DIGITAL digest

Southern Exposure For Fujifilm

GREENWOOD, SC—Why would a Japanese company choose to locate a sprawling manufacturing complex here? It’s a question Fuji Photo Film executives, and probably all 1,600 local “associates” of the company, are used to hearing. Especially since the site is about a one-hour drive from the nearest major airport.

An abundant supply of high-quality water for use in its processes is the number one reason, says Hirokuni “Harry” Watanabe, company president. “Fuji sampled and analyzed water from a number of areas in the U.S. before picking this location in 1988,” he explains. In keeping with its ISO 14001 certification and commitment to environmental protection, Fuji returns good water to the local lake, Watanabe notes. Other factors were said to include access to the port of Charleston, general infrastructure of the region, the state’s pro-business environment and quality of life.

The company remains bullish about its choice, having invested some $1.3 billion in the site so far to build a total of 10 plants. The operations represent five business units: Graphic Systems Div. (plates and film), Photo Imaging Div. (QuickSnap cameras and 35mm film), Photo Finishing Div. (color photographic paper), Magnetic Products Div. (DLTape storage media and VHS videotape) and Medical Systems Div. (X-ray film). The site is also home to Fuji’s Distribution Center and Greenwood Research Laboratories.

One thing all the manufacturing operations have in common is the company’s founding principle, according to Watanabe. “A person only gets one chance to capture a given photo in a lifetime, so we can’t afford to compromise on quality with our products,” he contends.

A couple of interesting bits of trivia about the printing plate line are that it stretches some 900 feet, with the machine’s total travel path equaling nearly one-half mile. Since it takes six days to thread the line from scratch, narrow leader rolls of aluminum are used to keep the machine threaded at almost all times. A system not unlike a flying paster on a web press provides the two minutes of stop time needed to weld a new roll of aluminum onto the end of an expiring roll.

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