INX's Hiroshi Ota Receives NAPIM's Printing Ink Pioneer Award

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 06.09.09

Hiroshi Ota, senior managing director of SAKATA INX and chairman of INX International Ink Co., honored by NAPIM

Hiroshi Ota, center, is congratulated by INX colleagues Rick Clendenning, left, and Dr. Kotaro Morita.
Over the years, there have been a handful of truly innovative chemistries that have led to major changes within the ink industry. One such technology, the gravure lamination ink developed by SAKATA INX in the 1980s, remains a standard today.

Hiroshi Ota, senior managing director of SAKATA INX and chairman of INX International Ink Co., was responsible for much of the technology of that system, including the work on the resin systems. This is just one of the many reasons that Mr. Ota received the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) prestigious Printing Ink Pioneer Award during its 2008 Annual Convention.

“It was totally a bolt from the blue,” Mr. Ota said about receiving the award. “It’s been only about 10 years since I became engaged with U.S. business. To be honest, I couldn’t believe it. I never dreamed of basking in such an honor. I believe that the award was given to me this time in honor of INX International. I am sincerely grateful for it.”


Considering all that Mr. Ota has accomplished, it’s hard to imagine that he joined SAKATA 41 years ago because it was the first job offered to him after he graduated college with chemistry and engineering degrees.

“I had a hard time finding a job since the year I graduated from college was in recession,” he recalled. “In the meantime, I received a job offer from SAKATA INX. I was happy about it and decided to accept the offer without thinking deeply. This is how I joined SAKATA.”

Mr. Ota would quickly leave a major mark in R&D. After holding several technical positions, he was promoted to assistant chief of SAKATA INX’s R&D Group, where he began his groundbreaking work on resin systems for gravure lamination systems. He was promoted to chief researcher in 1983.

In 1986, Mr. Ota was given a completely new set of responsibilities, as hewas transferred to the U.S. to search for acquisitions that would later form the core of INX International. Once that was accomplished, he was given the responsibility of transferring SAKATA’s technology to INX International. He looks back on that time as one of the keys in his growth as a leader.

“The assignment overseas has brought me great wealth of experience more than anything,” Mr. Ota said. “Living in a place that has a different culture and business practices allowed me to learn wonderful aspects of a foreign country, and at the same time, it even helped me to re-realize what a wonderful country Japan really is. Now INX International has become such an excellent company, thanks to the leadership of Rick Clendenning and the rest of INX management team, and the great support from our earnest employees. My help just plays a small part of it. In that sense, I strongly believe that the contributions of everyone with INX to the industry have been recognized this time. Again, I would like to thank everyone with INX from my heart.

“I believe that I have achieved some positive results in the management of international business by utilizing my cosmopolitan outlook that I acquired during my days in Chicago,” Mr. Ota added.

Mr. Ota noted that he has had many influences in his life, most notably his wife, Yoshiko.

“Irrespective of inside or outside of the ink industry, my peers who have been around me and given me sincere advice are my major influences,” Mr. Ota said. “If I dare to say, my wife is the one who has influenced me the most.”

Although INX does keep Mr. Ota busy, he still finds some time to do craftwork. “I don’t have any hobbies in particular,” he said. “I’ve been too busy to find enough time to enjoy a hobby. However, even so I love handwork such us DIY, engraving or painting. When I can take time off to enjoy them, I would like to brush up on my skills.”

‘Truly Deserving’

Mr. Ota’s colleagues agree that he is most deserving of NAPIM‘s Pioneer Award. Hirotsugu Takamaru, president of SAKATA INX, noted that the award reflects Mr. Ota’s efforts.

Hiroshi Ota, left, senior managing director of SAKATA INX and chairman of INX International, receives NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award from NAPIM president Michael Gettis.
“As a matter of course, it is the fruits of his long-time great efforts, but at the same time, I am deeply grateful to National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers and our customers whose kind guidance and support helped him to have received recognition,” said Mr. Takamaru, president of SAKATA INX. “Also, it is such an honor for INX International and SAKATA INX group as I feel that our everyday activities have been recognized as well. SAKATA INX group’s policy resides in our customer creed. Taking this opportunity to reset our mind, we hope to continue to mutually grow by conducting better customer-oriented sales activities while maintaining the win-win relationship with our customers.”

“Mr. Ota is truly deserving of this award,” said Rick Clendenning, INX International’s president and CEO. “He lives and breathes printing ink and really loves satisfying his customers. I have learned a great deal from him over the past several years that I have answered directly to him; he is passionate, hard working and a brilliant chemist, which helps when we are together on a customer visit.He has a great mind and feel for business, but more importantly, he cares about people, his employees and his customers.He has a lovely wife and two successful children who he is very proud of.I am very happy for Mr. Ota and lucky to be able to call him my boss and friend.”

Bryce Kristo, CFO and senior vice president general affairs for INX International, noted that Mr. Ota has been instrumental in the growth and long-term prosperity of INX International

“With his support and guidance, INX has invested heavily into our corporate infrastructure including the expansion of our West Chicago facility, the establishment of a state-of-the-art water-based manufacturing plant in Homewood, IL, and upgrading the company’s information system,” Mr. Kristo said. “In addition, his leadership brought about our investment into the digital arena including investment into Triangle Digital INX, Innovative Solutions INX and Megaink Digital. Through these efforts we will have secured a healthy long-term outlook for the organization of which we are all very grateful. Finally, but first and foremost, Mr. Ota is a very kind and gracious person who truly looks out for the best interest of others.”

Enjoying the Ink Industry

All in all, Mr. Ota looks back on his choice of joining SAKATA INX and the ink industry with great fondness.

“As a leader of the information culture that has not changed over thousands of years, I’ve been engaged with the ink industry,” Mr. Ota said. “I quite simply enjoy it. It is never exposed to any rapid technical innovation, and it is a technology that moderately changes. It is, as it were, setting a boat afloat on a river that flows slowly and enjoying the changing scenery. It is not too busy and makes me feel at ease.”

While it has been more than 15 years since he left R&D for his current position, Mr. Ota looks back with fondness on his work in R&D and his colleagues.

“My 25 years at R&D were really fulfilling,” Mr. Ota said. “I am proud that I left a certain mark on my career as a chemist in my own way. I still enjoy discussing various technologies with young R&D chemists over a glass of wine and it is one of the pleasantest times for me. Back then, I specialized in the research of resin for ink. Speaking of impressive achievement, it is the development of polyurethane resin. Needless to say, there was cooperation from distinguished ink chemists behind the achievement. I will never forget it all my life.”