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dasMinas

Newspaper article Leica factory

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Hi all,

 

The portuguese daily "O Publico" published, this weekend, a two page article about the portuguese Leica factory.

 

If there is enough interest I can translate the article and post it in the forum.

 

Best Regards,

dasMinas

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Thanks to both of you for this information. I would have missed it if not for your heads-up!

 

And welcome to the forum, dasMinas!

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dasMinas--

 

I'm curious about the original article. Could you post a link to it? I don't know a word of Portuguese, and haven't been able to locate it.

 

I'm thinking that to supplement the article vera mentioned, maybe a Googled translation might be good enough? (If I could find the original, that is.

)

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Hello all,

 

The article is by Luísa Pinto, from the

O Público daily newspaper. The article was published in the Sunday edition of 4 October 2009. Translation by google (Revised by me )

The article has four parts: front page resume, main article, history of leica in Portugal, balance&forecast. Divided by two posts.

Best Regards,

dasMinas

 

Front page resume

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Leica cameras are 90 per cent made in Famalicão

 

It's a secret. The mythical Leica cameras are 90 per cent made in a factory in Famalicão, by workers "that don’t exist anywhere else” and for 36 years on. “Basically the cameras go to Germany to install the shutter button and to finish a coating component”, says the administrator Carlos Mira. ”Because we have concluded that the Made In Portugal label made us loose 30 per cent of our sales, it’s worthy to keep labeling Made in Germany”.

 

Main article

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Leica isn’t better or worse. It’s unique”.

 

There are workers that “don’t exist anywhere else”. The Famalicão factory made the first temporary layoff in 36 years to keep them.

 

Dona Emília straightens her glasses on the tip of her nose and looks trough the Geovid (high precision binocular made in Famalicão). She verifies the finish, the details. Checks the focus and the effective range, points to a placard hanging from the ceiling of the ample pavilion and, like a vision test at the optometrist she gives the final guarantee that everything is OK.

Emília has been a Leica – Aparelhos Ópticos de Precisão employee for 35 years. Fátima also a final quality controller works for the company for 20 years. Susana for 14 years… Trough the hands of these three goes many of the hundred binoculars that the company from Famalicão is making daily. Three months ago nothing was going on. There were no orders. They were in a temporary layoff, a legal procedure that allows companies to send workers home, paying them just 30 per cent of the two thirds of the salaries that the workers are then entitled to. Leica made this for the first time in his life.

Now these three workers and the other 498 have a different challenge, fulfill the many orders, which came with the launch of new products. The top of the range, the S2, developed exclusively for the digital format, with 37,5 million pixels with a price between 20 and 30 thousand Euros, and the already-legendary-and-just-launched M9 (body without lens with a price of 4500 Euros), of which 600 have already been made. There is already an order of 6 thousand cameras. ”At the current pace of 50 to 60 a day we are achieving, we have the lines occupied until January”, says Carlos Mira, administrator responsible for the Financial Direction.

If the mention lines occupied induces the image of a robotized production line, then a correction must be made. Even here Leica is unconventional the mention made in Germany that appears in the cameras doesn’t tell the truth, almost 90 per cent of each product is produced and assembled in Portugal, most of the times manually.

“Basically the cameras go to Germany to install the shutter button and to finish a coating component. Because we have concluded that the Made In Portugal label made us loose 30 per cent of our sales in important markets like the United States or Japan, it’s worthy to keep labeling Made in Germany”, concludes Carlos Mira.

Almost no one knows – and the company isn’t interested that everyone knows – but it’s in Portugal that these mythical cameras are almost all made, from the production of the components (prisms, lens, body parts, made in magnesium and aluminium) right to the assembly. And almost everything is made manually from polishing the aluminium body, to screw in place almost microscopic systems right trough the gluing of lens components.

