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07-20-2019, 11:23 PM - 10 Likes   #1

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Info about Ricoh’s factory in Vietnam

I was looking at the August issues of the Japanese camera magazines today, and found that both Asahi Camera and Nippon Camera have detailed reports of reporters’ trips to the Ricoh Imaging plant in Vietnam. This is the plant where the GR III, most K-mount lenses and accessories are made. The Pentax cameras are made at another plant in the Philippines. The two articles were mainly focused on how the GR is made, which is obviously Ricoh’s big hit at the moment, but the Nippon Camera one had quite a bit of information about K-mount lens production as well.

The factory is near Hanoi in the north of Vietnam and it has been open since 1996. The company that runs it is a wholly owned subsidiary called Ricoh Imaging Products Vietnam. There is a total of 35,000 square meters of space on the site, with two sizable production buildings of around 7,000 square meters each. There were a lot of photos of the site in the article and they show what you would expect - modern production spaces with extensive measures to ensure cleanliness. One thing that struck me was the sheer number of people in the factory spaces compared to factory tours you see in Japan.

998 employees are employed there. Ricoh has made efforts to make sure that they have a comfortable environment for female employees. I guess they mean equitable career prospects, leave practices and so on. As a result, the workforce is about 75% female, and over half of the managers are women.

They manufacture the GR III and 94 varieties of lens there, including almost all K-mount lenses. One interesting comment was that there was a period from 2015 when that made some Pentax DSLRs there, but not any more. I’m wondering what those models were. However, some parts of Pentax cameras are still made there. They had a picture of K-1 prisms being made.

Nippon Camera even had flowcharts of the production processes for the GR III and lenses. It seems that around half the steps are related to alignment and quality control.

I appreciate this is all a bit geeky, but it was interesting to see what a big and modern facility Ricoh has. It’s also interesting to see the huge amount of organizational and human effort that goes into producing these products that we often take for granted. It’s all very well to say “Why don’t they just put a motor in this?” Or “can’t they just update the optics in that?” When you see what they have to do to just produce these lenses, it makes you more appreciative.

07-20-2019, 11:35 PM   #2

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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
It’s all very well to say “Why don’t they just put a motor in this?” Or “can’t they just update the optics in that?” When you see what they have to do to just produce these lenses, it makes you more appreciative.
Yes, of course, making a prototype in a garage isn't not the same at all as designing a product for being mass produced within constant quality level. Generally speaking, in the technology industry, the industrialization work of a product amount multiple times the cost of making a prototype in a lab. I've even seen startups with excellent prospect completely failing when they tried to scale to industrial / mass production level. Lots of people don't realize that, even among business executives who've never been involved in production and quality.
07-21-2019, 12:16 AM - 1 Like   #3

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Hah, you tell me about it. I'm a PhD student and my work (I come from an engineering background) involves upscaling of nanomaterial production. It's fascinating how many papers are published on "facile, scalable methods" that would never work large scale. Think "a glass container has to be used" stuff. Sure, you can make a swimming pool-sized ampule, mister, why not.

For manufacturing, I would say Quality Control is the entire crux, something that involves a lot of complicated steps will end up leading to problems because you will have a lot of operator error mounting up. People keep forgetting that lens construction and assembly *is* highly precise work, and having complex steps on a manual labor-intensive* assembly line is asking for trouble.

*For reference, chemical process plants normally have a tenth of the employees for the same surface area, or so.
07-21-2019, 02:25 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by JPT Quote
The factory is near Hanoi in the north of Vietnam and it has been open since 1996.
And long may they live and prosper.

07-21-2019, 02:38 AM - 1 Like   #5

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I think the K-S2 was made there.

A report from 2006.

---------- Post added 21-07-19 at 11:55 ----------

On another report.....

Ricoh may close shutter on personal camera business - Nikkei Asian Review

The company plans to use spare capacity at compact-digital-camera factories in Vietnam and elsewhere to ramp up production of automotive products.
Ofcourse since Ricoh is still in the camera business, they made a different decision on their future in 2016 then this article was talking about.

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