This is a repost of Steve Faktor’s original article on Forbes
Writing “HP is in trouble” is like a newscast starting with “Trouble in the Middle East today…” A sad cliché. Lucky for HP, no one dies… But no one truly lives, either. The company just laid off 29,000 people, its stock dropped 50% in a year, and yet another turnaround is brewing. I do admire Meg Whitman for taking this on. She could easily have kicked back in Florida with a Honey Boo Boo marathon. Instead, her strategy announcement got the kind of reception typically reserved for Syrian dictators. That got me wondering – can a stagnating behemoth ever live again? Could HP lead the 3D Printing revolution?
I love the idea of this Forbes article, but it has all the comprehensiveness of a Twitter post. Yes, auto workers in Germany produce more and get double the pay of US workers, but this article narrowly attributes this to employer-union relations. A broader discussion needs to include things like:
- Variances in cost structures (eg who pays benefits the state or the company)
- Degree of automation (a highly automated company will have fewer, higher skilled, higher paying jobs)
- Culture-driven variances in worker performance (eg Germans are notoriously efficient, timely and meticulous)
- Variances in how premium the product lines are. The US produces far more mass market cars, which have lower margins than the more high-end German ones.
- Differences in quality of management, innovation and strategy
- The full article only alludes to the nationalist obligation Germans feel for their companies. The other angle is the degree of national accountability the companies themselves have.
I do agree we need a substantive debate on manufacturing unions and the future of employment in the US, but this only scratches the surface.