Behind the Scenes at the Nikon 1 Factory

October 18, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Compact System Camera, Global | 22 Comments |
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An exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the Nikon 1 Factory in China.

Last week saw the launch of the Nikon 1 compact system camera range, with two new cameras, the V1 and J1, four lenses and accessories representing the start of a major investment in the future for the company.

Nikon invited us to visit their factory in Wuxi province, China, where all of the Nikon 1 products are exclusively manufactured. This facility has been producing Coolpix compacts since 2004, starting with the 4200/5200 models and most recently the S8200 and P300. The Nikon One range represents Nikon China’s most complex product to date, and as we saw during our factory tour, it’s definitely a labour of love for the 8,292 workers, who require 130 coaches to bring them to the factory and operate over 7 different daily shifts.

The V1 camera is made up of 195 separate parts, the J1 183 parts,  the 10-30mm lens 172 parts and the 3-110mm lens 165 parts, with most of them sourced from within China. As we discovered, a surprising amount of work is done by hand rather than by machine – for example, every Nikon logo on the front plate of the V1 and J1 is painted by hand because it apparently gives better quality and colour than a machine could produce. We saw many examples of this meticulous and labour-intensive approach throughout the tour of the Nikon One production line, something that is very specific to China where employee turnover is high and workers shift from one task to the next.

More than 80% of the workforce is made up of women, again a reflection of the Chinese labour market, with the average age of workers being 25 for females and 24 for males. There are so many employees on the 54,000m2 site that a coloured hat system is used to differentiate between the hierarchies so that people can more easily recognise their superiors! Each worker is assigned their own identical mug to drink from, labelled with a unique number, while the massive locker building is three floors in height.

The Nikon One is the company’s first system since the F-mount was launched over 50 years ago, so the investment in Nikon China indicates how much faith has been placed in what is typically viewed by most outsiders as a less stringent manufacturing source than Nikon’s country of origin, Japan. Our exclusive look behind the scenes, the first by any members of the press since it opened in 2002, certainly impressed upon us just how much attention to detail goes into the making of the Nikon One.

We weren’t allowed to take our own photos during the factory visit, but these official pictures should give you some idea of what we saw during our illuminating time there.

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22 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Mark - Plymouth Wedding Photographer

Wow, the logo is painted on by hand, that's different I guess and goes to show how these guys feel about quality! Cool to see how and where these things are made.

I hope this system does well as it is a great compromise between point and shoot and dSLR.

5:47 pm - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#2 KevG

Very interesting and informative. It also shows the level of investment Nikon, and presumably other Japanese manufacturers, are prepared to put into their products, and the faith they have in the Chinese workforce (although low Chinese salary levels may also play a part) Its just a great pity that European and British companies don't appear to have the same faith in our home economies. But then I suppose our salary expectations are considerably higher than those prevailing in China. Nevertheless an interesting article and pictures.

11:00 pm - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#3 Hans Benndorf

----- Labor of love for 8292 workers? Who's kidding who?!
It's labor for survival! Like in those 'friendly' APPLE production
ghettos and all the other lifestyle brands. Would You like to work there 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for a few bucks they have to send home to feed the family? We should remember sometimes
how our fancy stuff is produced and by whom! Labor of love!

1:16 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#4 David

Thise photos have made me decide to never buy one of those Nikon cameras. The one with the long row of standing workers being "surpervised"..and I know these poor people are being taken advantage of and paid next to nothing. Exploiting the people of China makes me sick..then add to it the vast amounts of British/western money being funneled to the oweners of the companies having products made there. Little better than the slave labour of the past.

2:10 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#5 Ghost

It sucks that if poor people were not being taken advantage of and paid next to nothing only the super wealthy would be able to afford the cameras...

3:47 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#6 danaceb

And yet Nikon charges more than any of their competitors, makes me sick what a soul less profit grubbing mess nikon has showed its self to be with these inferior M43 ripoffs.

3:51 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#7 M.D.

Standing in one spot for an 8 hour shift with supervision looking at you all day.
Come on Nikon you can do better than that.

