Magazine Article


The End of Overnight? Qualex to Shutter Nine Labs in Major Kodak Shake-up

Would Kodak be willing to outlab its outlab? In fact, they already do. District Photo, Beltsville, MD, a processor since 1949, has since the early 1990's been handling the Qualex outlab for a five-state area from mid-New Jersey to mid-Virginia servicing Qualex dealers-along with their own accounts. I understand they will switch to the 2-day/6-day on the Qualex schedule.

In addition, the closing of the Qualex labs creates some re-positioning of such specialty services as Kodachrome, black & white and E-6. The Fairlawn, NJ, lab was the sole provider of Kodachrome processing and, according to Brad Kruchten, consideration is being given to contracting that out to either a private lab in the U.S. or maybe having it done at a Qualex facility in Europe. No doubt consideration would be given to Dwayne's Photo; Parsons, KS; already a Kodachrome processor, or Kodak's own lab in Lausanne, Switzerland. Probably both.

"In any event," according to Brad, "Kodachrome customers will find the same seamless service that they now enjoy."

As for E-6 and b&w, he said there is no plan to outlab these services but rather to continue to handle them internally, though he would not reveal which of the remaining labs would be responsible. Until now Fairlawn was the only lab offering these services.

Ofoto, Kodak's online processing vehicle, seems to be coming out a winner in the Qualex restructuring. According to Brad Kruchten, three labs have been responsible for handling incoming Ofoto orders but new plans provide for the work to be distributed to all remaining Qualex plants. He said the goal is for orders that come in by 10 a.m. to be processed and in the mail that same day.

A Kodak spokesperson said that the activities of the Qualex onsite picture program would be unaffected by the cuts in the wholesale service.

I'm told that back in 1988, when Qualex was formed, succeeding Kodak Processing Labs, there were 104 wholesale labs in its system. This came about by such acquisitions as Fox Photo, Color Craft, American Photo Group and others. As recently as 2-3 years ago there were over 50 labs. Now there are 13. There is a sense from some in the industry that wholesale processing with national coverage is on the way out-a victim of the decline of film and the success of on-site.

One source said, "Within three years Qualex will be down to 3-6 labs to handle only the "fishheads." Fishheads? He explained that's what the big lab people refer to as all of the oddball ancillary products. "All of the junk." Got it.

THESE QUALEX LABS ARE REMAINING OPEN THESE QUALEX LABS ARE CLOSING The following Qualex processing labs will remain open following the shutdown of nine plants by January, 2005: The following nine Qualex labs are to be closed before September 1 and their processing work moved to remaining Qualex labs as follows:
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Hartford, CT
  • Allentown, PA
  • Novi, MI
  • Sacramento
  • Fountain Valley, CA
  • Atlanta
  • Portland, OR
  • Orlando
  • Dallas
  • Phoenix
  • Honolulu
  • Eagen, MN, plant work will be moved to the Qualex operation in Chicago
  • Fairlawn, NJ, work will be moved to Allentown, PA, and Hartford, CT
  • Canton, OH, to Allentown, PA
  • Charlotte, NC, to Atlanta
  • Burbank, CA, to Fountain Valley, CA, and Sacramento, CA
  • Evansville, IN, to Chicago and Novi, MI
  • Billings, MT, to Denver
  • Chehalis, WA, to Portland
  • Omaha, NE, (closing January, 2005), to Chicago and Denver

Jerry Lansky is president of MiniLab Consultants, Inc., P.O. Box 475, Colts Neck, NJ 07722. Tel: (732) 946-8484. E-mail: