The Japanese company FUJIFILM has existed for over 75 years and can boast of a very rich history. The company is represented globally on every continent and has branches in over a hundred countries. And yet it was only in 1982 that FUJIFILM opened its first production plant in Europe. That honor fell in part to Brabant, and today the largest of the six European FUJIFILM manufacturing companies is located in Tilburg. And it is also in Tilburg that the Japanese company has made history - and continues to do so, but now with a lens fixed firmly on a future in which innovation and sustainability are the key words.
FUJIFILM started off in Tilburg with about a hundred employees as a producer of photographic paper. The Tilburg factory still manufactures paper, but now wholly ‘to its own formula'. Thanks to its in-house Research Laboratory the company has grown into a true competence centre. And the results are crystal clear, with the FUJIFILM Photobook Brilliant - made from the Album paper that was developed in Tilburg - receiving the distinction of Best Photographic Service in 2009.
Today FUJIFILM employs over 900 people in Tilburg, making it the largest industrial employer in the central Brabant region. The company manufactures photographic materials and offset plates for the European, Middle Eastern and African markets, with a third factory currently under construction for offset plate production. Aside from manufacturing, Tilburg also houses major parts of the European head office, with IT, Acquisitions, Logistics and Finance all constituting a part of the corporate divisions that employ around 135 people.
As a result of the growth in digital photography, analogue photographic film has no longer been manufactured in Tilburg since 2005 and the company has undergone a true revolution. "From traditional production to innovation," is how president of FUJIFILM Europe, Peter Struik, qualifies it. One of those innovations is the Backlit Film, a special type of inkjet medium for advertising launched under the name of Excellight. "This is just part of the testimony that, within a few years, our Tilburg Research Laboratory has been turned around from a developer of film and photographic paper into an R&D organization for the development of new products," says Struik. "And we are thereby also accessing new markets, such as the medical industry and sectors that require sustainable and environmentally friendly products. This includes the membranes, the production of which is based on our nanotechnology and which are used in water-purification installations and CO2 filters, amongst many other applications. Thanks to these innovations, FUJIFILM in Tilburg has become incredibly important within the value chain."
The innovative nature and sustainable ambitions of FUJIFILM in Tilburg can be found throughout its operations. "They are not just words, but our core-values," Struik explains. "Moreover, we initially settled on Tilburg because of the clean water and air you find here." The company aspires to be completely CO2-neutral in the future, and measures to achieve that include a variety of heat and gas extraction technologies in production processes and the construction of a wind turbine park that will help make the company energy self-sufficient.
When FUJIFILM first went in search of a strategic location for its European facilities, the UK, France, Germany, Ireland and Belgium were also considered. The fact that the company eventually decided on Brabant was, aside from the clean climate, also thanks to the favorable labor market. Today, Peter Struik has a number of other favorable factors to add. "We cooperate very well with the universities in the Netherlands," he says, "while here in Brabant the High Tech Campus is almost round the corner."
Struik also praises cooperation with the Tilburg municipality, the province of Brabant and the Brabant Development Agency. "FUJIFILM is located in a city and province that focuses on doing things. That is evident from the speed with which the required permits are granted, amongst other things."
FUJIFILM Manufacturing Europe has become deeply rooted in the local and regional society. The natural synergy between the Japanese and Dutch has attained a unique dimension in Tilburg and Brabant. FUJIFILM has already made history here, and will certainly add further enthralling episodes to its story.