4:17 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#8 GreenO

Oh come on you guys - this is the same way they are putting together the D700 and D3 series SLRs in Sendai, Japan and the same way every other SLR from Nikon is assembled in Thailand. No one says that they are standing straight up and down for eight hours a day.

9:25 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#9 Steve

Inside the factory ? Good grief... Nikon are desperate to keep this turd in the news. Someone flush it ! It's stinking up the place...

10:17 am - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#10 Roger Brown

These are generic pics that show virtually nothing relating to any of the technology of the camera - officially sanctioned and sanitised. No lens manufacture, no electronics manufacture, no R&D, no optical test jigs etc. so not very informative. Just hand assembly of the nadgery bits that would be too expensive to use robots-on.

11:26 am - Friday, October 21, 2011

#11 adiom

Well, in China it costs only 50c for a meal. The workers get approx. 8 USD per day. They'll have plenty to save.

11:28 am - Sunday, October 23, 2011

#12 S Jones

I visit many factories in China and this one looks like a well run, typical high end brand factory. The supervisor is a line leader ready to step in and help with issues, not for discipline. To those complaining about factories I suggest you go and work in a US/European factory first and after that then focus on the really bad sites in China (making fake goods and cheap domestic goods). It's easy to comment on China factories while you surf the net in your easy life US/European desk jobs.

12:44 pm - Sunday, October 23, 2011

#13 broxibear

"Nikon invited us to visit their factory in Wuxi province, China"
Were you able to take your own images of the factory or were the images above given to you by Nikon ?...all the websites/blogs who were invited seem to have the exact same images.

1:53 pm - Sunday, October 23, 2011

#14 RPG DEPICTIONS

And how much are these workers payed???...are they slave wages?...probably...and people wonder WHY corporations reap HUGE profits these days...Shipping their labour overseas while those at home remain jobless...

9:03 pm - Sunday, October 23, 2011

#15 rick_tany

The aim of any corporation is to make HUGE profit. Nothing wrong with that. Chinese labor is cheap according to US and EU standard. But remember, their cost of living is also very cheap. McDonald's Big Mac only costs 50c, school is free, health service is also free, apartment is subsidized, clothing is very cheap. Believe me, those workers save more money each month than you.

11:44 pm - Sunday, October 23, 2011

#16 ??

50c big mac has to be poisonous

11:16 am - Monday, October 24, 2011

#17 Peps

Can anyone tell me a company that does not exploit their employees???

4:35 am - Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#18 chuck

OK, so which brand is made in America...
which brand of anything is made in America?

2:31 pm - Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#19 Matt

Wuxi is not a province. It is a city in Jiangsu province. You went there and didn't even know where you were?

1:04 am - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#20 Yann

@rick_tany
Your comment shows how little you know about the subject. Health service is not free in china, College is also not free. Apartment is not subsidized. Factory workers are mostly living in factory dorms. Management personnal probably have appartment they bought. Apparments in Wuxi are more expensive than most north american house per square foot.

Yes, factory workers are able to save some money, but only because they don't spend it on expensive clothes, 52'' screen TV, TIVO, Iphone, Nikon J1 camera and so on.

4:02 am - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#21 Agnius

As much as I hate seeing workforce exploited, I sure do enjoy access to affordable goods.

Then I thought deeper - why do workers in China or Thailand flock to these jobs? As hard as life at the factory is, it is nothing compared to toiling in the fields.

It is progress and growing pains, just like the West went through in 19th century, Japan in post WW2, Korea even more recent. Eventually all hard working nations reached the point where they become lazy/complacent to pay for their own made products because somewhere else they could make them even cheaper. The biggest question is when the prices of asian (and african in the future) workforce becomes too expensive, what do we do then? Who will pick our tomatoes and make our iPods? My answer is more automation and advanced robotics. The companies that control "essential" technology will own our future existence.

4:08 pm - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#22 Shane Jackosn - wedding cake Plymouth

its amazing to be able to see what is happening behind the scenes at Nikon and I can't believe they paint the logo by hand that is crazy! Amazing quality!

12:09 pm - Sunday, November 24, 2013