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Sony's Profitability Initiatives Impact U.S. Television Plant

by Team Sony 12/10/2008

This week Sony Corporation announced a series of measures to strengthen the overall profitability and operating efficiencies of our global electronics businesses. As you’ll see in the press release, these include reconsidering certain investments, consolidating manufacturing operations, and reducing the number of electronics’ employees worldwide by about 8,000 from around 160,000 globally.
 
The news hit home here in the U.S. as our
Pittsburgh Technology Center was subsequently announced to be one of the first of five or six manufacturing facilities to be discontinued, along with a recording media plant in Dax, France. Television assembly operations at the Southwestern Pennsylvania facility, which is actually in the town of East Huntington, will come to an end by March 2009, while repair services at the site will continue into the Fall and our East Coast television distribution center operation will be running up to the following March 2010.
 
Business is business, and I know that the market demand for BRAVIA flat-panel LCD televisions in the U.S. and beyond can be supported by our existing operations in Mexico, but the Pittsburgh plant has always had a soft spot in my heart and it will be sad to see it go.
 
I actually joined Sony Electronics in April 1990 on the day when our U.S. executives at the time, including Masaaki Morita (the youngest brother of Sony co-founder Akio Morita), were in Pittsburgh with deceased Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey to announce that Sony would be taking over the former Volkswagen automobile plant to produce large screen televisions.
 
Over the years, we produced big rear-projection sets there, as well as large (up to 40-inch screen sized) Trinitron cathode ray tube sets.  In fact, we also for a while had another plant across the street that produced the glass for those CRT sets, and at time had more than 3,000 workers at the site.
 
Even as the television market has evolved toward high-definition and, of course, flat-panel technologies like LCD and plasma, our Pittsburgh operation has remained determined and entrepreneurial. Most recently, the team there implemented new automation and robotic-based production systems to stay competitive in the assembly of 46- and 52-inch BRAVIA LCD televisions.
 
In any event, there will be about 560 employees, in addition to contract workers, who lose their positions at the facility over the next 16 months. I wish them well and better fortune in their future endeavors.
 
Meanwhile, I’m a "glass full" kind of guy and remain confident that Sony will be quick to make the necessary adjustments in this difficult economic environment. I expect Sony to continue to innovate and take full advantage of our wide range of entertainment and technology assets so we are in a position to lead the industry.

Below is a timeline with some of the milestones at the Pittsburgh Technology Center over the years.

  • 1969                      Chrysler builds shell of building (frame, walls & roof)
  • 1978                      Volkswagen takes over and starts auto assembly
  • August 1988          Volkswagen plant closes 
  • April 1990             Sony holds press conference in Pittsburgh with Gov. Casey to announce TV production plans in Southwestern Penn.
  • November 1990    Sony takes over former Volkswagen auto factory
  • October 1991        CRT construction begins (CRT manufacturing ends 2006)
  • January 1992        Color TV construction begun
  • July 1992              Rear Projection TV on-line – first set produced end of July 1992 (Rear Projection closes 2007)
  • April 1994            CRT in full production
  • December 1994    Flat Aperture Grille operations (AG manufacturing ends 2006)
  • June 1995            American Video Glass Company founded
  • February 1996      35V Trinitron Tube on line
  • April 1996             35V Set Assembly on-line 
  • March 1997           American Video Glass begins production (AV closes 2006)
  • April 1998             Display Systems Service Company-Pittsburgh opens (closed in 2001)
  • July 1998              FD Trinitron CRT production & Aperture Grille Line #2 for Computer Monitors began
  • September 1998   FD Trinitron WEGA assembly begins
  • June 1999             American Video Glass begins production of flat panel glass
  • April 2000             FD Trinitron CRT manufacturing expands
  • June 2001             40” FD Trinitron production begins
  • 2001                      Start of Foreign Trade Zone operation August 2001 38” glass panel production begins at American Video Glass Co.
  • September 2001    40” WEGA TV production begins (Direct View TV production ends 2006)
  • 2002                      Grand WEGA rear projection LCD Production Begins
  • 2003                      Pittsburgh Customer Satisfaction Center (PCSC) opens
  • 2003-2006              Pittsburgh Logistics Center operations
  • 2004 -2005             Plasma assembly operations
  • 2004-2005              Introduction of 34” HD Widescreen WEGA CRT sets
  • 2005 -2007             SXRD rear projection TV assembly operations
  • 2007-2008              Start-up of BRAVIA LCD Flat Panel Direct View Assembly
  • July 2008              Sony Chemicals of America sold to Dai Nippon Printing, which continues as a building tenant
  • December 2008     Sony announces intention to discontinue TV assembly operations by March 2009
  • December 2008     Sony also announces plans to move repair service from site by Fall 2009 and logistics by March 2010 
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  1. guest_user wrote: December 11, 2008 3:39am

