100 Years of Excellence
Interview with Senior Vertical Market Specialist Markus Fabich
The German edition of inspect – World of Vision magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. A leading global company that has been in the market for five times as long is Olympus, this year celebrating its 100-year anniversary. We spoke with Senior Vertical Market Specialist Markus Fabich about the history and future of the microscopy division.
Inspect: How would you describe Olympus’ development in the industry – from Takeshi Yamashita’s Japanese production of microscopes to a globally leading manufacturer of nondestructive testing and measurement equipment?
Throughout our history, an Olympus microscope has been considered a mark of quality and trust – and this is something that remained the same through the years. What’s evolved is Olympus’ ability to get closer to the users’ needs, striving for an ever-higher degree of excellence in specifications and delivery. A good example is the field number of a microscope; our field numbers have continually increased over the past decades, and we’re continuing this trend. This means you can see more in high quality – not just through the oculars, but also on a camera.
Working closely with our customers has enabled us to successfully expand our portfolio and respond to their needs. Our CIX100 cleanliness inspection microscope is a good example. This microscope was designed based on a need for using microscopes to comply with industry standards, such as ISO standards. The CIX100 can be used to ensure compliance with 38 different standards in contamination control alone – and there may be hundreds of implementations of these standards in different industries.
Of course, our industrial portfolio has also expanded far beyond microscopy. Remote visual inspection (RVI), for example, has been with Olympus for more than 40 years. Even more recent additions such as ultrasound, eddy current and X-ray fluorescence have been part of Olympus for almost two decades. Many of these technologies came to us as a result of acquisitions, but after joining the Olympus family they have benefitted hugely from our world-leading optical expertise and manufacturing excellence.
What are the critical success factors for Olympus’ development?
First of all, every organization needs to have an area of expertise in which it excels.
In our case this is optical engineering, design and manufacturing. And this is really where our roots are: that level of quality, not only in design, but also in manufacturing and the final product. However, as the company grew, focusing solely on lenses, objectives and other hardware aspects was not enough, so we’ve grown our business beyond just the hardware. We are now also a leading supplier of imaging software and advanced technologies in lighting.
We always work very closely with our customers, as we always have done since Olympus came here to Europe 60 years ago. We have always listened to what was needed and over the years, we’ve continuously reported back to the engineering teams, ready to start the next cycle of innovation.
The company’s founder, Mr. Yamashita, was Japanese. To what extent is the Japanese company culture still a factor at Olympus today? How has the company’s management style changed over the years and adapted to market requirements?
Olympus was founded in 1919: the dawn of the ‘roaring 20s’ and a time of great prosperity and scientific advancement around the world. It’s worth illustrating that the company thrived, innovated and grew from its origins in this period. In terms of company values, customer centricity and integrity have been core values of the company from the very beginning – and this is of course important in Japanese culture, but also to us here in Germany.
Nevertheless, the company has of course developed into a global organization. This global identity is particularly noticeable in the scientific solutions division, which has two geographical strongholds: the headquarters for microscopy and RVI is based in Japan, and the analytical instruments and nondestructive testing businesses are based in the US. Influences from these different markets have clearly provided the best of both worlds for Olympus as a whole, contributing to its current, global identity.
Current hot topics in the industry are augmented reality and human–machine collaboration. What are your undertakings in these areas?
Augmented reality is indeed a hot topic in the industry, but actually microscopes have been augmenting reality since they’ve existed. Especially with the range of illumination and contrast methods we have today, you could say that each of these methods augments reality in some way. Take interference contrast as an example. You can use it to see nanometer-level height differences in transparent materials in real time. So, this is basically analog, real-time augmented reality – and we’ve been doing this for more than 60 years!
When it comes to human–machine interactions, we have made enormous progress over the years. Microscopes have long moved away from being just a tool to get the job done. Instead they can guide you through the entire analysis workflow, from picking the right magnification, lighting and contrast method, all the way to helping you take the right measurements. All that complexity of helping the user each step of the way – that’s our vision for human–machine interaction.
In the year of your anniversary you have launched the new industrial digital microscope, the DSX1000. How does this product relate to your anniversary? What are the microscope’s unique selling points?
Exactly 100 years after the launch of our first product, which was a microscope, we’ve moved to a completely new way of thinking about microscopes. This change is most obvious in terms of flexibility, versatility and user-friendliness. The DSX1000 offers a wide range of magnifications from 20 to 7000x and six different illumination methods. It also has the ability to image a sample from every direction without moving it, thanks to a rotating stage and headpiece. Furthermore, the microscope can generate precise 3D models in a matter of seconds and take measurements with guaranteed accuracy for compliance purposes.
When it comes to user-friendliness, the DSX1000 is designed with today’s users in mind. Thanks to the intuitive operation and software, it requires little expertise to set up and operate. This means that its features are accessible to all users – even if they’re not microscopy experts. That is a big plus for many industrial applications.
What are the typical applications for the product, and why?
A key strength of the DSX1000 is its flexibility, which means it’s designed for use across the industrial sectors. So it doesn’t matter whether you work in the electronics, materials science, automotive or aerospace industry, the DSX1000 has got the answers. This versatility also extends to different tasks within the same industry – failure analysis QA/QC, R&D, you name it!
The versatility and flexibility of microscopes like the DSX1000 highlights a change that has taken place in the industry. If you look at microscopes in the recent past, maybe only 20 or 30 years ago, imaging was the primary purpose of using a microscope. If you look at our customer portfolio for different types of microscopes now, measurement capabilities are crucial for many users. Taking beautiful images is great, but today’s users expect more – and the DSX1000 does exactly that.