“It’s a precision work, that in Famalicão they always knew how to do”, thanks to the watch making tradition of the Reguladora Company. “Each Leica worker has years and years of training. We couldn’t get a worker with this quality anywhere in the world immediately”, says Bernhard Muller, German 60 years, in Portugal for 30 years. “And we only could achieve this quality if the workers are identified with what they are doing. Leica isn’t better or worse. It’s unique”, assures Müeller.

And it’s easy to find workers with the company longevity of Emília, Fátima and Susana. 40 per cent of the 501 Leica workers are working for the company for more then 20 years. And for Müeller they aren’t just experienced workers, they are persons that he knows by name and almost knows their families; and from what village they come from. “We are a family. It is better to make temporary layoffs, or suspend the construction of the new factory”, that is already underway just three kilometers from the current premises, “than to permanent Layoff this people”, explains Müeller. This is the main factor preventing the closure of this factory and moving to a country with lower salaries. However he admits that lower salaries was the reason that brought Leica to Portugal in 1973.

Müeller is proud of passing trough the peak of the crisis without having to permanent layoff any of the non–temporary workers. Some of the temporary workers had to leave, even before the factory layoff; but they are getting admitted again. Leica kept their contact, and gives priority to workers with experience. He is also proud that more than 150 of his workers are enrolled in a government based back to school program that is taking place in the company premises; they are guaranteeing equivalences to the 9th and 12th grade. “I was emotioned when I heard a 50 year old worker saying that she was young enough to study, and that she wanted to have the same formation has her daughter, with the 12th grade”, Müeller remembers that even in 1973 the company always refused to hire illiterate people. “It was always our consideration that with that position we where helping the education system”, he explains.

Leaving Famalicão is therefore out of the question. Even for enlarging the factory or improving the installations, the location can’t be far away . “If we wanted to go to Arcos de Valdevez or to Alentejo, the city hall would give us the terrain. But we prefer to buy it ourselves and to stay around. It’s here were the people are”, says Carlos Mira. According to economic theories the greatest asset of a company are the quality of their human resources. In Leica this is taken seriously.

Having kept their workers instead of opting for permanent layoffs, as was defended by some, is being rewarded. “The crises and globalization are this way: one day we have headaches for not having work for our employees, the other day we are having headaches trying to find ways not make our customers waiting for long”, says Carlos Mira. “This spring and summer were hell. I prefer the problems we are having now.”, concludes Müeller.

Edited by dasMinas
Inser missing link

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-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Leica history in Portugal

 

The experience in watch making and the proximity of the German School.

36 years ago, Leitz – producer of Leica cameras that gained mythical status in the hands of Capa and Bresson – was looking for a place to install a factory were the salaries would be lower than in Germany. Portugal was chosen, facing competition from Ireland and Tunisia.

Bernhard Müeller didn’t come in the first fase when twenty German families moved to Portugal to open the factory – he came three years later. But he understands the reasons why the company opted for Portugal. It was the existence of a German school in Porto, a German Lutheran church and a catholic church in the German Language. It was very important to me and to my children”, he assures.

But why Famalicão ? “This people had worked in the old Reguladora factory, the company that made the watches that you can still see in the Railway Stations. They were familiar with precision mechanics”, tells the production director. The ease that the first women to be hired showed handling microscopic parts amazed him. “Someone who knows how to make filigree also knows how to make cameras”, says Müeller. With time, and thirty years later, the skills acquired by Leica workers went beyond precision mechanics. Actually is already renowned for the optical components. Both in spherical lens and straight optics, prisms, Leica considers itself redoutable. It’s main competitors are Zeiss in camera lenses and Swarovsky in binoculars. But the two administrators don’t have doubts, and show their colors: “We make, here, the best cameras in the world”.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Balance and Forecast

 

The fiscal year of Leica in Portugal is synchronized with the headquarters in Solms (Solms). So the company is entering now in the second semester.

According to Carlos Mira, head of the financial direction, this was one of the more difficult years ever, and remembers the factory will labor for the first time only ten months, when normally it works eleven.

