2012年12月31日 星期一

Hitachi Company , Hitachi City

Revival of Hitachi the Company Is a Detriment to Hitachi the City

HITACHI, Japan — The biggest annual loss on record by a Japanese manufacturer jolted executives into action at the Hitachi Corporation, the century-old electronics and engineering behemoth that takes its name from this wind-swept industrial city on the Pacific Coast.
Since its 787 billion yen, or $9.2 billion, loss in 2009, Hitachi has staged an impressive turnaround, booking a record 347 billion yen ($4 billion) in net profit in the year through March 2012, while rivals like Sony, Sharp and Panasonic continue to struggle.
But in Hitachi, a city of 190,000 and the company’s longtime production hub, there is little celebrating. Instead, the deserted streets and shuttered workshops speak of the heavy toll levied by the aggressive streamlining, cost-cutting and offshoring that has underpinned Hitachi’s recovery.
The divergent fortunes of Hitachi and its home city highlight an uncomfortable reality: The bold steps that could revive Japan’s ailing electronics giants are unlikely to bring back the jobs, opportunities and growth that the country desperately needs to revive its economy.
The way forward for Japan’s embattled electronics sector, for now, is a globalization strategy that shifts production and procurement from high-cost Japan to more competitive locations overseas. As Japan’s manufacturing giants become truly global, a country that has so depended on its manufacturers for growth must look to other sources of jobs and opportunity, like its nascent entrepreneurs — a transformation far more easily said than done.
“Closing plants in Japan is a big deal, and we don’t take cutbacks lightly,” Hiroaki Nakanishi, Hitachi’s president and chief executive, said in a year-end interview in Tokyo. “But to return to growth, we have to cut loose what doesn’t bring profit. We have to be decisive.”
Japan is still grappling with the fallout from a decade-long, seemingly unstoppable decline of its electronics sector, once a driver of growth and a bedrock of its economy. Japan’s two biggest electronics companies, Hitachi and Panasonic, each have more in sales than the country’s entire agricultural sector, and other big electronics firms come close.
But for more than a decade, these technology companies have experienced little growth. Annual sales growth over the last 15 years at Japan’s top eight tech companies averages around zero, according to Eurotechnology Japan, a research and consulting company in Tokyo.
To blame are plunging prices across the board for their products, brought about by intense competition from rivals in South Korea and Taiwan as electronics increasingly become widely interchangeable. Overstretched and unfocused, Japan’s tech giants also ceded much of their cutting edge to more innovative companies like Apple. Japan’s failure to keep up with a shift in the industry to software and services has compounded those woes.
Above all, the high costs of operating in Japan, made worse by a strong yen, weighs heavily on exporters’ finances. In the year through March 2012, Panasonic, Sony and Sharp lost a combined $19 billion — more than the gross domestic product of Jamaica.
Still, even among its peers, Hitachi stood out for the depth of its losses. After a decade of little or negative growth, Hitachi fell first and hardest, booking its big loss at the height of the global financial crisis because of large write-downs and losses in its electronics businesses.
Hitachi’s appraisal of its operations since then, and its willingness to wield the ax to money-losing businesses, has surprised even the most dismissive of analysts.
Hitachi once had almost 400,000 employees at a thousand often overlapping and competing groups, making products as diverse as televisions, hard disk drives, chips, heated toilet seats, elevators and nuclear reactors. Under the leadership of Mr. Nakanishi, who took the helm in 2010, the company has substantially shrunk or sold money-losing businesses, including those making chips, flat-panel TVs, liquid crystal displays, mobile handsets and personal computers.
The streamlining was unsparing. Hitachi turned around its unit making hard disk drives, only to sell it to an American company last year after deeming the business still too volatile. Hitachi has now pared its sprawling empire to 939 companies, and Mr. Nakanishi says he is far from done.
That has meant dwindling job opportunities at Hitachi and in Japan. Since 2008, the number of workers at Hitachi has fallen 17 percent to 323,500 — and a third of those workers are now overseas. As Hitachi outsources more parts and materials, a whole matrix of suppliers is fading at home.
The pain is felt here in Hitachi city. It was once a bustling industrial hub, but the number of manufacturing jobs has fallen by almost 20 percent over the last decade, mirroring a similar drop in the city’s population.
Hitachi’s only department store closed in late 2008. The city lost all its movie theaters. Its drinking district, Saiwaicho — which translates to happy town — was largely deserted one recent weeknight. A tall Christmas tree — sponsored by Hitachi, according to its plaque — stood alone in an empty square.
Now locals are worrying about the planned merger, announced last month, of Hitachi’s thermal power business with that of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which could lead to more job losses at a turbine plant. Recent promises from the newly installed prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to weaken the yen have been met here with sighs that such policies are too little, too late.
“Hitachi might have recovered, but what are the rewards for the city, or for the country?” asked Toyohiko Baba, an engineer in information technology for 40 years at Hitachi who heads a companywide employees’ council that seeks to promote workers’ rights. “What is the point of Hitachi’s revival?”
Makiko Inoue contributed research from Tokyo.


