Martin Guitar In Mexico



hi I'm Chris Martin I'm here out in the plant behind me is our new tour board that shows you what we've been doing in Mexico and I'm going to take a few minutes and talk about the history of our Mexican operation 23 years ago we were solicited to consider opening an operation in Mexico the maquiladoras system was relatively new it was Anna Clinton administration initiative and what it would allow American businesses to do would be to bring parts into Mexico have them assembled and bring them back out for distribution either in the US or globally without any duty or taxes and what we were seeing now if you remember back then inflation was pretty high and we recognized that some of the products we made could be made to offer you more value in Mexico than here in Nazareth and so we took a chance and through our shelter operator hired 14 people to supplement the string manufacturing that we were doing here in Nazareth and it worked and it worked and it worked and we eventually moved into a bigger facility and overtime and it took several years we transitioned the string operation from Nazareth to Mexico the challenge for me was how do I not lay anybody off because I had no interest in doing that and I have to tell you selfishly I don't want to lay anybody off because my fear is if I lay them off they're not going to come back when business picks up so I talked to my co-workers here in Nazareth and I said we really have to consider making these strings where the labor is less expensive and they said okay Chris what's going to happen to those of us that make strings and I said if you're willing to learn how to make guitars I'll find a job for you and that's what happened and over time the string makers transitioned from making Martin guitar strings to Martin guitars here in Nazareth and we eventually move the entire string operation to Navajo where it's today and it's and it's really flourishing so I was at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and I was walking around this little craft area we had a display there I was I was working in our display and I'm walking around just to see what other crafts are there and I walked into a booth and they had these little they kind of triangular-shaped credit instruments and I was talking to the fellow that was running the booth his name was Bob McNally said Bob what are these said oh they said call the strung stick and I make them and I sell them at craft fair craft fairs and you know little like gift shops sounds pretty cool how does it works it's got a dulcimer keyboard and you just you just kind of bar fret and they're pretty cool a little teeny thing in the back of the booth he had a six string version of a strong stick I said Bob what's that he said well I have some friends who play the guitar and they asked me if I could make them a guitar like version of the strum stick primarily because it was portable and durable and I said well how many do you make you said you know I make one once in a while they're a little harder to make he said you want it you want me to tell you how I make them I said yeah I'm curious he said well I go up to your factory I said oh really he said yeah I got to your factory and I buy a reject mahogany blank okay and then I bring it back and I also buy a reject guitar back and a reject guitar top and a reject our fingerboard but okay what do you do with them I bring them back to my shop and I take the bottom of that blank that rectangular blank and I cut a centerpiece out and then I take what's remaining and I splay it out and they take that centerpiece and put it on the bottom huh and then I take that reject guitar back that you sold me and that becomes the back of my back Packer and I take the reject guitar top that you sold me and that becomes the top of my back Packer really and then I take the reject guitar fingerboard that you sold me and I cut the bottom of it off and I make the bridge out of that and the rest of it I use as the fingerboard and I'm thinking to myself hmm we could do that well now that we're making strings successfully in Mexico we're thinking about what else can we do in Mexico and I said to Bob can you come up bring a backpacker up come up to the plant next week I want to introduce you to some of my colleagues so I get all the powers to be in a room and Bob comes in and he's got a little a nylon gig bag and he pulls his handmade you know six-string backpacker didn't even have the name backpacker at that point we were you know he had another name for it and everybody in the room started laughing and I thought oh this isn't going to go well and he strummed it a little cap you know banjo sounding but he talked about how durable it was and how portable it was and I said Bob tell my colleagues how you make it and he told the story about coming up here to buy reject Martin guitar parts to make the back Packer and that's when people began to go hmm and I said Bob has a patent on this and Bob is willing to license the technology to us to make them in Mexico so Bob left and we sat down we said you know maybe maybe it will work who knows you know maybe in our wildest dreams maybe we'll sell 5000 before the fad goes away let's give it a shot so we worked out an arrangement with Bob and we put some very rudimentary fixturing together chipboard really got it down to Mexico Bob went down with us showed us how to make them got it up and run and took it to a tradeshow bill how many backpackers have we made 5,000 came and went and we are getting very close to building our 250,000 backpacker guitar the backpacker was the beginning of the process that we have used to teach our Mexican co-workers to ultimately make the guitar that you see behind me a couple years later and again this is a fairly long discussion I was at a at a clinic in Albuquerque and after the clinic gentleman comes up to me he says hey Chris can I show you this guitar I invented like I'm always game let's see let's see what's in that case so he opens it up and the first thing I thought to myself is that's pretty well made and the gentleman says I didn't I didn't make it I had I commissioned a luthier here in Albuquerque to make this for me but I'd like you to make them for me and I took a look at it and I realized what it was because I had seen something like it at a Lutheran invention and I said that's pretty clever he said yeah I know it's clever I have a patent on it ha okay and I want you to make it I said I'll mister which'll this guitar really deserves to be made somewhere where it can be made very affordably and at this point in time here in Nazareth we were basically making d28 be 35 SD 45s da teens triple O's we