Al Guzman '83, Industrial Engineering
Senior Vice President of Operations, Fender USA
Guitar music is deeply
ingrained in the American
encompassing genres that
range from folk to funk to
rock. The name that is synonymous
with guitar music
is Fender, the instrument of
choice for beginning musicians
and megastars alike.
“When you think ‘Fender,’
you think Americana,”
says industrial engineering
alumnus Al Guzman, currently
the senior vice president of
operations at Fender USA. “The name has been around
since the 1930s, and it packs a historical
punch. A Fender guitar isn’t just
any guitar — it’s a name brand associated
with the American tradition as identifiable as a
T-Bird or Corvette. It’s an icon.”
Guzman’s role is to supervise the manufacturing
end of the musical instruments that have made
Fender the leading guitar-maker in the world. Fender
USA currently employs more than 2,000 people worldwide
and produces about 9,000 guitars a month.
He started at Fender soon after graduating from Cal
Poly Pomona. Then owned by CBS, the company stopped manufacturing guitars in the
United States in 1985, causing Guzman to leave for other industrial arenas. However,
Fender USA, a private company, was formed in 1985 and began producing guitars
again in 1986. Guzman was delighted to return.
Guitars such as the American Standard Stratocaster, Fender’s best-selling
instrument, are available in a number of semi-custom configurations, including necks
made of maple or rosewood, as well as a variety of colors and trim options. A second
product line, the Fender amplifiers, features high-end tube and solid state amplifiers.
Fender guitars are considered an art form, and each model begins in the design
room. Once the initial design is created, the manufacturing team devises a cost-effective plan for the entire production process, determining
whether the guitar can be made using existing equipment
and optimal processes to help keep manufacturing
“We want to always adhere to the design of the guitar,
but we have to make sure that the guitar is designed
for manufacturing,” says Guzman. “You can have a really
nice-looking guitar, but if you can’t produce them on a
consistent basis, it doesn’t make much sense.”
Within the Fender USA factory in Corona is the
custom shop, which manufactures those special, oneof-
a-kind instruments that end up on magazine covers
and in rock-and-roll calendars throughout the world. At
the custom shop, the sky is the limit. Customers work
closely with designers, selecting customized paint jobs,
exotic woods, unique shapes and more.
“When you buy a Fender guitar, you’re buying
history,” says Guzman, who helped the university make
history last year by arranging for the donation of a
Fender FR 50 Resonator Sunburst guitar to be played by
the Smothers Brothers and then auctioned at Founders’
Celebration. The proceeds helped fund scholarships
and programs to benefit students.
Guzman, who notes that his education at Cal
Poly Pomona gave him a running start in industrial
engineering, also guest lectures at area schools,
introducing students to the world of manufacturing.
Just as musicians are passionate about their music,
Guzman is equally so about the manufacturing process.
Industry, he says, it what you make it.
“Some of our employees are touring musicians,
some are guitar teachers, and some have a great
time playing chords in their garage,” he says. “The
thing about Fender is that we all have a passion for
what we produce. It’s more than just a product. We’re
producing a dream.”
Special thanks to Al Guzman, who helped facilitate a donation by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation of a Custom Shop Stratocaster guitar to be played and autographed by Glen Campbell at Founders' Celebration 2005.