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From the Founding of Olympus to the End of World War II (1919-1945)

Takeshi Yamashita founded the company that would become Olympus and built foundations for manufacturing microscopes, during the tumultuous times of this period that included social and economic events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake and World War II. Yamashita's company worked relentlessly to accumulate technology and expand sales channels with the aim of manufacturing Japanese-made microscopes that could compete with imports. The challenges of this time are described in Kusetsu 13-nen (13 years of unswerving efforts). With the development of the Showa GK microscope, the company finally broke through into the market for high-magnification oil-immersion microscopes, which was previously dominated by imported products.

The company achieved rapid growth, in part because of government policies designed to encourage the development of Japanese-made products. For example, in just one year it succeeded in creating the prototype for the MC metal microscope, which was comparable in quality to products manufactured by Reinhart, then considered to be the best in the world. It also succeeded in developing the Zuiko range of photographic lenses and began to diversify into other areas, including the manufacture of the first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus.


Postwar Recovery and the Path to Business Modernization (1946-1950)

As Japan began to make progress toward postwar reconstruction, Olympus became one of the first companies to resume factory operations and move toward business modernization.

The company rebuilt its production facilities within a few years of the war's end, but it faced many difficulties with both financing and materials. For example, it had to resume production using materials and tools for microscopes and cameras that had been relocated from central Tokyo to its two plants in Ina and Suwa, in Nagano prefecture during the war.

Later the company built a new plant and head office in the Hatagaya district of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, where its original head office had been located.

After increasing its capital under the Enterprise Reconstruction and Reorganization Law, the company changed its name to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. The name change not only aligned the company's name with its product brand name, but also expressed the aspiration of its management to build a global enterprise. Following an approach by a doctor from the University of Tokyo Hospital shortly after the end of the war, Olympus began to develop the gastrocamera.


Evolution as an Integrated Optical Manufacturer (1960s)

As Japan moved into its high-growth phase in the 1960s, Olympus achieved rapid growth by expanding its exports, focusing its technology resources, and modernizing its management. In fiscal 1968, the year before its 50th anniversary year, Olympus shifted to an aggressive management stance, including the adoption of a target calling for net sales in excess of 12 billion yen. It also adopted a management philosophy.

With the expansion of its two main business areas— microscopes and cameras—Olympus needed to ensure timely management decision-making and decided to adopt a business division structure. Management in each area was integrated from development to marketing, and operations were centralized at different production plants: microscopes at Ina, cameras at Suwa, and measuring equipment and medical devices in Tokyo.

Olympus diversified into the industrial endoscope field. It also achieved unprecedented success with the Olympus Pen half-size camera series and built the endoscope business into a key area of activity through the expansion of medical fiberscope production.


Expansion of Overseas Sales Networks, Advances in Endoscope Technology (1970s and 1980s)

In the period after the two oil crises, Japan experienced an economic boom that eventually became a bubble. Olympus further strengthened its production base and expanded its overseas sales networks to keep pace with export growth. With microscopes, cameras and medical devices as its three core domains, Olympus also moved into the clinical analyzer market.

With the OM-1 SLR camera, Olympus broke down the prevailing concept of SLR cameras as being bulky and heavy. Olympus also transformed the medical environment with the launch of EVIS-1 endoscope imaging system, which ensured safe, reliable procedures by using videoscope technology to allow all medical professional present to view images on a monitor.


Adoption of Social IN as a New Management Philosophy, Diversification of Medical Business (1990-2011)

Under its new Social IN management philosophy, Olympus committed itself to work through its business activities to offer new value to society and bring health and happiness to people's lives. Olympus was founded with the aim of providing Japanese scientists with affordable products by manufacturing microscopes in Japan. That founding spirit was reflected in the new management philosophy, which became the foundation for all Olympus products and services.

The second half of the 1990s was an important time for Olympus, Following its entry into the digital camera market, sales in that product area reached a peak in excess of 300 billion yen. Sales of gastrointestinal endoscopes and other medical products also expanded steadily, and by the 2000s rapid growth was turning this business segment into a key contributor to corporate earnings.

