From an open barn to the world’s largest vertically integrated factory, it was determined that the source of SIGMA’s passion and quality, which aims for the “highest peaks of craftsmanship” is centered on the area and people of Aizu, in Fukushima, Japan.
The Aizu factory, SIGMA’s sole point of manufacture, was established in 1973. At the time, the Aizu region in Fukushima had next to no leading industry, and employment opportunities for the local youth were limited. As SIGMA grew and required more skilled hands in its production, the idea developed to found a factory in Aizu that would satisfy the need for employment opportunities in the area. Utilizing a barn in the town of Inawashiro, the first “factory” was small in scale, with 26 steel processing machines and 17 employees.
As an area with heavy snowfall, Aizu did not possess highways or access points for Japan’s bullet train network. It was by no means an area suitable for efficient manufacturing. For SIGMA’s founder Michihiro Yamaki, it was the people of Aizu — reticent, honest and patient — that made him decide to open a factory here. Yamaki believed it is the almost proverbial honesty and stubbornness of the Aizu people that will become the biggest asset of SIGMA, the last and weakest optical manufacturer to enter the Japanese market, as the production of optical instruments requires persistence and precision.
40 years have passed since then. Despite the global trend in the industry which saw major manufacturers move their factories abroad to control costs, SIGMA has continued to keep its production based in the Aizu region. SIGMA’s identity and existence rest on the expertise of the people in Aizu, who have supported and raised the quality of our products. It is inconceivable to us to allow costs to dictate quality. We prefer to maintain and continue on the path we have laid down. We think it is this resolve that allowed the creation of the cameras and lenses of SIGMA GLOBAL VISION in the first place.
Today, the SIGMA Aizu factory contains all the equipment necessary for us to manufacture any of our products in-house. Our vertically integrated production structure has allowed us to expand our lens manufacture to a global scale.
However, situations where we cannot keep up with demand is due to “Made in Aizu”’s status as a business that goes beyond dreams and feelings. We believe this is proof of how deeply rooted SIGMA and Aizu are in each other.