||It all began with butter
The roots of Océ, which has its headquarters in Venlo, the Netherlands, reach back to 1871, when Venlo chemist Lodewijk van der Grinten started research on the manufacture of butter-coloring agents. Around 1877, he began large-scale production of the resultant product, which was used to color both butter and margarine.
Lodewijk's son Frans began industrial manufacture of the colorant in 1895. Océ continued to produce this product until 1970 when the butter coloring business was sold to the multinational company Unilever. By that time, Océ had become a world leader in the manufacture of reprographic machines and supplies.
Early paper developments
The company that was to become known as Océ (the name dates back to 1927), took a step closer to the reprographic industries that today are at its core when, in 1920, Frans' son Louis started the company's document-copying activities. Initially the Van der Grintens manufactured blueprint paper, which in the 1920s was commonly used for the reproduction of line originals, such as tracings. The light-sensitive coating on blueprint paper, however, caused great difficulties in copying. Early attempts to correct these problems produced paper that had a longer shelf life but a correspondingly slower development time.
With his background in chemistry, Louis (with the help of his father) soon succeeded in producing paper that overcame these difficulties.
In 1923, a discovery by a German firm, Kalle & Co., started the Van der Grintens on a new tack. Kalle introduced an easy and inexpensive way to produce positive copies. Unlike with blueprints, on which white lines are reproduced on blue paper, this process, known as diazo printing, produced colored lines on white paper.
Primulin is first big breakthrough
Louis van der Grinten quickly improved on the basic process and, in 1926, Van der Grinten introduced its Primulin paper and applied for patents in several countries. Eventually Van der Grinten came up with an improved, semi-dry diazo process - the first product to carry the Océ trademark. The Océ name derived from the German words ohne Componente (without component). To make the abbreviation O.C. easier to pronounce, the é was later added, and a trade name was born.
Early Océ leadership
Two of Louis' brothers had also joined the company by this time, Piet in 1923 and Karel in 1925. The three brothers served as company co-directors. Louis was responsible for research, patents, licensing contracts and other legal matters, Karl was production manager and Piet was in charge of the manufacture of the butter-coloring agent.
Diazo paper develops international following
Much of Océ's success was, and continued to be, based on strong research. But Océ also strengthened its position through a series of strategic alliances. Because the Van der Grintens preferred science to salesmanship, they licensed people in various countries to produce and sell their diazo paper.
The first of these contracts was signed with Charles Bruning in 1923. Connections with this US firm remained strategically important to Océ.
While the brothers continued to manufacture blueprint paper until 1946, the wave of the future was clearly with their improved version of diazo paper, which quickly developed an international following.
Until the mid-1930s, blueprint and dyeline technologies (of which diazo was one) were the only possible ways to copy documents, except for laborious rewriting or conventional photography, which was too expensive and cumbersome to be practical.
RetOcé allows copies of non-translucent originals
In 1935, Océ made a significant breakthrough in copying when it developed a diazo application that allowed copies to be made of non-translucent originals. For a number of years, this process, known as RetOcé, was the only process available for making copies inexpensively and easily. This dominance lasted until nearly 1945, when 'electrophotographic' copying began making inroads as the preferred copying method. By the time the first electrophotographic copying machines arrived on the market in 1956, RetOcé was no longer the copy method of choice. But by then Océ had already begun developing other products.
The rise of office copying
In the 1960s, the need for office copying rapidly expanded. Océ turned its attention to plain-paper copying, a necessity in the office environment, and, in 1973, it introduced its first plain-paper office copier, the Océ 1700. Over the next several years, Océ introduced more successful office copying products for the medium, high and very-high volume segments of the market. It also designed plain-paper copiers for the engineering environment. In 1983, it introduced its first wide-format, plain-paper copier, the Océ 7500.
Introduction of Océ reproduction technologies
In 1973, Océ developed a revolutionary reprographic technology that would become known as the Océ Copy Press System. This process, which features a dual-belt transfer system, is the only viable alternative to xerographic technology. The Océ Copy Press System produces offset-like quality copies and prints.
Significant Océ acquisitions
In addition to increasing its product line, Océ also expanded as a company over the years. In 1958, the company was first listed as a public company on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. It then began several key expansions and mergers. In 1958, Océ set up its first wholly owned subsidiary in another country - Germany. In 1964, it began a series of mergers that also expanded its territory. The first such merger involved taking over the activities and personnel of the Belgium firm Jobé. Océ made similar arrangements for establishing wholly owned subsidiaries in Austria, Sweden (AB Ingeniörsutensilier, 1966) and France (Photosia, 1966).
Expanding all over the world
Océ continued its expansion in the 1960s in Denmark, Norway, and Italy. In 1969, another French
company, CIAP, joined the Océ Group. Océ established its first independent presence in the US through its 1970 acquisition of a former licensee, BK Elliot in Pittsburgh, and through its 1971 acquisition of ICP,
manufacturers of electrostatic copiers and microfilm readers. In 1972, the Danish company Helioprint AS and the Brazilian Copirama joined the Group. Océ increased its 25% interest in William Crosby Ltd, Australia, to a majority holding, also in 1972.
In 1978, Océ made the biggest acquisition to date when it took over its largest competitor, Ozalid Group Holdings Ltd., in the United Kingdom. An international company with subsidiaries in some 15 countries, Ozalid's history neatly paralleled Océ's, making the merger both logical and smooth. This acquisition meant a considerable strengthening of the Océ Group in many countries where the activities of both companies merged.
