October 2016 marks a very special anniversary for Pentel, as the company celebrates 70 years of designing, manufacturing and selling some of the world’s favourite writing instruments.
The company was founded in 1946 as Japan Stationery Company Limited in Tokyo, by the late former chairman, Yukio Horie, who had a passion for art materials and writing instruments. He established his company to purchase and sell stationery products and made it his mission to develop crayons and pastels that would help people express their ideas and creativity. By the end of his first year in business he had set up his first factory in Tokyo and started work developing art materials.
In 1951 Mr Horie succeeded in combining the benefits of crayons and pastels to produce his first product. This was followed in 1955 by the launch of the Pentel Oil Pastel. Not content with developing art materials alone Yukio Horie turned his attention to everyday writing instruments and, in 1960, launched the Pentel Pencil, the world’s first mechanical pencil with a push button for advancing the lead. At the same time he introduced Hi-Polymer Refill Lead for his pencil and the oil-based Pentel Pen, a forerunner of N50, one of the company’s most successful permanent markers.
But it was in 1963 that the company came to the attention of the world, when it launched the Sign Pen, an acrylic-fibre-tipped pen that revolutionised writing and made headlines when it was spotted at a trade fair in the United States and subsequently fell into the hands of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who liked it immensely. The Sign Pen was even adopted as the official writing instrument of NASA and went into space with a Gemini mission in 1966. This publicity cemented the future of the Sign Pen and to date, more than two billion pens have been sold around the world.
In 1971 the company changed its name to the now familiar Pentel Co. Ltd. The origin of the name reflects the close connection between painting, pastels and pens and the word ‘tell’.
The launch of another iconic product was about to introduce a new generation to Pentel. In 1972 the green-barrelled Ball Pentel rollerball was launched, a product that inspired the development of future, everyday writing instruments. With its cushioned ball tip and water-based ink Ball Pentel gave writers the fluid writing feel normally associated with fountain pens, without the inconvenience of messy refilling. Over the coming years the Ball Pentel rollerball became the cool pen to have in every pencil case, studio and office. An archive photo even shows Her Majesty the Queen marking her race card with the famous pen.
In 1976 Pentel received the prestigious Deming Prize, awarded in recognition of company-wide efforts to introduce the best practices of quality control and implementation. The namesake of the prize was the American engineer, statistician, professor and author, Dr W. Edwards Deming, who even made a visit to Pentel himself in 1978 to inspect the working practices of the company.
Innovation followed innovation, as Pentel created one ground-breaking writing instrument after another. In fact, it is estimated that in the region of two-thirds of the writing instruments technology in everyday use around the world today has been inspired by Pentel innovation.
And the mission to produce products offering superior performance continues. The last decade has seen the introduction of EnerGel, the name given to a range of pens and the ink within them, which offers an exceptional writing experience. Unlike conventional gel pens, which provide strong, vivid colour but often slow drying time EnerGel ink dries extremely quickly, making it suitable for left-handed writers as well as right. Thanks to EnerGel’s quick drying formula the problem of smudging is virtually eradicated on most everyday writing paper.
The Maxiflo Dry Wipe Marker is another important Pentel innovation. Its vivid liquid ink writes vibrantly, but the key feature of this product is its push-button ink replenishment system. Often if a cap has been left off a dry wipe marker for a few hours the tip dries out. But, with Maxiflo, the tip can be recharged with fresh ink by pushing the end button to replenish the ink flow. This extends the life of the marker, making every last drop of ink usable.
The most recent example of innovation is the Orenz mechanical pencil, which features unique lead protection technology. The lead does not protrude below the sleeve and as the pencil is used the sleeve gradually retracts into the barrel until all the lead is finished. During use the end button doesn’t have to be pressed again, making Orenz truly a ‘one-click’ pencil. The family includes a 0.2mm lead size, the world’s finest diameter mechanical pencil.
Quality is at the heart of the Pentel operation and all of the company’s factories are accredited to ISO 9001 quality management standard and the majority also to ISO 14001 environmental management standard.
In addition to its production focus Pentel has a strong social and environmental policy and plays an active role as a corporate and community partner around the world. In the UK Pentel has raised over £1.1 million for Breast Cancer Now, though sales of special edition pink pens, and a further £365,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.
Seventy years after it was founded, Pentel is a global business with over 2,000 employees and a network of 21 sales offices covering more than 120 countries. Looking to the future Pentel continues to focus on its mission to develop and deliver user-friendly writing instruments that enable people all over the world to experience the joy of creative expression.