Ingram Micro Inc., the world's largest distributor of computer products, jumped into the manufacturing arena Wednesday, opening a major build-to-order facility in Memphis, Tenn.
The plant is the first of five "super centers" the Santa Ana company plans to open to make customized notebooks, desktops and PC servers for Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp., among others.
Ingram Micro hopes its new centers will help consolidate operations and cement its role as a major player in the PC world, said officials with the Santa Ana firm.
"Ingram Micro understands that, in order to survive in the long term, it needs to be more than the field's most efficient packer of PCs," said Tony Amico, an analyst who tracks distribution trends for the research firm International Data Corp.
"By opening this plant, they are positioning themselves to start building machines under someone else's name" and ultimately launch a line of generic machines themselves, Amico said.
Ingram officials insist they don't want to compete directly with their vendors.
"You're not going to see Ingram Micro computers on store shelves," said Paul La Plante, vice president of facility services for Ingram Micro. "We're not competing against the IBMs and the Compaqs of the world. But we could build machines that other people could put their brand upon."
Ingram said it expects to open the other four assembly sites by the end of 1999 in South America, Asia, Canada and Europe.
The build-to-order business has become one of the hottest segments for hardware manufacturers, thanks to the success of Dell Computer Corp., which has been able to reach both the consumer and corporate markets.
Shares of Ingram Micro rose 63 cents to close at $38.63 on the New York Stock Exchange.