Solutions Group of Canon U.S.A., Inc., as well as Chairman and CEO of Canon Solutions America, Inc., and Canon Financial Services, Inc.
Canon is an imaging solutions leader, and we support a broad portfolio of products and solutions. This includes everything from workflow automation tools to wide-and large-format printers to even AI-driven solutions. Both Canon authorized dealers and Canon Solutions America provide hardware and software solutions to a wide range of customers across industries including healthcare, education and government.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during the pandemic months? How did you leverage your experience in team building and business intelligence to overcome these challenges?
The past few years have brought massive change to every industry. Such disruption has highlighted the importance of taking a people-first approach when connecting to our customers and partners matters more than ever. As an engaged organization today, we work to help ensure our customers see us as a close partner in helping them to achieve growth for their business, offering solutions and technology that make sense for their bottom lines and help future-proof their operations.
Our team’s biggest challenge was helping customers adapt to hybrid or fully remote environments. Historically, our solutions have been found in shared workplaces. With staffs dispersed, we had to assist our customers to keep their teams connected and working collaboratively. We prioritized security features and other Canon solutions such as Therefore Online SMB, and uniFLOW Online, which enable remote workers to access, print and edit documents from almost anywhere with compatible smartphones, tablets, web browsers, and Windows PCs. We also helped companies shift to desktop printers and document scanners so they could remain productive in home offices.
Our conversations with customers reinforced the importance of providing outstanding service, which has always been a cornerstone of how we do business. For instance, when schools shut down in 2020, the Canon Copy Center at Babson College quickly printed more than 77,000 pages of education packets for students ranging from pre-K to grade 12. Our ability to offer prompt service made all the difference.
In 2022, we’re continuing to roll out new agile strategies to encourage and enforce best practices to help our customers maximize their revenue and profit growth.
How did you utilize your access to high-quality technologies and solutions for smoother management of business operations during the past 18-24 months?
We quickly found out how vital organization and content management had become to our everyday success when the pandemic first hit and businesses of all sizes suddenly found their employees working from home. Our customers and partners remained top of our mind during the pandemic, and we continue to work hard to help ensure that they feel well supported and connected whether together in an office or not. We’re proud to have been able to utilize our cloud solutions to help businesses keep workflows efficient and productive. For instance, our uniFLOW Online solution, which is compatible with a number of our popular imageRUNNER ADVANCE and imageCLASS multifunction printers, offers a variety of benefits, such as mobile printing from compatible devices from virtually anywhere, various security features, and the ability to track and measure print costs. We also offer solutions such as Therefore, an online software, aiming to enhance workflows by letting users store, manage, and process a variety of business information.
Could you please tell us how remote workplace norms continue to evolve around you?
We’ve needed to be nimble and flexible in our approach to the workforce as the landscape has changed. As we look ahead, we continue to embrace and adapt to a hybrid setting as many of our colleagues, partners and customers find themselves more dispersed than ever before. Last July, we created a new Hybrid-workplace Solutions Group that allows us to have one group addressing the increased demands for products and solutions needed for hybrid workstyles. Although this group is less than a year old, we already have seen a positive impact in the way we are able to better coordinate sales and marketing of these products as well as provide more strategic support to our channel partners.
At the onset of the pandemic, we really leaned into the breadth of Canon’s portfolio of solutions. For the student or parent working from home, we have our award-winning PIXMA printers, which can produce high-quality photos or documents to keep things moving. We also recently added six new models to the imageCLASS X series with a range of desktop printers and multifunction devices to better accommodate the long-term hybrid work environment. With their small footprint, rich feature set, and tight integration with office solutions, these models are designed for users in a variety of work environments – the corporate office, the home office, or a combination of both.
As a company, we’re embracing new solutions and emerging technologies to help ensure that we can help our customers work through almost any disruption that emerges from the hybrid or remote landscape. Among these new technologies is the AMLOS – Activate My Line of Sight – solution that is currently in development. AMLOS is a hybrid meeting software that can harness the power of Canon’s image capturing technology designed to help create an immersive hybrid work experience.
What is Canon doing with Cloud and AI capabilities to build an agile Enterprise technology stack for its customers?
It’s no surprise that more companies have migrated to the cloud, considering the unique work environment we’ve been faced with. Like many of our customers and partners, we entered a remote work situation ourselves that made a seamless collaboration more important than ever. Through our own experiences and by continuing to work closely and listen to our customers and their own changing needs, we became acutely aware of the value of the cloud and its usefulness in streamlining workflows while providing security features and easier ways to collaborate.
The AMLOS solution is part of that initiative to highlight the easy and innovative ways to collaborate. The solution is being designed in a way that is simple to operate through intuitive gesture control and to provide virtually seamless connectivity while fostering inclusion among hybrid team members, helping to unite them on a virtual and emotional level.
Additionally, as we look ahead, we plan on continuing our investment and dedication to providing advanced workflow solutions, including cloud and automated solutions to help safeguard practices well into the future.
Which industries are currently at the forefront of AI and Automation adoption for their various business requirements? Could you provide examples from your experience with your customers and partners why AI is so important for digital transformation of ‘hybrid workplaces’?
Legal and healthcare are two key industries drawing our focus. We are seeing more organizations across these verticals invest in new tech and solutions, especially when it comes to AI, automation, and IoT.
For example, to help support law firm transformation, Canon recently introduced Smart Document Assistant: an automated solution that is designed to provide legal practices a technology assistant to automate the intake of information and match it with other documents in a legal document management system. Smart Document Assistant uses the power of artificial intelligence to accelerate the process of getting incoming legal documents to where they belong in the document management system. The software can identify an incoming document’s type, associate it with a specific legal matter, name it, save it to the document management system and notify the relevant attorneys, paralegals, and others of its arrival. The solution is designed to provide greater accuracy and compliance with document handling procedures, and faster document access for legal staff.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic and beyond, we look to expand our portfolio with offerings such as a recent addition, the Whiz by SoftBank Robotics, a commercial robot vacuum built on a trusted AI platform to deliver a higher quality, more efficient clean – with proof of performance. Whiz helps to increase people’s confidence in the overall health of any indoor environment, particularly in workspaces and public areas such as healthcare facilities.
As the last two years have brought businesses challenges, they also have brought great opportunity. We created solutions such as Check-in Online, which leverages Microsoft Azure cloud services to help customers navigate the public health crisis with increased confidence and includes features such as being able to quickly capture and manage vaccination status, weekly virus testing results, and periodic health screenings.
What kind of IT infrastructure does an organization require to fully benefit from moving their human resources and infrastructure to a hybrid ecosystem? What kind of platform support do you provide to your customers in ensuring a smooth transition to hybrid workplaces?
No matter the IT infrastructure, any organization can consider digital transformation as long as their teams remain flexible and open to implementation and change management strategies. Technology integration is an ongoing process, and we need to ensure that we are not automating inefficiencies along the way. Leaders should work together to troubleshoot and improve processes and systems over time.
Canon has invested in new partners to encourage on-the-go productivity and integration across key platforms. For example, some devices come with solutions that enable features such as Print-via-Cloud capabilities, offering great flexibility and allowing employees to print and share information across multiple compatible devices and locations from approved network servers. Additionally, our uniFLOW solution is now enabled with the ability to access Microsoft Teams accounts directly from the interface of certain scanners and printers, providing another way to help users access organizational data.
Canon has teams dedicated to helping organizations accomplish their digital transformation objectives by uniquely utilizing a combination of processes, people, and technology. Above and beyond the hardware and software solutions, we can provide consultative services to help companies, through proven change management methodology, ensure ongoing success in hybrid environments through digital transformation.
What kind of talent are you looking to hire in 2022, to expand your product roadmap? Which new industries and geographies are you keen to expand into, and why?
We are always on the hunt for exceptional talent across our divisions. Where we see exponential growth and where we are looking to expand is within our technician and service space. In order to meet demands for product installations as well as consistent service requests for our strong customer base, we rely heavily on our service technicians, specifically for our Production Print Solutions and Large Format groups.
From our efforts in recruiting and retaining our best talent, our skilled workforce has helped us earn recognition, such as Newsweek’s Most Loved Workplaces and Silicon Review’s Best Workplaces of the Year for 2021, Keypoint Intelligence Buyers Lab (BLI) 2022-24 Most Reliable A3 Brand Award as well as the 2022 A3 Line of the Year award. Our people helped our parent company, Canon Inc., rank third in the number of United States patents awarded in 2021, when we garnered 3,022 U.S. patents and helped our company become the only one in the world to earn a top-five ranking for number of patents granted for 36 consecutive years.
We are looking for talent that is collaborative, forward-thinking and embraces our philosophy of Kyosei, which we define as “all people, regardless of race, religion, or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future.” In a hybrid environment, it’s comforting to know that our talent search is no longer confined to the limitations of physical geography. We are keen to welcome anyone who is willing to learn and embrace emerging technology and our customer-first mindset.
Your predictions for the future of AI and Cloud ecosystems coming together in the post-COVID era?
Looking ahead, I believe that three key trends will continue to gain traction:
- A multi-cloud world: We see a general move to a hybrid or multi-cloud environment. Here users will utilize more than one provider, meaning greater collaboration and more bridging between platforms. This benefits not just individuals but also organizations who need to share data or work closely with other organizations that use different platforms.
- AI in the cloud: We expect the overall efficiency and speed of cloud computing to increase as AI continues to be the enabler of technological adaptation. Many cloud platforms already offer users access to machine learning capabilities for use with things like image recognition and language processing.
- Increased adoption of remote work and training: We are seeing businesses continue to adapt to a hybrid or remote workplace, and therefore we can expect an increase in the amount of money and energy spent on training employees on AI as well as the cloud and its uses. As cloud becomes adopted by businesses of all sizes, security features will also become a heightened concern and will be a large part of training.
Any advice to every CEO/ CIO looking to create an enterprise tech stack using AI, Data Ops, and automation as their pillars of digital transformation in the current era:
Digital transformation has no end. It means constantly innovating, pushing boundaries, questioning processes, all in the name of finding ways to be a better partner, employer, industry leader, and societal contributor. We bring this thinking into all our business and development processes. In a way, the digital transformation of the business is a way of life. To embrace ‘true’ digital transformation, we must understand that it is all about people. Wherever you look in a business, people are the center of the process.
Thank you, Sam! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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Shinichi “Sam” Yoshida is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Business Information Communications Group and Hybrid-workplace Solutions Group of Canon U.S.A., and Chairman and CEO of Canon Solutions America, Inc., and Canon Financial Services, Inc. During his 38-year career at Canon, Mr. Yoshida has worked at offices both inside and outside of the United States. Showcasing the strength of his leadership, Mr. Yoshida is also one of three people who helped launch Canon Virginia in 1986.
Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions to the United States and to Latin America and the Caribbean markets. With approximately $30.6 billion in global revenue, its parent company, Canon Inc. (NYSE: CAJ), as of 2021 has ranked in the top-five overall in U.S. patents granted for 36 consecutive years† and was one of Fortune Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies in 2022. Canon U.S.A. was featured in Newsweek’s Most Loved Workplaces list for 2021, ranking among the top 100 companies for employee happiness and satisfaction at work. Canon U.S.A. is dedicated to its Kyosei philosophy of social and environmental responsibility.