In 2011, evidence came to light showing that management had been concealing losses, and those involved, especially the former President, faced criminal charges. Management reform became a priority for Olympus.


Back to Basics as a New Olympus with the Medical Business as the Core Segment (2012 to the Present)

The new management team began the process of restoring confidence in Olympus by pledging that the company would never again engage in improper activities, and by announcing a new medium-term vision designed to create a "new Olympus."

The medical business was positioned as the core segment. Olympus began to introduce flagship products in the gastrointestinal and surgical fields and also established a repair service center at Ina in Nagano Prefecture. The continuing concentration of management resources into the medical area includes plans for the construction of a series of new plants for medical devices.


Olympus Chronology

From the Founding of Olympus to the End of World War II

Takeshi Yamashita

Takeshi Yamashita

  • Olympus is founded as Takachiho Seisakusho in the Hatagaya District of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. The founder of the company, Takeshi Yamashita, establishes the company with a view to achieving domestic production of microscopes. (Oct. 12)
  • Kenzaburo Kawakami is appointed as the first President. (Oct. 12)
The Asahi 600x microscope

The Asahi 600x microscope

  • The Asahi 600x microscope goes on sale. (Mar. 1920)
  • The name "Olympus" is registered as a trademark. (Feb. 1920)
  • The Showa GK immersion microscope is launched. (1920)
  • The Seika microscope is dedicated to Emperor Hirohito. (May 1928)
The first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus I

The first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus I

  • The MC metal microscope is perfected. (Feb. 1930)
  • Kusetsu 13-nen (13 years of unswerving efforts) is published. (1930)
  • The founder, Takeshi Yamashita, becomes President. (Mar. 1934)
  • A factory is opened in the Tagoto district of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Apr. 1936)
  • The company achieves its cherished goal of expansion into the camera business with the development of the Zuiko photographic lenses.
  • The first Olympus camera, the Semi-Olympus I, is launched. (Sep. 1936)
  • The Takachiho-Inari Shrine is built in the grounds of the head office to commemorate the company's seventh anniversary.
  • Yasusaburo Chatani is appointed President. (Apr. 1939)
  • Takachiho Seisakusho is renamed Takachiho Optical Industries. (May 1942)
  • A factory is opened in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture. (Dec. 1943)
  • A factory is opened in Ina, Nagano Prefecture. (Feb. 1944)
  • Shokichi Kanda becomes President. (Jun. 1944)

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Postwar Reconstruction and the Path to Business Modernization-1946-1950

  • The Olympus 35I, the first 35mm lens shutter film camera is launched. (May 1948)
  • The company is renamed Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. (Jan. 1949)
The GT-I gastrocamera

The GT-I gastrocamera

  • Olympus Optical develops the world's first practical gastrocamera. (Nov. 1950)
  • The GT-I gastrocamera is launched. (Aug. 1952)
  • Akira Takahashi becomes President. (Jun. 1953)
  • Olympus Optical assigns a representative to the Japan Camera Center established in New York by the Japan Camera Industry Association. (Sep. 1956)
The Olympus Pen F

The Olympus Pen F

  • Olympus Optical exhibits at the fifth Photokina, Europe's biggest camera show. (Sep. 1956)
  • The Olympus Pen, an innovative half-size camera, is launched. (Oct. 1959)

Expansion of Manufacturing Sites and Overseas Sales Networks-1970s and 1980s

The Olympus M-1

The Olympus M-1

  • A production site is established in Aizu-Wakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. (Jun. 1970)
  • Olympus enters the clinicall analyzer market with the development of the ACA-III automatic biochemical analysis system. (Jul. 1970)
  • Ken Kanbe becomes President. (Dec. 1971)
  • The Olympus M-1 is launched as a compact, lightweight single-lens reflex camera. It is renamed the OM-1 in the following year. (Jul. 1972)
  • Shigeo Kitamura is appointed President. (Dec. 1973)
  • Olympus moves into the rigid medical endoscope field. (Apr. 1975)
  • Olympus Camera Corporation is established as a sales base for the United States. (Mar. 1977)
  • A production site is established in Nishigo-Mura, Fukushima Prefecture. (Nov. 1978)
  • The Olympus XA goes on sale as the world's first barrier-type compact camera. (May 1979)
  • An endoscope repair service center is opened in California, U.S.A. (1979)
1980s (first half)
The EVIS-1 endoscopic video system