Even so – he anticipates – the business volume in 2009 will be above 2008, when it reached 22 million euros. This because there are orders from the headquarters of 44,6 million euros, for the execution of 20 thousand pieces of the vast Leica portfolio.

And in the Famalicão factory the main “productive” arm of the company, is were most of them will be produced.

Leica group has about 1000 workers: half of which are in Portugal, where are located the main production premises.

Besides the headquarters were are located the sales, logistics, customer service, product development, and quality control, Leica maintains presence, mainly distribution in the United States, France Switzerland, United Kingdom and Japan. In this last country the partner with 49 per cent of the company is Hermès, this tells a lot how Leica is considered in Japan: a luxury.

Edited by dasMinas

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Thanks for the translation.

 

It shows out the human touch more so than a brochure can say hand made.

 

Perceptions of where things are made are so important nowadays, as long as they are well made.

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DasMinas--

I just had a chance to go through the article. It's a superb story, and I'm glad you both posted and translated it.

 

The article picks up the fact that these people are true "Leitzianer" or "Leitzians" or whatever the word is. They are proud to be a major part of a company of such worldwide renown.

 

I worked for Leitz in the US at the time that they opened the Portuguese plant. I never visited the Famalicão facility, but everyone I knew who did returned impressed.

 

In fact, one of them told of being approached by a Portuguese employee with an assembly she had just completed, and one that Germany had sent as example. She demonstrated the improvements she had made, and then grinned as the guest recognized that her version was "better than in Germany."

 

A very proud group, and with good reason. And the article catches it perfectly.

 

Thanks again!

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This is an important article, and very instructive for Leicaphiles, I think. I'm glad to have read it, and glad that das Minas took the time & made the effort to post it for us -- it ought to be posted in the German section, too, if it hasn't yet been. Leica in Portugal (and in Canada) are surely not all there is of Leica, but without them, Leica -- the 'pur sang' Leica manifested in this article -- is not, but only licensing/branding . . .

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Hello all,

 

The article is by Luísa Pinto, from the

O Público daily newspaper. The article was published in the Sunday edition of 4 October 2009. Translation by google (Revised by me )

The article has four parts: front page resume, main article, history of leica in Portugal, balance&forecast. Divided by two posts.

Best Regards,

dasMinas

 

Front page resume

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Leica cameras are 90 per cent made in Famalicão

 

It's a secret. The mythical Leica cameras are 90 per cent made in a factory in Famalicão, by workers "that don’t exist anywhere else” and for 36 years on. “Basically the cameras go to Germany to install the shutter button and to finish a coating component”, says the administrator Carlos Mira. ”Because we have concluded that the Made In Portugal label made us loose 30 per cent of our sales, it’s worthy to keep labeling Made in Germany”.

 

Main article

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Leica isn’t better or worse. It’s unique”.

 

There are workers that “don’t exist anywhere else”. The Famalicão factory made the first temporary layoff in 36 years to keep them.

 

Dona Emília straightens her glasses on the tip of her nose and looks trough the Geovid (high precision binocular made in Famalicão). She verifies the finish, the details. Checks the focus and the effective range, points to a placard hanging from the ceiling of the ample pavilion and, like a vision test at the optometrist she gives the final guarantee that everything is OK.

Emília has been a Leica – Aparelhos Ópticos de Precisão employee for 35 years. Fátima also a final quality controller works for the company for 20 years. Susana for 14 years… Trough the hands of these three goes many of the hundred binoculars that the company from Famalicão is making daily. Three months ago nothing was going on. There were no orders. They were in a temporary layoff, a legal procedure that allows companies to send workers home, paying them just 30 per cent of the two thirds of the salaries that the workers are then entitled to. Leica made this for the first time in his life.

