The following is the text of "Start-up in Tucson: More Plant and Lab to Speed More Product Out The Door," an article written by Claire Stegmann and published on pp. 4-11 of the January/February 1979 issue (Vol. 45 Nr. 1) of the IBM employee publication, Think.


Out among the palo verde, mesquite and prickly pears 11 miles southeast of Tucson, where Rita Road connects with Interstate Highway 10, the steel superstructures of the General Products Division's new complex are rising, bright as whitewashed adobe, in the Arizona sun. When completed, in 1979 and 1980, the initial 10 buildings will give the division 1,325,000 square feet of new lab and plant space.

Before this year [1979] is out, one GPD development lab, two manufacturing buildings and a utility plant will be ready for occupancy. Meanwhile, nearly half of the estimated 3,000 people who will be working in Tucson by the end of 1979 are already going about business as usual in six temporary buildings, near the Tucson International Airport, and a downtown office building.

Make that business almost as usual. "There's a great deal of excitement associated with a new place," says Boulder/Tucson lab director Philip Dauber. "I don't know of anyone who has the feeling of doing the same thing every day."

The plant/lab on Rita Road, IBM's 17th in the U.S., is the first since the Manassas site was finished eight years ago. "While there are existing larger plant/lab complexes in IBM, this will be the largest single initial plant/lab facility IBM has ever built," says Joe Rorick, director of construction for the Real Estate & Construction Division. It is part of a two-year company buildup of facilities, to meet strong market demand.

Since 1977, IBM has completed four headquarters, two plants and a number of other buildings overseas. Last year, it added 2.3 million square feet to U.S. plants and labs and announced plans for a 43-story office building in New York City and a 17-story building to consolidate several branch offices in Houston, Tex.

But the new year will be the biggest yet. A whopping 8.155 million square feet of U.S. plant and lab space are already either in design or under construction, including GPD's new site.

Business has boomed for the General Products Division almost from the time it was created seven years ago. Since 1973, its first full year of operation, demand for its tape drives, disk files, library storage and printers has been growing steadily. GPD's employee population has grown by 40 percent. Last year's revenues for products and installed equipment reached new peaks.

Nearly six years ago, the Office Products Division was pressed for space for its copier line. A decision was made to gradually transfer GPD's magnetic tape operations from the Boulder plant/lab, which it shared with OPD, to San Jose, its other major location. In addition, the demand for tape drives appeared to be tapering off. Two years later, mass storage manufacturing was also transferred from Boulder to San Jose.

In succeeding years, orders for disk files began to take up most of San Jose's manufacturing space, and the workload was growing. The increasing pressure for space at San Jose and improved demand for magnetic tape products required a reexamination of the need for new facilities.

"It was time," says IBM Vice President and GPD President Arthur G. Anderson, "to build a new facility for tape drives and MSS [mass storage system] manufacturing and for the development of storage devices, which, for several years, had been split between Boulder and San Jose. Tucson will reunite the development and manufacturing of tape and mass storage products." Last November, it was announced that the 3800 printer, too, will be moving to the Southwest.

Why Tucson? "We chose Tucson because it had a number of advantages we were looking for in a plant/lab site," explains William Ross, Real Estate and Construction Division program manager of site selection. "It has good transportation, climate, housing and a good educational system at all levels. It's an attractive area -- about one thousand miles from both Boulder and San Jose -- for our people to work in. There was space available for the construction of temporary buildings, and utilities were available on land already zoned for manufacturing/laboratory operations. So while we were preparing a master plan for the permanent location, we put up buildings at the temporary airport site."

In the 14 months since seven administrative people opened the first office in a bank building on East Broadway, GPD Tucson has:

Made its first customer shipments of 3420, 3410 and 3411 magnetic tape drives and the 3803 tape drive control unit.

Announced its first product — the IBM 8809 Magnetic Tape Unit, designed to accompany IBM's new 8100 Information System.

Moved a thousand families a thousand miles — a first not only for GPD but for IBM. Most of the newcomers are from Boulder or San Jose, but they also come from Endicott [N.Y.] and other points east.

But GPD Tucson General Manager John Carter — who comes to the Southwest from the snows of Rochester, Minn., where he was a General Systems Division plant manager — isn't sitting still for compliments. "This February," he says, "we begin to move mass storage here. Then the 3800 printer will follow. Those are two very complex moves, especially the printer, which is like a chemical and printing factory with 9,000 part numbers.

"We've also got to introduce new divisional products, while hiring many engineers and remaining cost-competitive."

Over in Building 002, Dean Vesling, Tucson manufacturing manager, is planning for the new people he'll need to bring in and train for the MSS and 3800 printer. "In moving these larger, more complex products," he says, "there is little room for error." At the same time, the plant is finishing early production models of the 8809 and helping IBM Japan get its production process started. For the 8809 will not be manufactured in Tucson. In a first for the Japanese plant, Fujisawa will manufacture a GPD product for the U.S. market, as well as for Americas/Far East countries. Montpellier, France, has 8809 manufacturing responsibility for the Europe/Middle East/ Africa Corporation countries.

