What is monozukuri?

"Monozukuri," an umbrella term that conveys the spirit and skill of craftsmanship, creates advanced products that are needed by the world, delivers them to customers and recycles them. The term encompasses everything from product development and design to procurement, processing and production, transportation and recycling, technical proficiency, knowledge and know-how.

Many companies choose to keep development and design processes in-house while outsourcing production. Canon, however, is fully committed to the holistic concept of monozukuri, and it is this commitment that underpins the quality and performance standards of our products.

In addition, we are leading the evolution of manufacturing by making the most of the know-how gained from years of experience and the wisdom of continued improvement in order to promote automation.

Product development

Product development encompasses preliminary planning and design, prototyping and quality testing. The preliminary planning stage involves initial analyses to identify the needs and expectations of consumers and determine the functions and features that Canon can offer in a product. In the preliminary design stage, drawings are created for each individual component and for the product overall, in line with the functionality and performance requirements identified during the planning stage. The prototype stage involves fabricating the components as per the drawings, then assembling them into a complete product to see if it operates as intended. Quality testing involves subjecting the prototype to a series of trials to identify any faults, defects or durability issues. After this stage, the product is finally ready to move to the production phase. There are also occasions when, if the product features particularly advanced or novel functionality, there may be additional processes involved, such as designing a new mechanism or structure, or developing a new material, to enable a specific component to achieve the required performance.

Optical design of lenses using 3D-CAD software

Development of CMOS sensors

Product development at Canon is driven by our technology-first approach of using technology to make the world more convenient, rich and comfortable. Design processes are fully digitized using 3D-CAD (computer-aided design) software. Our proprietary simulation system allows us to evaluate, for example, printer issues such as ink spatter and paper feed performance without having to build a physical prototype. We can also model properties such as heat generation and transfer during operation or shock resistance when the product is dropped from height. By enabling us to examine the development process from a variety of different angles, computer simulation reduces the number of prototypes required, speeds up product development lead times and boosts quality standards. Furthermore, this technology gives us the ability to tailor product designs to suit automated production systems and boost the proportion of key technical components (known as “key parts”) created in-house. Finally, it also gives us a much better idea of the environmental footprint of each individual component.

Canon is committed to protecting intellectual assets generated via research and development, in the form of technology patents. For the last 35 years, Canon has been among the top five organizations worldwide in terms of the number of patents registered annually in the United States.

Drop impact simulation (Inkjet printer drop test)

Product design

Product design has an enormous bearing on how the product is perceived, and on brand image in general. Key design elements including the shape and color of the product, the layout of the operating panel or screen, and the user experience. Designers work closely with the related product development departments to ensure that each product’s design maximizes performance benefits as well as user experience. Close liaison with the production department is also important to ensure that manufacturing considerations are also taken into account—in other words, products should be easy to make.

Design prototypes of a camera

Inspecting the design of ophthalmic equipment

Canon boasts an extensive line-up of products, ranging from consumer cameras and printers to medical equipment and industrial machinery. While design requirements can vary considerably between categories, the overriding principle is that every product should be easy to use.

We start by talking with customers and observing actual products in use. This allows us to see first-hand what works and what doesn’t and identify ways to enhance the user experience. The resulting ideas and concepts are then translated into sketch drawings and prototypes. These are tested extensively against the desired objectives and further refined to produce an idealized design. Finally, we work with the production department to add appearance and texture elements as well as manufacturing efficiency improvements into the finished product design.

Process design

Once the product design is finished, the next step is to design the process for actually making the product. The process design includes the manufacturing methodology, order of operations and resource allocation (including equipment and workers), along with detailed calculations such as set-up cost (i.e. the initial investment), cost rate (the cost per unit produced) and lead time (how long it takes to make each unit).

Cell production of office multifunction devices

Designed with safety in mind

At Canon, the process design is predicated on the four pillars of EQCD: Environmental impact, Quality standards, Cost and Delivery lead time. The associated worker input calculations take into account a range of factors such as worker safety, production efficiency and the balance between automation and human input, as well as production procedures and processes, timing constraints, equipment requirements and scheduling of worker hours. With its longstanding commitment to the principles of monozukuri, Canon specializes in process design that brings together the technical expertise and experience of the manufacturer.


