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LC-A Big Book Chapter 37: The Colibri Manufacturers in China

In the beginning the Colibri Manufacturers didn’t have it easy finding enough new and good employees. As a result of the large economic boom in China many experts and engineers migrated to bigger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen. However, the majority of people were not motivated merely by a good salary and so preferred to stay loyal to their old jobs and remain in their towns. Production of the LOMO LC-A+ was therefore steady from Autumn 2006 onwards but at a lower level.

COLIBRI MANUFACTURERS
Formed by ex-engineers and workers of a Chinese optical company, the friendly people at Colibri Manufacturers have focussed on the production of the LOMO LCA+ since 2006. After the Lomographic Society presented its 1:1 copy of the Russian LOMO LC-A, the Chinese engineers quickly agreed to produce the camera and assembled the first models of the LOMO LC-A+ in a record time of 6 months. The number of people working in the 1000 square metre workshop at Colibri Manufacturers is steadily growing as the demand for the LOMO LC-A+ continuously rises and new projects with the Lomographic Society are constantly cropping up.

As former employees at the Chairman Mao established main camera factory, a few years ago Mr. Li, Mrs. Li (no relation) and Mr. Lee founded Colibri Manufacturers. Reproduction of the Russian LOMO LC-A was the first big project for the director (Li), chief engineer (Li) and salesman (Lee). During the first few months after it was established (in 2006) Colibri was situated on the premises of the main camera factory. Later the team and all the devices and production machines were relocated to a dilapidated building, which within a few months had to be demolished. Meanwhile, Mr. Li was frantically looking for a place where they could establish a long-term factory. The working conditions in the Colibri Workshop were far from ideal. The building had no heating or air conditioning (which is customary south of the Yang Tse River in China). The indoor temperature of the production halls fluctuated between 30 degrees Celsius (in summer) and 10 degrees Celsius (in Winter). However, the Colibri workers were continually motivated while they worked on developing the LOMO LC-A+. They built the first camera prototype and then prepared for mass production. A completed mission for Lomography! The city where Colibri Manufacturers is situated south of the Yang Tse River is home to more than 500,000 inhabitants. However, this doesn’t make it a large city as there are more than 100 towns in China with over one million inhabitants. Overall, the working conditions in the city and particularly in the main camera factory are very comfortable. The people live on very nice, large housing complexes with parks and fishponds directly across from the factory. Every day they go home for lunch for an hour (by foot or by bike). Nearly all the employees from Colibri used to work for the main camera factory and thus they also live on these lovely housing estates even if they work in a different place which isn’t too far away.

In the beginning the Colibri Manufacturers didn’t have it easy finding enough new and good employees. As a result of the large economic boom in China many experts and engineers migrated to bigger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen. However, the majority of people were not motivated merely by a good salary and so preferred to stay loyal to their old jobs and remain in their towns. Production of the LOMO LC-A+ was therefore steady from Autumn 2006 onwards but at a lower level.

In Spring 2007 Mr. Li struck a good deal. He found a new home for Colibri, which was located in the old railway station of the small town, directly in the town centre. Coincidentally, the new China-Shanghai high speed train would also pass through this town. A state of the art new railway station was built on the outskirts of the town and the “old” station in the town centre was left empty. The clever Mr. Li rented some of the rooms in the old station. These rooms were decorated with fine porcelain as the town lies in the region originally known for the production of porcelain. But the conditions were not only aesthetically pleasing. Mr. Li also installed heating and air conditioning, he bought modern furniture, completely renovated the lighting and floors and dressed his employees in fresh new uniforms.

Hence, Mr. Li held three aces in his hand. Firstly, the new working conditions hugely motivated his employees, secondly, work output increased as well as the quality of the product due to the new environment, and thirdly, everybody suddenly wanted to work at Colibri. The working conditions and the central location were simply unbeatable in the small town. Furthermore, the patriarchal main camera factory was relocated to a modern building. The only drawback was that the new building was located on the outskirts of the city and the workers couldn’t walk or bike home for their lunch break. However, at Colibri Manufacturers this is still possible and that alone makes each of the first-rate camera engineers happy!

Currently at Colibri Manufacturers in China there is a manager, two office workers, five engineers, approximately fifty production workers, who produce up to 2,000 cameras a month, and fifty employees from other factories who produce and deliver the individual components. The number of employees is continually rising, which means more and more LOMO LC-A+ cameras are being produced. Everyone who wants one will get one sooner or later.

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written by ungrumpy

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano & Spanish.