Hoang Dinh Nam/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
學生們參觀一座越南核電站的模型,該電站由日立和通用電氣(General Electric)聯合設計。

日本日立市——破紀錄的年度虧損記錄震動了日立公司(Hitachi Corporation)的管理層,迫使公司的高管們採取行動。這家擁有百年歷史的電子工程巨頭,名字就取自太平洋海岸大風肆虐的工業城市日立市。
自從2009年虧損了7870億日元(約合578.3億元人民幣)之後,日立一度扭轉了局面,令人刮目相看,到2012年3月,實現了創紀錄的 3470億日元(40億美元)年凈利潤。此時,其競爭對手索尼(Sony)、夏普(Sharp)和松下(Panasonic)還在苦苦掙扎。

此刻,能為身陷困境的日本電子行業解圍的途徑就是一個全球化的戰略布局,即把生產和採購流程從高成本的日本轉移到海外更具競爭力的地區。隨着日本製 造業巨頭的全球化,這個曾經如此依賴製造業推動經濟增長的國家必須尋找其他的就業資源和機會,就像這個國家新生代的企業家一樣;實現這個轉變說起來容易, 做起來要難得多。
日立公司總裁兼首席執行官中西宏明(Hiroaki Nakanishi)在東京接受年末採訪時說,“關閉工廠在日本是一件大事,我們不會輕率地裁員。可是,為了重新實現增長,我們必須擺脫不能獲利的業務。我們必須要堅決果斷。”
然而,過去十多年裡,技術公司的增長微乎其微。根據東京的日本歐洲科技諮詢公司(Eurotechnology Japan)的數據,過去15年里,日本排名前八位的技術公司的年度平均銷售漲幅幾近於零。
隨着電子產品越來越多樣化,韓國和台灣後來居上,對日本構成了競爭,迫使電子產品價格整體下降,所以出現了這樣的局面。日本的技術巨頭布局過散、缺 乏重點,這也讓他們把優勢讓給了更具創新性的公司,如蘋果(Apple)。日本企業未能緊跟行業潮流,把重點轉向軟件和服務領域,更加重了上述危機。
日立旗下的1000多個團隊往往有業務重複,互為競爭,其僱員人數達到了40萬,生產產品覆蓋了電視機、硬盤驅動器、芯片、電加熱馬桶座圈、電梯和 核反應堆等多個種類。在於2010年執掌公司的中西宏明的領導下,公司大舉收縮或變賣了虧損的業務,包括那些生產芯片、平板電視機、液晶顯示器、手機和家 用電腦的部門。
現在,當地人對計劃好的併購感到擔憂。上個月,日立宣布將旗下的火力發電業務與三菱重工(Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)合并,這可能會導致日立的渦輪機廠削減更多就業崗位。日本新任首相安倍晉三(Shinzo Abe)最近承諾將使日元貶值。日立市人嘆氣,說這樣的政策來得太遲,不過是杯水車薪。
在日立公司工作了40年的信息技術工程師馬場豐彥(Toyohiko Baba)問道,“日立也許能復蘇,然而這對日立市,對國家有何好處?”馬場豐彥是一家企業員工委員會的負責人,該委員會力圖提升工人的權利,他說,“日立復興的意義在哪裡?”
Makiko Inoue自東京對本文有研究貢獻。