    I saw somewhere your outsourcing chip production in this restructure. Is that
    all or some? And which impact does this have on the imaging products?

    Reply
  2. guest_user wrote: December 11, 2008 3:30pm

    Hi Geir,

    Sony intends to outsource some of what originally was a planned investment
    to increase manufacturing of CMOS image sensors for use in mobile phones.
    This will enable us to expand capacity quickly and be flexible to adjust
    production based on changes in demand for these products. There has been
    nothing reported relative to dedicated imaging products.

    Reply
  3. guest_user wrote: December 11, 2008 6:59pm

    I thought it was East Huntingdon Township.

    Reply
  4. guest_user wrote: December 11, 2008 11:48pm

    I am very sorry to hear about this news!!! I love Sony very much and hate to
    see a brand that I love and that is so deserving of all of its success have to
    make business decisions of this magnitude close to the holidays. Best Wishes
    to every man and woman in their future who are located at the Sony
    Pennsylvania plant.

    I look for great products to still be made and I wish Sony the best in all of it’s
    decisions and plans. I appreciate the opportunity that have been given to each
    community Sony is in and I look for them to further their outreach of excellence
    in 2009 and beyond.

    Reply
  5. guest_user wrote: December 12, 2008 3:26pm

    J.,

    Interesting you raise this.

    Google it and you will find both East Huntington and East Huntingdon in
    Southwestern Penn. The Westmoreland County’s website spells the
    township’s name with a “t.”

    But there is more to the story. Geographically, the site is located in East
    Huntington, but the mailing address is Mt. Pleasant. To add to the confusion,
    when the facility was an automobile factory, both Volkswagon and Chrysler
    used New Stanton addresses.

    Thus, our press release dodged the issue entirely and used the
    Westmoreland dateline.

    Reply
  6. guest_user wrote: December 12, 2008 3:27pm

    This is truly sad news. I had the opportunity to visit the plant on business trips
    quite a few times, beginning in 1990 shortly after the new TV operations were
    announced. I also was lucky enough to work with many wonderful people at
    the Pittsburgh Technology Center in my time with Sony. At it’s peak, the site
    was truly amazing. With its glass plant, CRT operations and TV set assembly
    lines, Pittsburgh was Sony’s most vertically integrated television site in the
    world. There have been a lot of talented people who have worked there
    through the years, some of whom I had the pleasure of working very closely
    with on purchasing and sourcing projects. I was always impressed by their
    dedication to their jobs, to the success of the Pittsburgh site and to Sony as a
    whole. Even though the plant is closing, I believe the Pittsburgh site
    employees, current and former, can look back on their years at PTC with a
    feeling of pride and success.

    Reply
  7. guest_user wrote: December 15, 2008 1:42pm

    Thanks Rick… either way, no matter how you spell the Township or what city
    the mail went to, it was a great facility and I’m sad to see it close.

    Reply
  8. guest_user wrote: December 31, 2008 3:28am

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first
    comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep
    visiting this blog very often.

    Joyce

    http://www.videophonesguide.com

    Reply

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