this page attempts to outline some aspects of Bull strategy of manufacturing
At the early beginning, Frederik Bull subcontracted the manufacturing of its first punched card equipments, but when the company was moved to Paris, Compagnie des Machines Bull started to build internally the critical mechanical parts of its machines, in the then industrial area of Paris (XXe).
During WWII, a part of the plant was moved to Lyon. The development of the company extended tremendously in the 1950s, and several subcontractors plants were absorbed into the manufacturing arm of the company.
Around 1960, Bull wanted to reorganize its production in two modern plants: the electromechanical equipment would be transferred in Belfort, while the electronics computers were to be built in the Angers new plant. The Paris area was to be cleared from manufacturing.
The GE merger did not modify this policy. The Bull plants were dominated by labor intensive task until the mid 1970s: printed circuits were not yet available and all interconnections were through wires. Wire wrapping machines (Gardner-Denver) were introduced in the late 1960s, until that time, their cost was not competitive with manual wrapping.
GE production of computers was concentrated in Phoenix. After the Honeywell take-over the production of Level 66 for Europe was also expanded in Newhouse, Scotland. The H-200, then the Level 6 were produced in several plants of the Boston area. Partly, because the rule of double sourcing, Honeywell accepted that some products, particularly level 6 and DPS-8 were also manufactured in France. This double-sourcing rule had the origin in providing insurance against a manufacturing mishap and also to circumvent tariffs and variations of currency exchange rates. The rule faded in the 1990s, and US manufacturing disappeared soon.
CII was initially assembling systems in Les Clayes sous-Bois, but when the Iris production started, a new plant was built in Toulouse. This plant was excluded from the CII-HB merger and became a subcontractor until the end of CII originated production.
Political considerations lead to the build-up of a PC mounting automated plant in North of France at Villeneuve d'Asq in the early 1980s. That plant was relinquished when Bull-Micral production was phased-out for Zenith made PCs.
Belfort plant was subject earlier to the disappearance of punched cards and the decrease of the impact printer market. Belfort had failed to develop peripherals for the PC market and could not maintain its production of tapes for mainframes. Bull closed its plant in 1991.
The introduction of PCB (printed circuit boards) and the automatic mounting of components change considerably the manufacturing work. Bull embarked in the total processing from acquired silicon wafer to the board production with the micropackaging in 1980s, acquiring considerable machinery. But after 1986 that line of production was obsolete by the introduction of CMOS chips.
Bull concentrated its manufacturing plant on boards manufacturing, not just for internal needs but for external customers (notably Packard Bell NEC Europe and EMC˛). A part of Angers plant was relinquished for Packard Bell's PC assembly line. The printed board operation was divested in 2000.
List of manufacturing plants and details on the plants.
Revision : 27 juin 2001.