It was only a year ago, in January [1978], that Carter and Dauber, along with Anderson and a nucleus of 33 IBM people, officially opened IBM Tucson with a dinner for the Arizona governor and civic leaders at the Westward Look Resort. Among the 125 guests were city, county and state officials, school board members and faculty from the University of Arizona, officers from the neighboring Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, bankers, executives from Hughes Aircraft and Gates Learjet, the city's largest industries, and directors of leading black, Mexican-American and Indian groups.

The dinner was IBM's way of introducing itself to a community that, over the centuries, has harbored gold-seeking Spaniards, Franciscan missionaries. warring Indians and bronco-busting cowboys — but never, before now, a major data processing firm.

There is no doubt about the company's reception. The primary concern of local officials is to broaden Tucson's industrial base to support a population that has reached half a million and is growing rapidly.

Mayor L. C. Murphy, a big, hearty man who came to the city 30 years ago, says "Tucson welcomes IBM with open arms. It's a clean, nonpolluting industry that will create job opportunities — and do it without sacrificing that lifestyle esthetic that brought most of us to the desert in the first place."

To date, several hundred local people have been hired, and, says Seth Slaughter, GPD Tucson personnel manager, more will follow as training programs with local agencies get under way. "When you start up a facility, you have to bring in critical skills from other parts of the company," he says. "It's rare that the skills and training mix you need matches that of the community. Right now, we're working with community organizations in conjunction with other electronics-type firms, such as Gates Learjet and Burr-Brown, to establish curricula for programs that could provide a skill base we can all draw on. We're also looking into co-op programs that might be established with the University of Arizona and Pima Community College."

In the early days, the division received a lot of help from the nearly 100 people from other IBM divisions located in Tucson branch offices. They even shared their stationery supplies. There was trouble locating pencils, recalls a secretary, "and it didn't do any good to ask your manager where to find them, because he didn't know either."

In country where it takes the giant saguaro cactus 75 years to grow one arm, the IBM pace took some getting used to. "We wanted to begin construction at the temporary site in December and deliver our first shipment in May," says James Viele, GPD Tucson manager of facilities construction. "That was a pretty good challenge for any city."

A shortage of cement and unexpected winter rains caused construction delays. "It seemed like an insurmountable task," recalls John Maiello, manager of design and construction, RECD [Real Estate & Construction Division].

When the information systems people notified Viele they were bringing their computers in before the airport site was ready, he hastily called a realtor to find an empty building with raised floor space. "Lo and behold, they had one."

Initially, the manufacturing building served many purposes, including a temporary cafeteria. But on May 22, right on schedule, the site's first three IBM 3420 Model 6 tape drive units were shipped. "I think we planned well," says Dean Vesling, manufacturing manager. 'In January, we hired 80 people and sent them to San Jose for training. Then, once the doors opened in May, we were able to bring in a highly qualified group."

To celebrate the first shipment, all 300 GPD Tucson employees assembled at the airport site to have a picture taken. Five months later, in the newly opened cafeteria, lab employees gathered for announcement of the IBM 8809 Magnetic Tape Unit. The 8809 is IBM's first two-speed tape drive and its first direct reel-to-reel machine: it uses a control algorithm rather than the usual capstan motor to keep the tape speed constant.

For David Ciruli, program manager for the 8809, the announcement represented the end of a long commute. The first person in the lab to move to Tucson with his family, he went back to San Jose on temporary assignment and spent the next five and a half months traveling to Tucson on weekends. "It was really hectic," he says. "We were just finishing our release to manufacturing and building our first machines. We had to do ship verification test, announce and move virtually all at once."

To coordinate his lab move, Director Philip Dauber had handpicked engineer Billy Joe Mooney, a former program manager for IBM's 1800 computer and a whirlwind of energy from Idabel, Okla. "I give my best performance when I've got 15 things in the wind," Mooney says. He set up an independent organization to handle the move because "we didn't want anything to fall through the cracks." Key, for him, was sticking to schedule in the movement of people. "They had too much depending on it — selling and buying homes, getting kids enrolled in school — so, once they were scheduled to go, they went, even if it meant returning to their old location for a few weeks' work."

During the summer, as many as 15 trucks of equipment would arrive on a Monday morning to be unloaded that day as employees reported to work at their new location. "Then," says Mooney, "once we started moving into the lab building at the airport, there were as many contractors around as employees." Weekly management meetings on safety and security paid off. There's been no evidence — and tests have been run — of the loss of sensitive parts.

It was Dauber who urged IBM senior management to make the move in two years instead of four, as originally planned. Once the decision was made, he felt people would want to "get down quickly and get their families settled."

There were "a lot of problems," he said one day last fall, seated in his office at the airport site. "There still are, but" looking at the window at a passing car, "see that road out there? It's now paved. I remember standing on that road about a year ago with Art Anderson when it was nothing but a raw piece of land, full of cactus and creosote bush. Now, when I walk through this building, I see a fully operational laboratory, 10 months later. I find that incredible."