2008-03-05 at 2:40:50 pm #21844
Company has 1.4M square feet, 835 workers
Orange County Calif :Japan’s Ricoh Co. has amassed an empire along the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway.But for those who pass by each day, what goes on inside the buildings emblazoned with Ricoh’s red logo largely is a mystery.
The maker of digital cameras, copiers, fax machines, scanners, printers and all-in-one devices for offices is the 10th-largest foreign-owned company in Orange County with about 835 workers. It’s the third-largest Japanese company here, after Union Bank of California and Toshiba Corp.
Tustin is home to Ricoh Electronics Inc., the manufacturing arm of West Caldwell, N.J.-based Ricoh Americas Corp., the U.S. headquarters of the Tokyo-based parent company.Ricoh got its start in Japan in 1936. It lays claim to the first copier in 1953 and the first digital fax machine in 1973.Its presence here is huge: Ricoh has more than 1.4 million square feet of industrial space spread among eight buildings in Irvine, Santa Ana and Tustin.The local operation also has factories in Lawrenceville, Ga., and Toluca, Mexico.
Ricoh’s name has been a fixture along the 55 freeway for more than 30 years. Proximity to the Port of Long Beach brought it here, said Jeff Briwick, executive vice president and group manager of Ricoh Electronics’ corporate strategy group.“Back then, product could flow from the parent company in Japan into the West Coast and then be deployed across the country to the East Coast,” he said. “More than 35 years later, it still works that way. Orange County is perfect from a supply chain and distribution perspective.”
Ricoh Americas was started in 1962 and does more than $3 billion in sales a year. The company doesn’t break down sales for any of its subsidiaries, including its local operations.In Tustin, Ricoh has three buildings with about 475 workers.One building doubles as the administrative headquarters for Ricoh Electronics and as a manufacturing plant for digital copiers.In another building, Ricoh assembles chips onto circuit boards that go inside its all-in-one machines, which are built in the other Tustin building.The all-in-one machines are hooked up to a network within an office and can print, copy, scan and fax.
Ricoh also does a bit of contract manufacturing of circuit boards for other companies.
In the same building where Ricoh assembles the circuit boards, it makes toner cartridges and recycles empty ones.“We put return mailing labels on them so that the customer can send them back at our cost,” Briwick said. “It’s part of our environmental policy and it makes sure the cartridges don’t go into landfills.”
The company has three buildings in Santa Ana with roughly 240 workers.
One produces “thermal media” products, or special paper that allows for heat-sensitive printing instead of ink. The paper is used to print luggage tracking tags by airlines, receipts at gas stations and to label meat at supermarket butcher counters.Ricoh puts a special chemical coating on the paper, which it gets from other suppliers, Briwick said.Another Santa Ana site makes toner—ink that goes into its copiers and printers.The last is a huge warehouse, where Ricoh ships finished goods throughout North and South America.“We are the primary distribution center,” Briwick said.
The company has two buildings in Irvine, one of which it leases out to other companies.
The other Irvine building is the heart of Ricoh’s local operations, where parts for digital copiers and all-in-one machines are made. It has about 120 workers.The facility takes raw materials—sheet metal and plastic pellets—and shapes the bodies and insides of copiers and all-in-ones through a variety of metal stamping and plastic injection molding. The pieces get powder coatings and are painted before being sent to the factories in Tustin and Santa Ana.
Ricoh Electronics is divided into three operational business groups that each report financial results to Chief Executive Shunsuke “Sean” Nakanishi, who is based in Tustin.The office machines group handles the copiers, circuit board production and the all-in-one devices.The reprographics supply group covers toner and thermal printing paper. The third is the corporate strategy group.The three groups share some basic operations, such as planning, sales forecasting and purchasing, and all work on the same production schedule, according to Briwick.
The big trend for Ricoh is making office machines that print in color.
“Color output is coming on strong,” Briwick said. “From a communications perspective, it’s more appealing. On the technology side, the equipment has advanced to the point where the cost of printing in color has really come down. It’s more economical to use color in a business environment than it was just a few years ago.”
Like many Japanese companies, Ricoh is big on long-term employment.“I’ve been here for 20 years, and I’m one of the new kids on the block,” Briwick said. “We have people who have been here for 35 years, from the beginning. There’s a certain level of job security attached to working for a Japanese company. It’s a cultural thing.”Ricoh hasn’t looked to outsource any of its local manufacturing because the company takes the long view, Briwick said.“The local environment has changed but we still have the advantages we had when we first came here,” he said. “Our company’s strength is in the long term.”