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Posted by: 1. July 2011

Building Machine Tools in Paradise

Mori Seiki officials and local dignitaries toss shovelfuls of soil to mark the symbolic start of construction of a new machine-tool plant in Davis, California.

 
I can easily see why living and working in northern California would be an attractive prospect. For example, the city of Davis (home to Mori Seiki's Digital Technology Laboratory) offers a lifestyle that many technology professionals would probably prefer. The climate is sunny and mild; the ocean, mountains and wine country are nearby; the intellectual atmosphere is energized by the presence of a major university (UC Davis); and environmental and social responsibility is taken seriously by most residents there, to mention a few amenities. So why not build a machine tool factory in the area?
 
Apparently, Mori Seiki considered the attractiveness of this area in its decision to locate its first purpose-built machine tool factory outside its home country of Japan (and its first manufacturing facility in the United States). Last week, the official groundbreaking took place at the site next to DTL. Construction of the plant, with close to 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space, is expected to be completed in about one year. According to the company, the plant is designed for an output of close to 100 machines a month when operating at full capacity. About 150 manufacturing jobs will be created as the plant comes online.
 
One of the officials from the Davis city government described the city as a “knowledge-based community” and characterized machine-tool construction as a “knowledge-based industry" that was welcomed in the area. It seems that Mori Seiki saw the same good fit.
 
Plans call for the factory to build one of the company’s horizontal machining centers, at least initially. It was explained to me that, because this machine is a complex, high-precision model, successfully building it in California would prove that the plant had the capability to produce a machine at any technology level. Other machine models will be stocked here for distribution.
 
In a private conversation with me, Dr. Masahiko Mori, president and CEO, confirmed that the decision to locate the new plant in Davis was at least partly attributable to the appeal of the local area. He also pointed out that having a machine tool factory next door to DTL, one of the company’s top research and engineering facilities, would benefit the work taken on in each building. That is, the factory could serve as a lab for testing new machine design features as well as innovative manufacturing procedures. Dr. Mori noted that the northern California location is relatively close to Japan by air travel as well as close to the U.S. customer base in terms of marketing insight and responsiveness.
 

Mori’s DTL is noted for its environmentally friendly, energy-efficient design. The new factory will share many of the same design features and construction standards, the company says. 

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