Lenovo to restart ThinkPad production in Japan

July 05, 2012

By TAKASHI KAMIGURI/ Staff Writer

Production of the famous ThinkPad line of notebook computers is returning to Japan two decades after this country gave it to the world.

The technology was initially developed by IBM's Yamato research laboratory in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The brand is now owned by China's Lenovo Group Ltd.

Production moved to China in recent years, but it has now been decided to do a trial run at an existing plant in Yamagata Prefecture again as part of an effort to slash delivery times for Japanese consumers.

Lenovo, which ranks No. 2 in PC manufacturing, announced July 4 that the switch to NEC Personal Computers Ltd.’s Yonezawa plant would allow it to deliver products five days after they are ordered, compared with the 10 days it now takes to import ThinkPads from China.

NEC PC became a Lenovo Group subsidiary last year.

Lenovo Japan President Akemi Watanabe, who was involved in the original development of the ThinkPad while working for IBM, said: "As a Japanese, I am glad to see the return to domestic production. My goal is to realize full-scale production at the Yonezawa plant."

Lenovo has yet to decide the timing of the return to full-scale output in Japan and production capacity.

The strong yen means that products made in China are very cheap. The company says it will study customer feedback before deciding how to make the transition.

"It will improve our image and make the products more acceptable to Japanese customers," Watanabe said.

ThinkPad laptop computers were originally developed by IBM’s Yamato research laboratory outside Tokyo in 1992 and became a globally recognized brand. Production in Japan was suspended in the 2000s.

Lenovo purchased IBM's personal computer business and acquired the ThinkPad brand in 2005.

Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's No. 1 personal computer manufacturer, shifted part of its notebook computer production from China to Japan in 2011 in a move to reduce delivery time and highlight quality.

Lenovo also announced plans to sell NEC PC's LaVie Z ultrabook, to be released in August in Japan, overseas. The 13.3-inch computer weighs only 875 grams, making it the world's lightest laptop.

By TAKASHI KAMIGURI/ Staff Writer
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One of the ThinkPad models that was released in 2003 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

One of the ThinkPad models that was released in 2003 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • One of the ThinkPad models that was released in 2003 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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