The EVIS-1 endoscopic video system

  • The Tatsuno Plant is established in Tatsuno, Nagano Prefecture. (Nov.1981)
  • Olympus introduces an ultrasound endoscope system. (Jul. 1982)
  • The PK 7000 automatic transfusion blood testing system is introduced. (Apr. 1983)
  • The two U.S. sales units are merged into a North American subsidiary, Olympus Corporation (New York State). (May 1983)
  • Olympus introduces AH-2 Series, the world's first high-performance microscopes with an AF function. (May 1983)
  • The Olympus AFL (Picasso), the world's first compact camera powered by a lithium battery, is launched. (Oct. 1983)
  • Toshiro Shimoyama becomes President. (Feb. 1984)
  • Olympus adopts a business division structure. (Nov. 1984)
  • The EVIS-1 endoscopic video system is introduced. (Mar. 1985)
  • Olympus introduces the AU5000 automatic biochemical analysis system. (Jul. 1986)

Adoption of Social IN Management Philosophy-1990-2011

1990s (first half)
The BX Series of system biological microscopes

The BX Series of system biological microscopes

  • Olympus announces the EVIS100/200 Series endoscopic video systems. (Oct. 1990)
  • The Olympusμ [mju:], the world's smallest and lightest compact camera is launched. (Mar. 1991)
  • Olympus opens a new plant in Hinode, Tokyo. (Apr. 1991)
  • A camera manufacturing plant is established in Shenzhen, China. (Dec. 1991)
  • Olympus announces the BX Series of system biological microscopes. (Mar. 1993)
  • Masatoshi Kishimoto becomes President. (Jun. 1993)
  • Olympus introduces an ultrasonic videoscope system. (1993)
  • The FOCUS21 Vision (Social IN management philosophy) is adopted. (Oct. 1994)
1990s (second half)
  • A European endoscope repair service center is opened in Hamburg, Germany. (1995)
  • Olympus announces the Fluoview biological laser scanning microscope. (Mar. 1993)
  • Olympus launches its first digital cameras, the Camedia C-800L C-400L. (Oct. 1996)
  • A customer support center for magneto-optical (MO) disk drives and digital cameras is opened in Tokyo. (Apr.1994)
  • Olympus moves into bone replacement material business with the announcement of Osferion. (Mar. 1999)
  • Olympus commences sales of veterinary endoscopes. (May 1999)
  • A logistics facility is opened in Shanghai and a medical equipment service center in Beijing. (1999)
2000s (first half)
The Evis Lucera

The Evis Lucera

  • Olympus establishes subsidiaries in Thailand (July 2000) and South Korea (September 2000)
  • Olympus launches the Camedia E-10, a full-featured digital SLR camera. (Oct. 2000)
  • A major management restructuring results in the adoption of an in-house company structure. (Apr. 2001)
  • Olympus enters into a comprehensive alliance agreement with Terumo Corporation in the medical equipment field. (Apr. 2001)
  • Tsuyoshi Kikukawa is appointed President. (Jun. 2001)
  • The IPLEX Industrial videoscope system is introduced. (Nov. 2001)
  • Olympus launches the Visera integrated video system for endoscopic surgery and examinations. (Apr. 2002)
  • Olympus announces the Evis Lucera, the world's first hi-vision endoscope. (Nov. 2002)
  • The company is renamed Olympus Corporation. (Oct. 2003)
  • The E-1 digital SLR camera with exchangeable lenses goes on sale. (Oct. 2003)
  • Olympus announces the Fluoview FV1000, the world's first confocal laser scanning microscope with a twin scanning system. (Jan. 2004)
  • The Imaging and Medical businesses are spun off to create Olympus Imaging Corporation and Olympus Medical Systems Corporation. (Oct. 2004)
2000s (second half)
The Evis Lucera Spectrum

