New Panasonic LCD factory hits 810,000 panels a month
Built on reclaimed land on the site of an old oil works, Panasonic’s new LCD panel production plant in Himeji, in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, was always intended to play a major role in Panasonic’s global LCD supply chain. And it’s fair to say that it’s more than delivering the goods.
Between bursting into life last April and November 2010, the plant had reached the point where it was turning out more than 400,000 LCD panels – as in, just the glass bits – a month, ready to be shipped to the Czech Republic for construction into full LCD TVs. But Panasonic ambitiously announced that it really wanted to get production up to 800,000 units by the end of February 2011.
Well, as we were told at a meeting at the factory, Panasonic hit its ambitious target – and then some. In fact, the plant is currently outputting the equivalent of a mammoth 810,000 32in LCD panels a month, and still has the capacity to handle more – over a million a month, if Panasonic’s 2011 LCD TV range has a particularly suuccessful run.
Looking round the factory – or rather, looking through windows at the factory from specially prepared viewing platforms! – it’s easy to see just why the plant can produce so much LCD glass.
For a start the factory floor is vast, accommodating no less than seven almost totally automated LCD panel glass production lines. Then there’s the size of the motherglass the factory can handle; the single sheets of glass entering each production line are so big that they can reduce down to 18 separate 32in LCD panels. What’s more, from April even the offcuts will be used in the production of smaller 19in IPS Alpha panels.
The fact that we’re talking about IPS Alpha panels here is significant too. For unlike the usual ‘VA’ LCD panels, the IPS Alpha ones can be watched from almost right-angles before they lose contrast and colour, making them an ideal option for large families.
The hope from our consumer point of view has to be that having the new Himeji plant running so effectively will lead both to more IPS Alpha LCD TVs hitting our shores and some healthy economy-of-scale-induced price reductions. Fingers crossed…