View Full Version : The End of an Era

02-05-2010, 06:39 AM
Over the course of its long history JBL has had many ups and downs but it has always managed to dodge the fatal blow. The last few years, following the 60th Anniversary of this legendary American company, have been down years.

This time last year Harman went through a restructuring that resulted in the closing of Harman Consumer Group at the Woodbury, N.Y. location by mid-year. Many of those jobs were outsourced to Wipro (JBL Consumer, Infinity, Harman/Kardon). Some people were relocated to Northridge. People all across the country were laid off. One of our benefactors, Paul Bente left his position as President of JBL Consumer. JBL Synthesis became part of HPAV (Revel, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, JBL Synthesis) and support now comes from Crown in Elkhart, IN.

This year it has been announced that manufacturing in Northridge will cease by the end of June. This will impact JBL Professional, some say in a very negative way since many people in the entertainment industry still demand American made products. Crown is in the process of finding out just how much impact ending manufacturing in the United States will have on its brand. Last year it too went through a restructuring that saw all manufacturing moving to China and their becoming nothing more than a prototyping company. It would appear that JBL is headed for the same fate.

JBL Professional also made all the high end components that go into the Everest II, K2-Series and Synthesis Series, as well as legacy cone and diaphragm kits for past JBL products that have attained legendary status worldwide. This all comes to a rather inglorious end by mid-year. Like Crown, JBL will become a shadow of its former self, and no longer "Made In U.S.A"

02-05-2010, 06:41 AM
This week has been a rough week for alot of people who share a long history with JBL. The news that JBL would cease manufacturing in the United States has had a profound impact on the people who have given so much to the continued success, through good times and bad times, of this American legend. By the end of June this year many of us will be left with nothing but memories and alot of good folks will be unemployed.

I guess it works out in the end that these kinds of hard decisions are made by impassive people with no vested interest in the Lansing heritage. They neither know nor care about the history of the company and its people, their function is to make money. The people who have a long and storied relationship with the company, who have come to love their jobs, their fellows, and the products they create for the enjoyment of so very many, have become liabilities.

To some people this will merely be another tansition and they will continue on with their day. To other people this will be like a death in the family.

02-05-2010, 08:38 AM
JBL Professional also made all the high end components that go into the Everest II, K2-Series and Synthesis Series, as well as legacy cone and diaphragm kits for past JBL products that have attained legendary status worldwide. This all comes to a rather inglorious end by mid-year. Like Crown, JBL will become a shadow of its former self, and no longer "Made In U.S.A"
ďThere is a strong belief by those inside JBL and intimately involved in the manufacture of the high end transducers, particularly the compression drivers, that the Mexico plant will not be able to build these devices to the current standards, if at all. The average tenure of the employees to be terminated is something like 25 years and their depth of knowledge is extreme. These are very sophisticated devices that require a lot of TLC and precision beyond drawings and raw parts. There are only a handful of plants in the entire world that can build high quality drivers and arguably only one other that can match the highest end compression driver built in Northridge. The impact of this decision on JBL Pro in Sound Reinforcement, Cinema and on Japan will be extreme, if not terminal. This is indeed a dark day for JBL and also for US manufacturing in general.Ē

Don McRitchie
03-01-2010, 09:48 AM
I wanted to be in a position of having a better understanding on Harmanís recent outsourcing announcement before commenting. Over the past few weeks, I have talked to most of my contacts at Harman to try and gain clarity on the announcement and its impacts. I wonít sugar coat this issue. From the perspective of Lansing Heritage, and the desires we have to see the legacy of JBL carried on as broadly as possible, this can only be received as bad news. However, it is premature to say that this represents the end of the Lansing legacy.

At this time, the waters are still muddied since I have been getting conflicting assessments. Those on the front lines are the most negative in their view of what this portends for the future of JBL. Management feedback is calmer, stating that it will not substantively affect the existing product line or future product development. Only time will tell.

First off, there are a couple of rumors that I want to dispel. Number one, this change does not mean the end of the products that have the closest lineage to the legacy speakers that we all admire and revere. Those would be JBLís high end products like K2 and Everest 2. The manufacturing of these products will be outsourced to Mexico but they are not being discontinued. As evidence, Harman is in the process of opening a superstore in Shanghai that is intended to be a showcase all of their high end products. Harman is undertaking a concerted effort to make inroads in the huge Chinese market and JBLís high end speakers are spearheading those efforts. This project was unaffected by the outsourcing announcement.

Second, Harman is not ignorant of the fact that outsourcing has an associated quality management issue. The Mexico plant that is being used to outsource the manufacturing is a Harman owned facility that has been producing JBL products for around 30 years. This plant most recently has been producing the lower end professional product line, but has also had experience in producing high end product. For example, the 2245 was produced at this plant in the latter part of that productís life cycle. Moving the full high end pro and consumer manufacturing to this site will require enhancement of the quality control measures already in place due to the higher standards for their manufacture. Harman knows this and is in the process of developing the necessary quality management controls.

That being said, I cannot dismiss the concerns of the front end staff that are closest to the design and manufacturing of JBLís product line. JBL has been unique in developing and maintaining manufacturing staff with decades of experience and these will be lost in the outsourcing. Further, having the manufacturing location distant from the design staff eliminates a degree of synergy between the two whereby design can offer immediate input into manufacturing issues and these issues become feedback into future designs.

I share everyone on this forumís disappointment with Harmanís decision to end U.S. manufacturing, and in that sense, it does represent an end of an era. It is further evidence of a troubling trend towards a total abandonment of manufacturing in the U.S. For now, the jury is out on just what the overall impact of this will be to JBL and Iíll keep watching and reporting in this thread as time passes.

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