Visit Shimano’s U.S. headquarters in Irvine, California, a year ago and you’d be greeted with a scene straight out of ‘Office Space’, minus the red stapler (Shimano’s employees stick with the standard blue-issue). Fast-forward to the present however, and it’s an entirely different story—Shimano’s been busy. Breaking ground on a new distribution center and showroom, the component giant has taken a step away from ‘Office Space’ and a few steps closer to Google.
Staking their reputation in their product, as a brand Shimano could hardly be called flashy. An engineering company first and foremost, traditionally Shimano has, in fact, been painted as ‘stodgy.’ And, up until a year ago, one could easily say their HQ followed suit.
Not so any more. Investing in a state of the art distribution center and a new showroom that’s high on design and low on cubicles, Shimano doesn’t exactly appear to fit that description any more. Much more befitting of a brand that manufactures the majority of the world’s cycling components, we have to say we were rather impressed on our latest trip down to Irvine.
A company with no shortage of history, the story of Shimano is not necessarily the best known. As a result, the new lobby at Shimano looks to tell this story a bit better by offering a multimedia look at Shimano through the ages.
Even with what I considered to be a relatively thorough knowledge of the brand, I had no idea it was founded back in 1921 by Shozaburu Shimano, who with a single lathe, manufactured a single product—a freewheel. So focused on perfection, Shimano even stopped taking orders at one point so he could focus on maintaining perfection even when production started growing to a much larger scale.
Fast-forward a few years—okay more than a few—and Shimano is now a publicly traded company, not to mention the largest bicycle component manufacturer in the world. Still focused on perfection though, Shimano American is looking to take over its distribution channels in the name of improving efficiency for its customers. Not a company to mess around, Shimano has invested in a state-of-the-art 150,000 square-foot distribution center. For a sense of scale, you could fit a 3-acre country ranch within its walls.
Employing a fleet of 11 forklifts (some piloted by magnetic tracks embedded in the floor for pinpoint acccuracy) and thousands of feet of conveyors, much of the distribution process is automated to increase efficiency and reduce error. So the next time you slap some Shimano on your frame, you can bet the bank it passed through this facility.