A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu

A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu
1 April 2019
Robert Olech

1. Introduction

Wihle going to Yokohama's CP+ fairs every year I try to get to Japan two days earlier in order to acclimatise and to get rid of jetlag. Booking my plane tickets this year I found out that it would be far cheaper to arrive to Japan not two but three days earlier. It meant more free time so I decided to profit from that occasion in a productive way and visit a factory of photographic equipment.

I chose the Sigma Aizu factory. Both the representatives of their Polish dealer and the Japanese Headquarters joined in very quickly and organized everything. Because of their cooperation right after my arrival I met mister Shinji Yamaki from Sigma Corporation who became my host and guide for next three days. Straight from the Tokyo Narita airport we went to Ueno where we took the Shinkansen bullet train and went several hundred kilometers northward. Then we travelled by local train and, after about 4 hours, we arrived to Aizu-wakamatsu.

A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu - Introduction
Factory is located at the foot of the Bandai mountain @Sigma Corporation

In that town at the beginning of the 70s of last century Michihiro Yamaki, the founder of Sigma, built a lens factory at the foot of the Bandai mountain. Aizu has 120 000 inhabitants and the creation of the factory in that place was influenced by their traits of character- they tend to be dilligent, serious, persistent, and pure. Mister Yamaki considered these valuable personality traits when it comes to production of advanced photographic equipment.

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A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu - Introduction
Factory in the 70's and now. @Sigma Corporation

A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu - Introduction

During 45 years of existence the factory has been developped significantly. Now on an area of almost 8 ha are buildings which combined surface reaches almost 55 000 m2; in those buildings about 1400 workers produce 80 thousand lenses and 2000 digital cameras every month.

Even if the Sigma Headquarters are located near to Tokio, in Kawasaki, the Aizo factory is the center of the company.

A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu - Introduction
Sigma Headquarters in Kawasaki. @Sigma Corporation

They have a rule: ”Small Office, Big Factory”. It means they limit the office area to the minimum, focusing on lowering overheads and maximizing productive capacities. Accordingly, in the Kawasaki office work just 200 people and 75% of them are engineers responsible for designing new products. The administration, sales and marketing divisions are manned by just several dozen of employees – no mean feat in a company which annual sales turnover amounts to 38.2 bilion yens (about 1.3 bilion PLN).

What's more, Sigma strives to support local businesses – all products are manufactured in Aizu factory and external suppliers are recruited among companies which are situated in the close proximity of Aizu.

A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu - Introduction
Sigma współpracuje tylko z lokalnymi dostawcami, którzy mają swoje siedziby w pobliżu fabryki w Aizu.

Such information we got during a short presentation which started my visit to the factory. I was accompanied by the representatives of the German Sigma dealer. We were given special overalls, they took a commemorative photo of us and then we could progress to production halls. I noticed that in front of the main entrance there were three flags flying: the Japanese, German and Polish one. It was a very nice gesture of our hosts.

A trip to Sigma lens factory in Aizu - Introduction

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