Now these three workers and the other 498 have a different challenge, fulfill the many orders, which came with the launch of new products. The top of the range, the S2, developed exclusively for the digital format, with 37,5 million pixels with a price between 20 and 30 thousand Euros, and the already-legendary-and-just-launched M9 (body without lens with a price of 4500 Euros), of which 600 have already been made. There is already an order of 6 thousand cameras. ”At the current pace of 50 to 60 a day we are achieving, we have the lines occupied until January”, says Carlos Mira, administrator responsible for the Financial Direction.

If the mention lines occupied induces the image of a robotized production line, then a correction must be made. Even here Leica is unconventional the mention made in Germany that appears in the cameras doesn’t tell the truth, almost 90 per cent of each product is produced and assembled in Portugal, most of the times manually.

“Basically the cameras go to Germany to install the shutter button and to finish a coating component. Because we have concluded that the Made In Portugal label made us loose 30 per cent of our sales in important markets like the United States or Japan, it’s worthy to keep labeling Made in Germany”, concludes Carlos Mira.

Almost no one knows – and the company isn’t interested that everyone knows – but it’s in Portugal that these mythical cameras are almost all made, from the production of the components (prisms, lens, body parts, made in magnesium and aluminium) right to the assembly. And almost everything is made manually from polishing the aluminium body, to screw in place almost microscopic systems right trough the gluing of lens components.

“It’s a precision work, that in Famalicão they always knew how to do”, thanks to the watch making tradition of the Reguladora Company. “Each Leica worker has years and years of training. We couldn’t get a worker with this quality anywhere in the world immediately”, says Bernhard Muller, German 60 years, in Portugal for 30 years. “And we only could achieve this quality if the workers are identified with what they are doing. Leica isn’t better or worse. It’s unique”, assures Müeller.

And it’s easy to find workers with the company longevity of Emília, Fátima and Susana. 40 per cent of the 501 Leica workers are working for the company for more then 20 years. And for Müeller they aren’t just experienced workers, they are persons that he knows by name and almost knows their families; and from what village they come from. “We are a family. It is better to make temporary layoffs, or suspend the construction of the new factory”, that is already underway just three kilometers from the current premises, “than to permanent Layoff this people”, explains Müeller. This is the main factor preventing the closure of this factory and moving to a country with lower salaries. However he admits that lower salaries was the reason that brought Leica to Portugal in 1973.

Müeller is proud of passing trough the peak of the crisis without having to permanent layoff any of the non–temporary workers. Some of the temporary workers had to leave, even before the factory layoff; but they are getting admitted again. Leica kept their contact, and gives priority to workers with experience. He is also proud that more than 150 of his workers are enrolled in a government based back to school program that is taking place in the company premises; they are guaranteeing equivalences to the 9th and 12th grade. “I was emotioned when I heard a 50 year old worker saying that she was young enough to study, and that she wanted to have the same formation has her daughter, with the 12th grade”, Müeller remembers that even in 1973 the company always refused to hire illiterate people. “It was always our consideration that with that position we where helping the education system”, he explains.

Leaving Famalicão is therefore out of the question. Even for enlarging the factory or improving the installations, the location can’t be far away . “If we wanted to go to Arcos de Valdevez or to Alentejo, the city hall would give us the terrain. But we prefer to buy it ourselves and to stay around. It’s here were the people are”, says Carlos Mira. According to economic theories the greatest asset of a company are the quality of their human resources. In Leica this is taken seriously.

Having kept their workers instead of opting for permanent layoffs, as was defended by some, is being rewarded. “The crises and globalization are this way: one day we have headaches for not having work for our employees, the other day we are having headaches trying to find ways not make our customers waiting for long”, says Carlos Mira. “This spring and summer were hell. I prefer the problems we are having now.”, concludes Müeller.

 

 

I hope now we the Portuguese people who made this beautiful Leica products deserve more respect from some Leica Forum users who pass all the time to critisize and trate the country like third world country.

This article is the response for that people.

 

Best,

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