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[Rollei] Visit to Rollei.

Thursday morning at 08.00 am I left my home village of Drachten, The
Netherlands, for the nearly 400 km trip to Braunschweig,Germany. The first
stage was my old university city of Groningen to pick up Huib, who joined me
on the trip. Then to Nieuweschans, Bremen, Hanover and Braunschweig were we
arrived  at our meeting place: the Park and Ride in Salzdahlumer Strasse at
12.20 p.m. The rest of the gang, all members of the Rollei Club of the
Netherlands, arrived shortly after and we made the short stroll to Number
196, Rollei Fototechnic, where we were received by Mr Dietmar Kanzer,
Rollei´s Sales Chief.

After lunch Mr Hubert Schmidt showed the present product line. Then it was
time to visit the Rollei Museum. This museum was started by owner Samsung
only in 1996. It consists of a former private general collection of cameras
with some later additions. Rollei content is limited.

Afterwards it was time to check in at Hotel Deutsches Haus in the city
centre. At 7 p.m. it was time for the traditional dinner at the Brewery and
Pub "Zum Löwen".

Next morning at 10 a.m. it was time to visit the Rollei Factory. Rollei
still use the oldest buildings of the factory complex connected by bridges,
well known from old and new pictures. Other buildings now belong to
different companies. The left hand building houses management and R and D.
The larger, right hand building is the actual factory. Metal parts
production is at ground floor. This is a mixture of old and new. Some old
tools from the Fifties, relatively new machines by Heckler und Koch (20
years old) and new computer programmed CNC machines (Matra and others). The
new machines are able to perform a number tasks in a sequence. A complex
part can be finished by one machine in one run. Older machines do just one
task at the time. It will take many runs to finish a part.

Rollei is in the process of rationalising production. Production of simple
parts is being outsourced. There is still a lot to gain. We saw quite a
number of people performing quite simple tasks like drilling a hole or
bending a part.

The first floor houses optics production and assembly lines. Optics is quite
modern with new computer programmed glass cutting machines. The old
Voigtländer stuff is gone now. Lens coating was outsourced recently when the
old Leibolt-Heraeus machine broke down. HFT coating is now done by a
specialist firm. Mr Kanzer told me they were hiring small companies around
Wetzlar (split of from Leitz) for coating and other tasks. A completely
refurbished production room was empty. This was meant for the production of
electronic prints. These prints are outsourced too. The new room will house
lens assembly shortly.

All this means that quite a number of square metres in the factory are free.
Rollei will abandon the office building and move offices to the factory
building. The old office building will be let.

Except for TLRs, the assembly lines are modern. Workers perform a number of
tasks. Slide projector production is limited to Winter times; they do not
sell in Summer. So now it was time for TLR production! Some 20 per day, a
100 per week. Thursday must have been a day for Rolleiflex FW (New
Rollei-Wide) production. We saw 20 new Wides at final inspection. Production
of Bay IV lens hoods is scheduled for the third week of May and BayIV lens
caps will be finished in early June. Today FX production was on. This is
still the old Fifties assembly line. It became quite clear why a Rolleiflex
is expensive. A lady was hand painting the cutting edges of leather
finishing in the right colour.  Otherwise the cutting edges would show
unfinished leather.

6008 Assembly runs separate from TLR and is modern. Workers have a carousel
with frames in front of them. Next to them a number of trolleys with parts.
They take a frame form the carousel end add one or more parts. Then the
frame is replaced and the carousel is turned to get to the next frame. And
so on. Every day they start filling their carousel with frames and look for
the trolleys with the right parts. After this they can remain seated for a
few hours. At the end of the day the partly built-up frames are moved to
next station. Assembly stations can easily be adapted to produce different

So, quite a number of changes since my last visit, two years ago. I am
convinced these changes are inevitable. Rollei also abandoned development
and production of professional digital cameras. The life cycle of these
cameras is too short for Rollei. It is left to electronic firms. That should
worry us. Imaging is taken over from optical firms like Rollei (and Nikon
and Canon?) by electronics companies like Sony and HP! Rollei consumer
digital cameras are bought from others. Maybe professional models too.
Rollei remain active in the field of digital backs for the 6000 series.

At 1 p.m. it was time for lunch and time to pick up our purchases. I ordered
a BayIV lens cap and a BayIV lens hood for my Classic Rollei Wide for
delivery in June. They are copies of the old ones. We saw the prototypes.
There are two small changes, the new hens hood is machined in one piece from
one solid aluminium block. The old one consisted of a sheet metal hood
fitted in a solid mount. The inside of the hood now shows ribbings.

I would like to thank Rollei for their hospitality.

Ferdi Stutterheim,
Drachten, The Netherlands.