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Canon adding new camera plant as production returns to Japan

Automation makes manufacturing at home more competitive

Canon will shift production of digital SLR cameras from overseas to Japan.

TOKYO -- Canon plans to have a new camera plant in Japan up and running by 2019 as it moves more production back home, relying on factory automation to lower the cost of domestic operations.

The Japanese electronics maker will acquire 300,000 sq. meters of land for a digital camera factory in southern Japan's Miyazaki Prefecture as early as September. The plant will be Canon's first new camera factory in this country since 2010, and will feature labor-saving assembly lines of the sort Canon is installing across its Japanese facilities to make domestic production cost-competitive. Total costs are projected to be around 20 billion yen ($181 million).

The facility will take over production of single-lens reflex cameras formerly manufactured at another Miyazaki plant. Canon will eventually consider bringing production of some compact digital cameras now made overseas back to Japan as well. The company produced 56% of its cameras and other offerings in this country in the year 2016, and plans to raise that figure to 60%.

This relocation trend has taken off over the past three years. While Canon initially moved production of goods such as cameras abroad to soften the blow of a strong yen, labor costs are now rising elsewhere in Asia and overseas. Factory automation, meanwhile, has made production in Japan more affordable. At a key plant in Oita Prefecture, the manufacture of some products is now more than 70% automated. Various business units are experimenting with automated production of office machinery and other equipment as well.

Other major Japanese manufacturers are taking similar steps. Pioneer has moved production of car navigation systems destined for the Japanese market from a Thai plant to a facility in northern Japan's Aomori Prefecture, while Casio Computer is adding a plant at a production center in Yamagata, slightly to the south.


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