Kodak opens $50 million plate plant in China

The Xiamen plate facility is designed to supply all the requirements of the Chinese and Asia Pacific regions, including Australia and New Zealand, with a select range of Kodak conventional and digital printing plates.

Production and distribution of the Winner Gold conventional plate for newspapers is already underway at Xiamen to ‘alpha customers’ with Kodak claming the initial response is favourable. A second plate line is planned for the site next year making it the company’s second largest manufacturing facility in the world after Osterode in Germany.

Before an invited audience of over 300 on a warm overcast day in the island city in Fujian province, Phillip Faraci, Kodak president and COO, said the Xiamen plant is capable of producing 20 million sq metres of litho plates per year with this to more than double once the second line is commissioned. Industry analysts at the opening took this to represent a theoretical optimum throughput. John Robinson, general manger and vice president of the printing plate business, regarded as the ‘father’ of the plant, refused to discuss capacity.

Initial production is using fully imported ‘proven’ aluminium from traditional sources but Kodak intends to accredit local Chinese suppliers within 12 months. According to Robinson the local suppliers have an uphill battle ahead to meet the stringent Kodak requirements but he did float the potential of established multi-national aluminium producers beginning to produce within China.

Jeff Hayzlett, chief business development officer, maintained the Kodak brand is strong enough to reassure customers that the quality of the Chinese produced plates will meet international standards. "We live in a global world where customers who value quality buy on brand. The Kodak brand is built on trust and quality and the plates produced at Xiamen are produced to Kodak specifications," he said.
In his opening address Philip Faraci said the investment demonstrated the company’s continuing commitment to be engaged in offset printing, even as it transformed itself into a digital enterprise. "The Xiamen plant significantly increases our total manufacturing capacity worldwide. It also provides a base of operations to increase our service and support for customers in China and the Asia Pacific," he said.

Kodak intends to develop its operations in China to include a Technical Applications Group to provide plate support to customers throughout the region. The company already has a software, electrical and inkjet manufacturing presence in Shanghai.

In the first year of operation the Xiamen plant will manufacture Electra Excel and Sword thermal digital plates in addition to the Winner Gold conventional line. Kodak newspaper customers in Australia and New Zealand can expect the first arrival of conventional plates early in the new year.

Ross Gilberthorpe, marketing manager, GCG ANZ said he did not expect any negative responses to the newly source plates. "People have asked me about the quality of product being produced from the Xiamen China plant, when I tell them it’s a brand new state of the art Kodak-owned and operated plant, it’s not an issue," he said.

The local market is not likely to see much more from the Xiamen plant other than the Winner Gold Thermal Ctp plates in the short term. According to Rob Mollee, regional product manager, most Australian and New Zealand newspapers have moved to digital. He also said the Electra Excel is not sold in ANZ. Supplies of Sword may start coming from Xiamen late next year. He also stated that the importance of the Xiamen plant to ANZ will mean the freeing up of capasity from the European plants for product supplied to ANZ customers, therefore assisting in leadtimes etc.


Pictured below: A strong contingent of Australian Kodak customers and staff made it
to Xiamen for the opening, Here are some who were there (l to r) John Della,
PageSet; David Fuller, Focus Press; Michael Gee, Fairfax; Nick Notaras, Kodak;
Rob Mollee, Kodak; Tony Bristow, Offset Alpine and Anthony Harvey, Kodak.