didn't we didn't have medium medium price guitars I said you know Jim I have some friends who import guitars from Asia why don't I hook you up with them and you're off to the races yeah I don't really want to do that I'd like to see it be made by a company whose brand I respect I said well I don't know he said I'll keep in touch okay so every couple years he'd call Chris what's up hey Jim how are you I said he said no I had some conversation with folks but nothing came of it are you interested I said I still I can't wrap my head around it Jim well in the meantime Tim teal comes into my office on a Monday Chris what Tim look at this guitar I invented over the weekend and I'm looking at I got Tim you didn't invent this a guy named Jim Winchell did and he has a patent on it give him a call we made an arrangement with Jim to build the X series under license we started out with the lxm right started out with the little guitar because the stresses are less if it was a bit of a challenge got that up and running and then we went into the full-size X series guitar and now we're making the ukuleles down there finally making a solid wood guitar in Mexico it's been very exciting our Mexican colleagues come up all the time my colleagues from here or down there all the time in fact Jenn Weis is down there right now Jim Willis is going down we're expanding the business is growing I will tell you that the feeling amongst my Mexican co-workers is that they are making Martin guitar products and they want to satisfy your demand for the highest quality just like we do here in Nazareth Juan is the plant manager Juan started with us 23 years ago he was one of the first 14 employees three of whom remain including one who's the plant manager I get down once a year taking my board of directors down next year to see the operation they haven't been down in quite a few years it's very exciting it's helped to round out our product line so now we're not only in the high end but we're in the medium price guitar business it's pretty cool I'm really proud of it and lots of opportunity to come I've asked Bill Hall who is our liaison here in Nazareth with our Mexican facility to spend a couple minutes and talk to you about his experience in Mexico thanks hi there I'm Bill Hall I'm lucky enough to have the job of directing our manufacturing operations in our facility in Mexico Chris was just speaking about our operations I first worked in the connection with our facility 20 years ago when we started making the back Packer for the first time and at that time the operation was very small and we've concentrated specifically on string manufacturing no real awareness of any woodworking technology I've had the good fortune over 20 years of traveling back and forth to Navajo which is in the southern part of Sonora state as we moved through an ever progressing product line increasing our skill level we've moved from the backpacker which was more a woodworking experience into building ukuleles the LX guitars full-size x-series guitars and currently we're working with solid wood spray finished instruments our workforce has grown we're closing in on 400 people at this time wonderful workforce we have a number of new people because of our growth and a good group of people that have been with us 10 15 20 years and we traveled back and forth of folks from Navajo come up to Nazareth for specific training on new model introductions and we bring our management staff here to just understand the way we go about doing our business our goal is to to have manufacturing facilities that are very similar in the way we go about doing our business the products are built in the same manner we use much of the same tooling and fixturing keeping things similar very important that our processes are the same so that our product quality is consistent and if we have issues we can troubleshoot those much easier when we're familiar with how things are being handled the workforce is really a dependable excellent well-trained workforce the advantage we have is we're not a border town Navajo is about four hundred miles south of the Arizona border and is a family centered town we have as we do in Nazareth parents and children who work in the plant we have husbands and wives sisters and brothers it's a family organization we have parents who work first shift and then exchange children and come in on the second shift they stay in the area border towns the factories in the border towns have a tendency to be a more transient community and it's very hard to find dedicated workers who will stay with you for a long time and are capable absorbing the level of training that's required for our more complex instruments the community itself is something we have worked to be involved in Chris has a real penchant for community involvement to support the community that supports us and as such we've had the wonderful opportunity to work with two organizations in the Navajo area that worked with not necessarily homeless children but children who are not in a family situation they may be orphans or abandoned children or children's that have been removed from the home because of abusive situations we've hooked up with two organizations one that deals with boys between the ages of about four and 18 years old and another for girls that's been established in in Navajo as well we've been able to work in conjunction with our partner Provenza in Navajo to provide support in the way of just ongoing assistance for some of the things they need to add to their facilities as well as a rather large product project we did at one time to provide a dormitory where the boys home was able to keep the children past the age of 12 so they didn't have to return to the streets or go to another home and what I found to be most gratifying through this experience and anyone who travels to any extent would know that there is no difference between people in a community in Mexico or in the United States or for that matter anywhere else in the world these are families children parents they have the same needs the same expectations of life of the same desires the common thread in the community in the people that we work with and in the way our manufacturing processes work is just a wonderful thing to be a part of anyone who could come to visit our facility would be absolutely impressed and other than the people staffing the facility it's hard to tell whether you're in Mexico or in the United States I've been with a company 37 years this is my current job and I feel lucky to have it you

24 Comments

  • Damn Deal Done

    April 14, 2019

    I should buy a DRS-2 quickly before Trump destroys your relationship with Mexico.

    Reply
  • Jason Burt

    April 14, 2019

    Many of us come from rough backgrounds as stated, for me, a Martin Guitar provided an outlet for my own salvation through the music I play. I bought my first DM at the age of 22 in 1995. The best investment I ever made. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

    Reply
  • Ken Hutley

    April 14, 2019

    It's like falling in love. The longer you live together the more you love it.

    Reply
  • Matty Mo

    April 14, 2019

    Bought my X series two weeks ago, I played other guitars in that price range and kept coming back to the Martin. I have been playing it as often as possible every day. I love it and, well, it's a Martin.

    Reply
  • Daniel Major

    April 14, 2019

    This is how capitalism can work. Not just vampires sucking the life out of places and people but treating it as a common endeavour. Good on Martin. Confirns my decision to buy a road series cutaway.

    Reply
  • Balsavor1

    April 14, 2019

    I had been seeing a Martin DX1AE at my Guitar center and played one every time I went in. The quality and workmanship were of great quality. The sound, of course, was fantastic. I don't make a great deal of money so seeing a Martin guitar I could afford was great. I'm proud to say I now own a Martin DX1AE and am VERY happy to have and play it. I would definitely recommend this guitar to any guitar player; novice, or expert. Affordable, easy to play, and of course, that fantastic Martin sound.

    Reply
  • Dan Brown

    April 14, 2019

    I just bought a Martin DRS2, it sounds as beautiful as it looks !!!

    Reply
  • Not Me

    April 14, 2019

    I have always loved the sound and "feel" of Martin Guitars,I had a neighbor that owned a much played D-35 that I played every chance I got… but me buying one for myself was never financially feasible as I only play to entertain myself. With the imported Martins being such decent quality I might just finally be able to fulfill my wish. 

    Reply
  • Pol Escalante

    April 14, 2019

    glad they "OFFER MORE VALUE"!!! they sure do!! I love Martin Guitars

    Reply
  • Wil Rey

    April 14, 2019

    Martin Guitars! I am proud to own one. The best thing I love about Martin is that the business has always been family owned. The offspring was always willing to be interested in the guitar and the family business. It has such a long history why not be interested.

    Reply
  • sibulat

    April 14, 2019

    Am I the only one who feel that Chris Martin presenting Martin Guitar just like Steve Jobs presenting Apple Product? I mean i can feel his passion for his product.

    Reply
  • Heather Davies

    April 14, 2019

    …I'm sure any of us would be honoured to work for this fab. company. Love Martin in every way.

    Reply
  • WassabiYakunglee

    April 14, 2019

    Nice Guitars, I like them. Cool , Martin

    Reply
  • SiggyMe

    April 14, 2019

    I have to say I am very impress with Martin's leadership concern and care about their workers.

    Reply
  • Gerald Orford

    April 14, 2019

    Great story.

    Reply
  • tumbleweed weed

    April 14, 2019

    i like the one's you make out of saw dust and glue better.

    Reply
  • Rd B

    April 14, 2019

    Makes me proud to have one of your made in Mexico 12 string guitars.

    Reply
  • Lookup2Wakeup

    April 14, 2019

    Good work Martin!

    Reply
  • Ivan perera

    April 14, 2019

    I agree with you jesse I love my backpacker,It is with every where,i travel,cannot live without my martin backpacker.Ivan

    Reply
  • Tri Thanh Nguyen

    April 14, 2019

    I enjoyed watching this and listening to the stories that were shared. If it all works out, I may end up buying a dx1ae. Good to hear about the people behind the brand!

    Reply
  • Strabbs12345

    April 14, 2019

    A martin d 35!! One day, one day!

    Reply
  • Stig Bahl Jensen

    April 14, 2019

    I just bought a 000X1AE Mexican. Great work, great sound and nice to see you are producing guitars and thinking of the natures environment and giving people jobs at the same time. Great job, thumbs up 😉

    Reply
  • Toilet Week

    April 14, 2019

    Just bought brand new set of Martin medium steel strings and the G string broke when simply tightening it first time.

    Reply
  • Riki Chen

    April 14, 2019

    Ive owned a martin D1, a DM, and now I have a martin SWR, a custom job for Guitar Center. Playing a guitar like this changed everything for me. They are the finest musical instruments in the world, as far as I am concerned.

    Reply

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