TOSHIBA's U.S. TONER PLANT CELEBRATES 25 YEARS
TOSHIBA's U.S. TONER PLANT CELEBRATES 25 YEARS
2010-10-06 at 7:12:07 am #23974
TOSHIBA’s U.S. TONER PLANT CELEBRATES 25 YEARS
Toshiba America Business Solutions has strived for quality service to its customers, employees and community over the years.As the Mitchell business heads into its 25th year, it’s grateful for the support it’s received not only its customers, but for those who have supported the plant along the way, according to company officials.“It’s hard to believe,” Dave Tronnes, assistant general manager and vice president of manufacturing, said of the firm’s silver anniversary. “It’s just a great experience not just for Toshiba and this factory, but for our employees as well.”Toshiba’s Mitchell location at 901 N. Foster opened its doors on Oct. 4, 1986, with 40 employees and 80,000 square feet of factory. Since then the plant has added five expansions and now sits at more than 180,000 square feet with 100 employees.Producing solely ink toner, the Mitchell plant was the second of three Toshiba toner plants built throughout the world. The first plant was in Japan, while the third is in France.
For the first 22 years, the plant only produced black and white toner for its copy machines. Three years ago the plant invested $15 million to produce color toner.“Color is the future for toner activity and we wanted to be on board with that,” Tronnes said. “Toshiba invested in the facility and that really is what will drive the long-term success of this factory even more.”Mitchell, Tronnes said, was a good, central location for the plant. Also, the factory was a 3M plant before it belonged to Toshiba. 3M wanted to get out of the toner business, so Toshiba, which built copy machines for 3M, moved in.“It was just a match made in heaven and boom, we came here,” Tronnes said.
Toshiba is the only Japanese company producing color toner in the U.S., and about 30 percent of the plant’s product is shipped overseas.As of February, the Mitchell plant produced its 40 millionth kilogram of toner, which is equivalent to 100 million pounds.“If you fill pop bottles and lay them end to end they’d go around the world,” Tronnes said. “If you put the toner in a basketball court and built the walls 300 feet tall, it would fill it. There’s a tremendous amount of toner coming out of the factory.”Although Toshiba America Business Solutions is headquartered in California, it is owned by the Japanese Toshiba plant. There are two Japanese executives staffed at the Mitchell plant at all times. The mix in culture has been a benefit to the Mitchell plant, Tronnes said.
The Japanese culture differs not only through the human perspective, but the business perspective, too, he said.
“The part that struck me the most is that if there is a problem, they don’t go on a head hunt,” Tronnes said. “They group everyone together and say, ‘How do we fix it.’“They look at problems as an opportunity and not a threat,” he said. “It’s very refreshing.”He added that it’s a major difference from other major U.S. corporations.There is a constant stream of communication between the Mitchell plant and Japan, and employees are often sent overseas to see the equipment used in Japan.The company knows, though, that without their staff, they wouldn’t have the success they’ve achieved thus far.
Employees average 18 years of service, and the majority are from Mitchell or the surrounding 60-mile radius.“They are very local, dedicated and hardworking,” Tronnes said. “Our employees are just top-notch.”And to enhance the plant even more, the company is looking at how to entice younger employees to ensure the plant continues its success in Mitchell.
Toshiba has made it a point to share its success with Mitchell, Davison County and the state.Over the years, generous donations have been made, including $125,000 to Mitchell hospitals for medical equipment, $125,000 to Mitchell schools, $75,000 for a Davison County storm warning system and $100,000 to Shoto-Tein Japanese Gardens in Sioux Falls.Other projects Toshiba has donated to include the Mitchell Ice Arena and Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex, among many others. The plant also gives copy machines to non-profit organizations and recycles its testing paper by giving it to schools and other organizations for notepads.“We’re trying to give back all the time,” Tronnes said. “That’s part of the Japanese culture as well. We want to be part of the community we’re in. We want everyone to know who we are and what we do here.”
As far as the future of Toshiba, Tronnes said the copy market is tough.“There’s only so many machines in so many places. We get business by being better than the next guy and replacing his machine. I’m confident that will happen,” Tronnes said. “Based on the investment and based on the people, there is another 25 years here in Mitchell.”