According to a report in Monday's Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Canon, the world's leader in digital cameras with a 20% marketshare, is building two automated plants in Oita Prefecture that are expected to be fully online by 2015.
The first plant, in Utsunomiya City, will fully automate the camera assembly process using robotics eliminating the need for human workers as much as possible. The second plant, in Kunisaki is expected to implement similar advances in Canon interchangeable lens production.
Canon has placed a priority on increasing efficiency and decreasing the human assembly component since 1990. Recent market and environmental changes, including the impact of the March 2010 earthquake and tsunami, difficult foreign currency exchange rates, flooding in Thailand, and the expected challenges with manufacturing in China going forward, seem to have accelerated Canon's initiative to strengthen its manufacturing base in Japan.
Moving production back from overseas factories to domestic doesn't directly correlate to job creation or transfer. Canon has been silent on the exact job impact of their new facilities, however it appears that manufacturing employees associated with Canon camera and accessory production in Oita Prefecture have decreased by half over the past three years.
Via: Nihon Keizai Shinbun