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Drumhead Maker’s Secrets Stay in Valencia

When Remo Inc. needed to relocate to accommodate its growing musical instrument and accessories business, the executive team considered a move out of state to Texas or Arizona. In the end, Remo moved from North Hollywood to Valencia, where it became the second tenant in a large business park and greatly expanded its domestic manufacturing operations, which includes making high-end drumheads played by musicians the world over. Remo also produces instruments and musical accessories in Taiwan and mainland China for foreign markets but maintains a significant presence in the U.S. for its low-volume, higher-end product. While staying in the U.S., particularly in California, can be expensive, company founder and still-active chief executive Remo Belli felt an obligation to provide jobs in the U.S. The company also maintains its American manufacturing presence as a protection for its proprietary processes for making and assembling drumheads. Sending that technology to a plant in China, where protection of intellectual property is weak at best, could expose the company to having cheap knockoffs on the market. “We will never export that,” said company financial chief Douglas Sink. More is involved with developing and assembling drumheads than meets the eye and what Remo is coming up with is a closely guarded secret. Blue screens separate the R & D; area from the other operations in the 218,000 square-foot facility in the Valencia Commerce Center. <!– Products: Remo sells 7 million drumheads annually. –> Products: Remo sells 7 million drumheads annually. Remo patented the processes for layering the plastic used for the heads; how the plastic gets attached to the aluminum ring; and how tight to make the fit. More than 50 years ago, Belli developed the synthetic drumhead as a replacement for those made of animal skins. Today, his company sells about 7 million annually and the Valencia plant has the capacity to make 25,000 drumheads a day working in three shifts. One difficulty that Remo did away with was the need for drummers to keep a bucket of water handy to keep the animal skin drumheads from drying out. “With a plastic drumhead you could play it underwater and nothing would happen to it,” Sink said. The Valencia plant employs about 300 workers; all but 50 or so work in the expansive manufacturing area. Skilled mechanics work in the machine shop to create custom-made tooling while in other areas workers assemble drumheads for all sizes and styles of drums. Remo, for instance, is the world’s largest supplier of timpani drumheads. The Taiwan plant dates back to the 1990s and through a joint partnership with a drum kit company Remo began making product in mainland China about six years ago. Those drum kits add value to Remo even though they have less expensive drumheads. “It was good for us because later we can replace them with our top of the line drumheads,” Sink said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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