We know Brother by the products we’ve been using in our homes and offices since the beginning of the past century. Not only does Brother design, engineer and manufacture these familiar and essential everyday products, but it also produces the machine tools that make it possible to manufacture components for many other products necessary to our daily lives.
The Brother world of global companies includes Brother Industries, Ltd., headquartered in Nagoya, Japan; Brother International Corporation, headquartered in Bridgewater, N.J.; and Brother Industries (USA), Inc. (BIUS), located in Bartlett, Tenn., which has manufactured more than 10 million typewriters and word processors since its inception. Brother has a global network of companies located in 33 countries. It operates 17 manufacturing and 33 marketing facilities in these countries, and markets its own products to more than 100 countries.
The capabilities and services offered by BIUS are rooted in its Tennessee-based manufacturing, distribution and research-and-development operations. Until 1995, BIUS was devoted exclusively to the design, engineering and manufacture of office products. The mission of BIUS today is to provide U.S.-based companies with electronic manufacturing services. “We are talking about complete turnkey solutions that go far beyond a product coming off the assembly line,” says Bob Reigrod, senior vice president of Brother International Corporation.
Bold are the turnkey solutions Brother promises and delivers. “Many contract manufacturers offer only production capabilities. Period,” comments Reigrod. “You bring them the design and blueprints, and they put the process together based on a prototype that evolves from the design and testing process.” Brother, on the other hand, offers design engineering, R&D, manufacturing, packaging and even distribution fulfillment capabilities from its ISO 9002-certified Tennessee facilities. Not enough? Well, how about customer service, after-market and refurbishment services? “We do everything from A to Z,” Reigrod says. “This is what we mean by ‘turnkey.’ We have the capabilities to take a project from its inception and see it through to the point where it reaches the hands of the consumer.”
BIUS is well prepared to handle these outsourcing challenges. In addition to the company’s talented engineers, BIUS’ base capacity, high-volume injection-molding department, printed circuit board assembly department, SMT and through-hole technologies/box-build department, and its quality-assurance department all stand prepared to work in conjunction with outsourcing companies. The BIUS factory is located in a certified Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), which reduces import lag time because customs clearance is not required. This not only saves time, but also saves money through duty deferral and inversion.
BIUS can also offer companies the powerful and global range of Brother’s worldwide resources, including overseas procurement muscle and the parent company – the $2.5 billion, internationally prominent Brother Industries, Ltd.
A Successful Brother(ly) Relationship
Ever wonder why you are not wasting time, as you used to, waiting in line at your local U.S. Post Office? Very likely, it’s because of that handy and efficient Pitney Bowes postage meter sitting in your office. What does that postage meter have to do with BIUS? Probably more than you ever realized.
“Our success story with Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) is really what led us to start expanding our outsource manufacturing capabilities for other companies,” says Reigrod. The Pitney Bowes-Brother relationship began in 1995, when Pitney Bowes Mailing Systems was searching for a company with the highest standards for producing quality products. “They were looking for someone with advanced design, engineering, technological know-how and expertise in printing technology,” says Reigrod, who notes that Brother and Centronics Data Corporation developed the world’s first high-speed dot-matrix printer, which revolutionized the computer printing industry in the early 1970s. This new product was soon followed by Brother’s non-impact laser and ink-jet printers.
“At the start of our relationship, Pitney Bowes was designing Personal Post, a digital desktop postage metering system for small businesses,” says Reigrod, “and they wanted it to include ink-jet printing. We were able to integrate our printing capabilities into the market’s most advanced system for small business to everyone’s satisfaction. Over the last four and one-half years, the level of trust between Pitney Bowes and Brother has continued to grow. They know that we want them to be 100 percent satisfied. This is the way we approach all of our customer relationships.”
Critical Market Life
Of particular importance to companies looking for outsource manufacturing is BIUS’ strategic location vis-à-vis manufacturing time-sensitive, high-tech consumer products. “Many companies cannot afford to send projects offshore to Asia, for example – particularly projects involving digital technology,” explains Reigrod. “The products might be built for less money offshore, but you have a three- to four-week lag time in getting anything shipped from Asia by sea, even under the most efficient circumstances.”
For many categories of consumer electronic products, this lag time represents as much as 20 percent of the products’ normal market life of six months. “A manufacturer simply cannot afford to have products like these made offshore,” says Reigrod. Companies looking for these kinds of quick turnarounds can depend on BIUS to assure just-in-time delivery for these time-sensitive products.
BIUS offers unparalleled capabilities that distinguish it from other contract manufacturing companies. Not only will Brother help companies through the design and engineering phases; it will also manufacture the product, package it and take care of the distribution from its state-of-the-art, $40 million distribution center in Tennessee – a prime central location offering direct connections to rail, air, ocean, ground and overnight delivery of products.
The company’s brand new, 1.1 million square-foot distribution center is certain to entice any company looking to outsource its manufacturing. “Many companies developing products have no idea how complicated it can be to physically distribute a product,” says Reigrod. “We have a PKMS automated warehouse processing system that allows real-time processing of orders and inventory control.” The distribution center uses automated picking and bar-code scanning systems to achieve higher levels of efficiency and accuracy.
Another of the company’s advantages is its implementation of SAP, an enterprise resource planning software system linking all business processes into one system, in its Tennessee facilities. SAP includes manufacturing, all order-fulfillment processes and inventory control. This system will soon operate throughout all Brother facilities worldwide. BIUS’ data collection and process control system also provides lot tracking and failure analysis.
“The idea of locating all of our facilities adjacent to one another gives Brother another advantage in offering our outsourcing customers speed and flexibility,” continues Reigrod. “It’s not just a matter of designing, engineering and building the products. It’s a matter of bringing them to market very, very quickly – which is a critical issue today.”
The current modernization of the 13-year-young factory ensures the absolute highest levels of available technologies. “We have all the tools required from the standpoint of development engineering, including PRO-E three-dimensional mechanical CAD, ORCAD, analogue and digital simulation, reliability analysis tools, thermomechanical analysis simulation tools and technologically advanced tools for componentry development.” says Reigrod. “We have everything that’s required by a fully functional R&D section at our Tennessee site.” BIUS also houses mechanical and test labs. “We look at this site as being the total Brother resource in the Memphis area.” The 235,000 square-foot factory employs 500 people. More than 100 Brother employees staff the distribution center.
BIUS looks forward to entering relationships as successful as the Pitney Bowes experience, out of which BIUS received the Pitney Bowes Alliance Champion Award. This program has led to other business-unit relationships within Pitney Bowes. PitneyWorks, a division of Pitney Bowes Inc., announced it will offer free ClickStamp Online 2.0 software to buyers of select Brother printer models designed for small-office and home-office (SOHO) use.
Brother is targeting its electronic manufacturing services to companies in telecommunications, digital technology and the consumer electronics industry, as well as any other companies who wish to outsource any part or all of their contract manufacturing requirements.
“We’ve had such a wonderful success story with Pitney Bowes,” says Reigrod. “We even do the refurbishing of the postage meters and the repackaging of the machines. So we really supply them with all of the resources available throughout the Brother network. We have started a new project to expand distribution services and logistics, which will offer additional value to our customers.”
BIUS plans to keep manufacturing some Brother brand products at the Tennessee facility. But the company is planning for, and anticipating success in, its expanded outsourcing endeavors. “We have additional acreage to build out another 1 million square feet, which will essentially double our distribution and manufacturing capabilities. We expect to play a much larger role in electronic manufacturing services than we do today, and we want to expand this as our primary U.S.-based manufacturing business,” Reigrod concludes.