The Evis Lucera Spectrum

  • A capsule endoscope system for the small intestine is introduced in Europe. (Oct. 2005)
  • A centralized base for the repair of endoscopic systems and the management of rental equipment is established within the Shirakawa Plant in Fukushima Prefecture. (Nov. 2011)
  • Olympus Medical Systems Services Vietnam Co., Ltd. is established to provide endoscope repair services in Vietnam. (Feb. 2006)
  • Olympus adopts the 2006 Corporate Strategic Plan with the aim of maximizing corporate value. (May 2006)
  • Olympus launches the Evis Lucera Spectrum, a next-generation endoscope system capable of observation in specific light spectra. (Jun. 2006)
  • A repair center is opend in Shanghai, China. (Oct. 2006)
  • Olympus launches the Visera Pro integrated surgical video endoscope system. (Dec. 2006)
  • The Omniscan iX non-destructive testing system goes on sale. (2006)
  • The Mishima Facility in Shizuoka Prefecture is established as a development and manufacturing base for the Life Science business. (Mar. 2007)
  • The Iplex FX industrial videoscope is launched. (Jul. 2007)
  • Olympus announces the E-3, a digital SLR camera with the world's fastest AF system. (Nov. 2007)
  • The LS-10 linear PCM recorder goes on sale. (Feb. 2008)
  • Olympus introduces endotherapy devices and a gastrointestinal videoscope system for use in endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD). (Oct. 2008)
  • Olympus Vietnam Co., Ltd. is established to operate a manufacturing facility for digital cameras and medical equipment in Vietnam. (Dec. 2008)
  • Olympus announces the LEXT OLS4000 3D measuring laser microscope. (Feb. 2009)
  • The Olympus Pen E-P1 digital micro-SLR camera is launched. (Jul. 2009)
  • Olympus agrees to divest its analyzer business to Beckman Coulter, Inc. of the United States. (Jul. 2009)
  • The BX3 system biologicalmicroscopes is launched. (Apr.)
  • Olympus announces the 100th Anniversary Vision. (May)

Back to Basics as a New Olympus with Strengthened Governance-2012 to the Present

The IX3 Series (IX83, IX73, IX53)

The IX3 Series (IX83, IX73, IX53)

  • Olympus announces the DSX Series of opto-digital microscopes for industrial use. (Jan.)
  • The Olympus OM-D and E-M5 mirrorless SLR cameras go on sale. (Feb.)
  • Olympus launches the Thunderbeat integrated surgical energy device. (Mar.)
  • The EVIS EXERA III gastrointestinal videoscope system is launched in Europe and North America. (Apr.)
  • Hiroyuki Sasa is appointed President. (Apr.)
  • Olympus announces a medium-term vision designed to realize a "New Olympus" and take the company "Back to Basics." (Jun.)
  • The IX3 Series (IX83, IX73, IX53) inverted research microscopes are introduced. (Jul.)
  • Olympus forms a business and capital alliance with Sony. (Sep.)
  • The Evis Lucera Elite gastrointestinal videoscope system is introduced in the Japanese market. (Oct.)
  • Olympus announces plans for the construction of new building at its three main medical plants in Aomori and Fukushima. (Dec.)
The Olympus OM-D and E-M1 mirrorless SLR cameras

The Olympus OM-D and E-M1 mirrorless SLR cameras

  • Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc. is established. (Apr.)
  • Olympus announces a 3D surgical endoscopy system. (Apr.)
  • The Olympus OM-D and E-M1 mirrorless SLR cameras are launched. (Oct.)
  • A repair service center is established in Ina City, Nagano Prefecture to strengthen endoscope repair services and equipment management in Japan. (Dec.)
  • Olympus introduces upper digestive tract and colorectal endoscopes with approximately 80x optical magnification. (Oct.)
Surgical endoscope system with 4K resolution

Surgical endoscope system with 4K resolution

  • Olympus uses a matrix organizational structure that maximizes the use of corporate resources by interconnecting businesses and functions in a balanced and efficient manner. (Apr.)
  • Olympus announces a surgical endoscope system with 4K resolution based on technology developed by Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc. (Oct.)

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