Production is at the core of monozukuri. The production process encompasses procurement of input materials for parts and components, manufacturing and processing, assembly of components into the finished product, and finally, testing and inspection.

Making technically advanced products requires advanced equipment as well as highly skilled operators. Production equipment can take many different forms: the complex machinery and equipment combinations used to make input materials for production; molding machines that fabricate parts by pouring molten metal or resin into molds; automated processing and assembly lines; and testing equipment that can identify defects and nonconformities. In addition, high-quality production requires skilled workers with the expertise needed to make components and assemble products to a high degree of precision and the knowledge to use the production equipment in the correct manner.

Canon employs a “cell system” of production, in which individual teams are given responsibility for assembly of finished products. Cell production has contributed significantly to the evolution of monozukuri, giving rise to the man-machine cell production system that incorporates robot production processes with human workers, as well as the Canon Meister designation that recognizes people who have mastered hundreds of pages of procedural manuals. Similarly, the Chie-tech, or “smart design equipment” program encourages production workers to put forward suggestions for making low-cost tools and processes, and has substantially improved production efficiency. Also, skilled veterans designated as Master Craftsmen provide mentoring and additional training to younger workers in areas that require special expertise, such as lens polishing and metal mold fabrication.

An important feature of the Canon monozukuri approach is the shift toward in-house production of key parts and components.

Canon is committed to developing its own material processing methodologies and production equipment as well as boosting the proportion of components and equipment produced in-house. At the same time, Canon is also working toward 24-hour operation through the use of fully automated production lines. Automation is steadily being introduced to processing, packaging, on-site transportation and testing and inspection processes, and automated assembly machines are also in the works. In this way, Canon is leading the global push toward automated factories, with the aim of ensuring a reliable and consistent supply of high-quality products.

Cell production at Canon Prachinburi (Thailand)

The man-machine cell production system in which people and robots work together

Smart design equipment that makes it easy to transport heavy units


Finished products must be transported in a safe and secure manner to prevent any impact on quality. The optimum mode of transport and route is chosen from a variety of options including sea, air, rail and road, taking into account delivery timing and cost constraints as well as potential environmental impact. Products are typically transported from the factory to the distributor warehouse, then to retail outlets and finally into the hands of consumers. Transportation is a vital element of monozukuri, encompassing delivery of input materials, parts and components to the factory as well as well shipment of finished products from the factory.

Transportation by sea

Transportation by rail

Canon supplies an incredibly diverse range of products and solutions, from compact devices such as cameras through to very large semiconductor exposure devices. Logistics departments have to monitor the ever-changing distribution landscape and identify the optimum mode of transport based on factors such as product size and characteristics as well as retail format, to ensure that destination markets around the world receive their supplies safely, in full and on schedule.

Environmental considerations are also an important part of the transport equation. To this end, Canon is pursuing a modal shift from road to rail and sea options and coordinating combined shipments with other suppliers. Another initiative to reduce the environmental footprint of transport operations is the milk run model, in which a single journey to collect parts and components from multiple suppliers replaces separate deliveries from each supplier.

Product sales, service, collection and recycling

As a manufacturer, Canon’s commitment to monozukuri extends to the full life cycle of the product. In addition to supplying products, we provide after-sales service to ensure that customers enjoy the full benefits of their purchase, and set up collection and recycling systems, where practicable, for products that are no longer in use.

Customer Service at Canon USA

Used office MFDs collected for Canon’s remanufacturing system

Toner cartridges collected from customers

Canon products are sold through a global sales network encompassing retailers, distributors and online shopping websites, that enables the company to provide customer support and services tailored to each region. Canon also provides direct sales and service in certain product categories, such as medical equipment and industrial machinery.

The monozukuri approach at Canon extends to remanufacturing initiatives, including dedicated collection and recycling systems for used consumables such as toner and ink cartridges. The company also collects used office printers, scanners and multifunction devices for disassembly to retrieve parts and components that can be cleaned and reused.

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