Manufacturing Secrecy

Drawing Conclusions on Globalization

A rather popular brand keeps their methods hidden from the public --but that's expected. After all, most brands want to be better than their competition, and if their competition started using the same ingredients and methods to produce the same result, then there would not be much to determine whose product would be the crowd favourite.

However, there are possibilities that there are other reasons behind the vague information given by companies. People do not want to hear that pig skin is one of the ingredients in Jell-O. Similarly, the possibility of the presence of cuttlefish fluid and cow fat in colored pencils isn't a particularly comfortable thought either.

Mapping Features


While the timber sources shown on the map are not the ones that Prismacolor uses, they are still related. Although, they aren't close to alternatives either due to the fact that incense cedar is one of the best woods for pencil production, and it doesn't grow well in the two locations noted.

However, even though the wood at those sites are unsuitable to make pencil casings out of, that doesn't mean that they couldn't be used in the manufacturing. The charcoal made from burning the wood could be used to make black pencils or darken another color. Also, as aforementioned, copper is used in gold colored pencils.

Both of these materials are within easy shipping distance through Ferromex, the primary train system in Mexico. While Prismacolor probably doesn't depend on them heavily, they are close enough to major railways so that I suspect that they are major suppliers for other companies.

Two of the three sites are also near airports, so perhaps these are products that are used internationally. Also, I find it interesting that there are airports near the Sierra Madre de Sur mountain range. I'm guessing that the airports are primarily to ship raw materials, like ores, to other places, as opposed to being a hub of traffic.

The mountain ranges and rivers give a sense of the natural geography of the country. It appears that people prefer to live in areas where there's water (as usual), but also where the land is flat enough to support a town. This is probably due to their architecture (which is influenced by the materials at hand), because other civilizations have developed on mountains before and thrived.

This preference of dwelling location is reflected in the capital and three most populous cities. They are all relatively close to water --in fact, to the same river. I wonder how clean that river is, with at least four major cities surrounding it, and I son't have high hopes.

Prismacolor Manufacturing Center

The Prismacolor manufacturing facility is situated in Mexicali, a major city close to the border of the United States. This is probably because many of its resources are from (or at least the distributors are located) and that's also where its customers are. The factory is close enough to the US to utilize the railway system, but it also gets the advantages of the Mexican economy.

Production Process

Prismacolor itself appears to have published a documentary on the production of their products manufactured at this particular facility. They don't give much information regarding ingredients here, but this step of the manufacturing appears to be pretty open about what goes on at their factory in Mexico. However, excluding cedar, which is shipped from California to Mexicali, they do not state where they get their raw ingredients from. They aren't specific about what those ingredients are either.
Prismacolor V5.wmv
Distribution to Customers: My Acquisition

The product was sent to Dick Blick's distribution center in Galesburg, Illinois, USA from Mexicali, Mexico. This was probably done by a FedEx truck that picked up the shipment near the border. After being ordered, the product again boarded a FedEx truck and was taken to Pen and Palette Art Studio in Hampstead, NH. I was driven to the art studio by my father, and the pencils were acquired and taken back to my house by car.

The Core of the Issue

The core of a Prismacolor colored pencil contributes a lot in making the brand popular. People love both the texture and the long-lasting color. According to the PDF that can be found though the Prismacolor's website, it contains "ground pigment, clay, stearites (hardeners for wax), hot waxes, and a few materials only Sanford knows". This is more open than the video, but once one starts thinking about it, one should realize that this information is still rather vague.

Prismacolor offers a wide variety of colors. Some are made synthetically, while others are not. For example, Metallic Gold, PC950, contains copper, and it is likely that Sepia, PC948, contains cuttlefish 'ink' ("Sepia"). The pigments Prismacolor uses are probably imported from various places that would be very difficult to trace, considering that the only component that can be proven to be present in their pencils is copper.


Berol used to be the company that manufactured Prismacolor; then Sanford started producing them (Berol). Today, Newell Rubbermaid owns both of those brands, although Prismacolor is still a Sanford brand ("Writing"). However, Berol still displays its pencil-making methods on its website. Assuming that the prized recipe has not changed too much since Prismacolor's Berol days, the clay used in manufacturing is a soft, white clay called kaolin ("Pencil"; "Kaolin").

One of the most efficient methods of acquiring kaolin would be to mine it at one of the locations along the Fall Line in Georgia, a band of deposits that runs across the state ("Georgia"). After being delivered by truck, the raw clay would then be processed at a plant nearby, like the one Imerys has in Sandersville, Georgia, before being shipped to a distributor in Arizona, such as Pacific Coast Chemicals, located in Phoenix (Imerys; "Sandersville"; Pacific). The clay would then travel by train down to Mexicali, Mexico.

Cyclohexylamine stearite, more commonly known as stearin or stearic acid in the candle making world, is a compound that is found in animal and vegetable fats ("Cyclo..."; "Stearin"). While Prismacolor probably doesn't use cows for stearin, it wouldn't be completely out of the question, although fish oil is a more likely source. Stearic acid derived from coconuts is also relatively common, and since this ingredient is phrased as being plural, there is a possibility that they combine the two.


The three primary types used in the manufacturing of colored pencils are beeswax, carnauba, and paraffin wax. This may not be the blend that Prismacolor uses; these are simply the most commonly used (Cato; Ellis).

There is a decent chance that the beeswax would be delivered by truck from local bee farms in the area, although it's also possible that the farms in California contribute their wax to a chemical distributor in the area and then the distributor ships it. The most efficient way would be by rail, although truck is another likely option for crossing the border.

Carnauba wax is produced by a Brazilian palm tree. The wax would be collected in Brazil, and after being packaged there, it would be flown to Mexicali ("Waxes").

Petroleum is one of Mexico's most valuable resources, and one of its by-products is paraffin wax. PEMEX, a company that controls Mexico's petroleum, processes it and probably distributes it as well. Petroleum is mostly found by the Gulf of Mexico, and would be delivered by rail.

The Issue

This abundance of secrecy doesn't appear to be a good thing to have in our society. I e-mailed them a question "Are Prismacolor colored pencils vegan?" which is the equivalent of asking them if they use animal products in their manufacturing. The company essentially dodged the question, replying with "Our products are not intended for consumption or food contact. Therefore we do not evaluate them for food allergies." This is not the open reply of a company who wants to let curious people in and it does not sound friendly at all.

However, trade secrets aren't really an "issue". Secrecy is a legitimate and legal alternative to patenting one's product, and, unlike patenting, it allows the process or product to be protected for an indefinite amount of time. Trade secrets do limit the distribution of potentially beneficial information, but in the colored pencil industry, this isn't a very big issue. It is more of a problem when it comes down to something like water purification or energy efficiency.

The main downside as it relates to pencils is the contract that workers probably are required to consent to. An agreement like that often involves not being able to work in a position where one could use the information gained working at the manufacturing plant to one's advantage, in this case, especially the knowledge of how to make Prismacolor products.

The internet is one of the biggest threats to trade secrets, as companies constantly have to protect information that can be found on their computers. Hacking is a definite security issue, and with trade secrets, once the information is obtained, there isn't much one can do about it. Law does cover companies if their secrets are stolen. Still, word spreads very quickly, and, while the infiltrators may have been caught and punished, that doesn't mean the information hasn't been leaked.

It is not feasible to eliminate all cyber attacks. It is a good idea to keep security software up to date and to have a program that responds very quickly to them. Unfortunately, no organization is sure to be safe from hacking. Even companies that make cyber defense systems can get hacked, so there's a bit of precaution, but also a lot of luck.


With the accessibility of the internet, people have become more connected. It is easier to communicate between different parts of the globe, and the distance between people has been decreased. However, it would be ignorant to say it had vanished. We are still separated by physical distance as well as a glowing screen, which can dull our perceptions of other people existing.

People tend to do things that their offline counterpart wouldn't do. This can be for better or worse, as some people can improve upon themselves when given the time to think before typing, while others use the mask of anonymity to their temporary advantage. Either way, one is sells a version of oneself that is not normally an accurate one, which may not work well when the people one conversed with online want to meet offline.

Cyber bullying can be prevented and lessened, through the methods to combat normal bullying, but I doubt it will ever go away completely while the internet is still useful. What's offensive to one person might not be to another, so a program that censors particular words is proven to be ineffective. Also, perfectly normal, acceptable words can be twisted into a gruesome insult, nulling the effect of a lexicon or censor system even more.

Distance has been decreased by speedier methods of travel and shipping as well. Now, we can transport objects all over the world in a matter of days. This kind of movement used to take months, and even years.

However, not that we have more access to other places, we can also abuse this power. People work in slave-like conditions in the process of manufacturing clothing because others know how to take advantage of their economic situation. I think something similar to a law should be implemented by the United Nations concerning the treatment of employees. I would also suggest a global, minimum wage, but currency is not values to same, and someone who is poor in one currency, when transferred to another, might be among the wealthy.

There are benefits to living in a globalized world. The spread and communication of ideas is one of them. I like to hear what other people have to say on different philosophical ad moral questions, and different backgrounds give a wider view than just talking to people in one's general physical location. Similarly, an artist can also gather critiques and feedback from all over the world.

While racism and hate can be spread over the internet, so can love and knowledge. There are several forums that are positive in their outlook and will offer other members counselling, and many a friend can be found online. There are also online tutors as well as loads of informational videos that one can access.

Overall, I find globalization beneficial to me, while being detrimental to society at times. I think that good things can come from it though, and it isn't like we are able to stop the process of globalization now.

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