In 2000 I became part of a team that was assembled to establish the new Gibson Memphis facility which now produces the Gibson Hollow Body and ES models.That tradition continues today at Epiphone’s Gibson Qingdao (GQ) factory near Qingdao, China where only Epiphone instruments are crafted.Over the course of the past 4 years, Gibson Qingdao has continued expanding and improving and today, is one of the largest in China producing some of, if not the best guitars in the world.
Lloyd Williams serves as General Manager and Director of Asian Manufacturing Gibson China and Scott Lewis is the GQ Plant Manager.
SCOTT: I have worked for Gibson Musical Instruments for the past 19 years having started in the Nashville electric factory in 1988 assembling pickups.
In 1990 I moved over to the Gibson USA ES department producing bodies for models such as the 335 Dot, Lucille , ES-175, ES 265, Howard Roberts and others.
As a result, Epiphone established the first permanent presence by an American guitar brand in 1992 with the opening of our Epiphone Korea office which played a daily hands-on role in selecting and sourcing parts and materials as well as closely controlling quality.
While that initial step was instrumental in moving towards continuous improvement and independence, Epiphone knew that ultimately it needed its own dedicated factory with its own employees.
Fifteen years or more ago, Epiphone instruments were being made at the same Asian guitar factories as most other competitive brands.
The problem with that scenario is that it's difficult, if not impossible, to have a substantially better instrument than your competition when the parts, process and people who make them are the same.
In late 2001 Gibson luthier Mike Voltz, and a team from Epiphone set out to change the guitar world as it was then known. Voltz and other Epiphone and Gibson personnel became intimately involved in facility layout, equipment design, training techniques and the establishment of quality control and by October of 2002, the Epiphone only Gibson Qingdao factory had become a reality.
The effectiveness of combining Epiphone and Gibson expertise and experience with Asian production efficiencies ushered in a new era for Epiphone and brought about exceptional instruments at price points the average working musician could afford.
I soon became a line leader and for the next four years trained in raw material processing which included rough mill, neck assembly and fingerboard assembly.
In 1994 I was promoted to supervisor of neck and fingerboard assembly and over the course of the next 6 years supervised various departments of the USA plant, all the while learning proper processes and techniques.