Typically I visit our pencil slat production facility in Tianjin, China about this time of year for our annual operations review and budget planning sessions. This year I have the added enjoyment of being accompanied by my 23 year old son Philip who is now working full time in the business in our Pencils.com e-commerce division. This trip provides his first real in depth exposure to our core pencil slat business where he'll spend several days in the manufacturing environment.
Normally during these trips I take added time to visit several of our customers in Japan or elesewhere in Asia in addition to our time in Tianjin. This year our first stop was a visit earlier this week to Beijing Fila Dixon Stationery Co., Ltd. Initially named Beijing Dixon Ticonderoga Stationery Co., Ltd., the company was originally established by Dixon Ticonderoga to produce pencil slats of Chinese Basswood for export to Dixon's facilities in Misouri and Mexico and a few pencils from residual slats. Later the facility began producing Incense-cedar pencil slats as well as some cedar pencils and has grown dramatically with steady investment since the acquisition of Dixon Ticonderoga company by FILA Group back in 2004. Today this factory produces both cedar and basswood slats for FILA Group needs around the world as well as manufacturing a broad range of pencils under the FILA brand portfolio, including specifically the Dixon Ticonderoga, Giotto and Lyra brands. In all the factory produces about 1700 different pencil items with about 3/4 of production focusing on color pencils for sales in Europe under Lyra and and the balance in graphite pencils in the Ticonderoga and Temagraph product lines. Most Ticonderoga graphite pencils sold world wide are now produced in the group's Mexico City facility which I also had the opportunity to vist about two weeks ago.
As it turns out Beijing FILA Dixon just recently celebrated it's 10th anniversary in business October prior to our visit. The photos here are of a special commemorative pencil set which we received as a generous gift to honor this anniversary from General Manager Tommy Lin who is shown in the photo with Philip and me. It includes 10 color sample set of jumbo coloring pencils using the formulation of the Giotto BeBe product as well as two Ticonderoga pencils. The pencils and box are imprinted in Chinese only with the inscription "10 Year Anniversary Beijing FILA Dixon Stationery Company, Ltd."
During our visit we were able to give Philip a great first introduction to the entire pencil making process from slat production to finished pencil production and packaging. One of the highlights was seeing the production of another special commemorative pencil FILA is producing to honor the 150th anniversary of the Union of Italy. This Genuine Incense Cedar pencil has some very unique features including one half the pencil being shaped to round while the imprint side is shaped to hexagonal, so it's a "hexi-round". The pencil will also be end dipped in the Green, White and Yellow tri-color of the Italian flag. Production floor samples shown in the photograph here are before end-dipping.
Other interesting products being produced in this facility include the Lyra Groove pencil, an ergonomically designed triangular pencil with gripping grooves cut into the pencil casing. As well as the Giotto Bebe, a special formulation super soft and bright children's jumbo coloring pencil range with a 7mm core. This item is like a wood cased crayon on steroids.
Overall I was impressed with the ongoing development of this facility which plays an important role in the total pencil manufacturing strategy of FILA Group's global operations and has contined to expand capabilities each year over it's ten year history. It was a great initial exposure to pencil manufacturing for Philip. Congratulations to Tommy Lin and his entire team for 10 years of growing accomplishments.