Solidifying the engineering market
Other acquisitions brought 'new business' to Océ. This was especially the case in 1989 when Océ acquired the large and successful plotter activities of the French company Schlumberger, formerly Benson, which had a very active organization in Western Europe. Once called Océ-Graphics, these activities now fall under the auspices of the Océ Wide Format Printing Systems Strategic Business Unit. This merger strengthened Océ's position in the engineering market as well as bringing in new technologies such as automation and digitalization.
Expansion in the US
Océ expansion also continued in the US, with the acquisition of Arkwright Incorporated, in 1977. When Océ's own technology proved increasingly successful, Océ decided to enter the American office copying market via its own organization, as it had already done in the American engineering systems market. In 1983, Océ set up Océ-Business Systems Inc. (renamed Océ-Office Systems Inc. in 1987) to accomplish this goal. Océ later moved the headquarters of its American operations to Chicago under the name Océ-USA, Inc. Long-time licensee, Bruning, which had had an on-again, off-again relationship with Océ over the years, was finally acquired by the Océ Group in 1991.
New agreements, new subsidiaries
In 1994, Océ signed a special distribution agreement for office systems in America with ALCO Office Products, Inc. (now IKON Office Solutions), the biggest independent distributor for office copying systems in the US.
In the rest of the world, Océ founded new subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Spain, Brunei, Portugal, Finland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Hungary, Malaysia and Taiwan. 1999 saw Océ acquire a majority shareholding in the Japanese business Nippon Steel Calcomp Corporation, which now operates under the name Océ Japan Corporation.
Developing unique technologies
The Dutch branch of Océ, in the meantime, continued to develop its own unique technologies.
In 1978, Océ introduced its own in-house developed laser printer. In response to the increasing demand for automation, Océ also began developing color reproduction machines for both the engineering and office markets, as well as scanners and digital copiers, printers, plotters and combined printer-copiers.
In 1994, Océ introduced Océ Image Logic, a technology that automatically gives users perfect quality copies and printed originals every time. This image-processing technology is the most efficient system available for scanning and converting hard-copy information into digital form, making copying and printing easier, faster and more reliable than ever before.
In 2001, Océ began shipping the Océ CPS700 color printer based on the company's own revolutionary color imaging technology. This unique imaging process incorporates a combination of Océ Color Copy Press and Direct Imaging that creates a 7-color image without the use of light, yielding highly accurate color images without the need for calibration.
Strengthening the Océ range
Océ has been successful in meeting the needs of a rapidly changing market thanks to heavy investment in R&D. Océ produces about 75% of the products it markets. For the remaining 25%, Océ utilizes the specialist knowledge, or the manufacturing economies of scale, of selected companies or suppliers with which it has built close relationships over the years. On this basis, the Océ Group has entered into some strategic alliances to supplement the Océ range.
High-volume printing systems
In 1996 Océ joined forces with Siemens-Nixdorf Printing to form Océ Printing Systems. The acquisition added high volume production printing and on-demand publishing to Océ's repertoire, as well as a wealth of expertise in service, sales and technology.
Growth in facility services
Océ activities in Facility Services began growing strongly during the 1990's. The acquisition of Archer Management Services in 1997 expanded these activities and is now known as Océ Business Services, part of Océ's global document process management division.
The increasing importance of software
In 1998 Océ acquired Groupware Technology Inc. in the USA, a software developer which had been developing applications for Océ for some time in the area of archiving systems for the large format market. In response to growing market demand for applications software for high volume printing systems, Océ acquired participation in two other business in 1998: InterFace Connection (Munich) and Siemens Software S.A. (Belgium) active in the field of print on demand, distributed printing, and archive and workflow management systems.
In 2000, Océ added Computer Gesellschaft Konstanz (now called Océ Document Technologies) to strengthen Océ's capabilities in the area of optical character recognition, an important component of advanced archiving systems.
To enhance Océ's position as the leading solutions provider to the commercial reprographic market, Océ and Autodesk signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement in 2002 for Autodesk Print Management Solutions software. Among other applications, this gave Océ a software solution for sharing technical documents over the web for its architectural, engineering, construction and reprographer customers.
Strength in Display Graphics
In response to the increasing opportunities in large format color, 2001 saw an acquisition in the digital color display graphics market. Océ acquired the Professional Imaging Division of Gretag Imaging Group, Inc. This division develops, produces and sells products in the large format display graphics market including color inkjet and photo laser printers and RIPs for indoor and outdoor applications.
North American expansion
In January 2002, Océ purchased GE Access Printing Solutions S.A. de C.V. of Mexico City. The company, renamed Océ-Mexico, S.A. de C.V., had been a distribution partner of Océ solutions for several years. It now markets a full line of production printing and large format printing technology and services.
Increased U.S. Coverage
In October, 2005, Océ acquired Imagistics International, Inc., the largest transaction in the Company's history. Integrated as Océ Imagistics, the new unit serves the office and Digital Printing Center (in-house printshop) environments. With one of the industry's largest direct sales and service organizations, Océ Imagistics offers a complete line of multi-function printers and document management software and services to a broad cross-section of corporations, government bodies and educational institutions.