EMC and the almighty bottom line

Posted: February 8, 2012 in social networking, technology, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

When it comes to business, I’m not a bean-counter getting too hung up on every nickel and dime.  I’m not someone who watches and plays the stock market (maybe I would be if I didn’t have all my money tied up in debt as the saying goes).  I’m just a guy who dragged himself up through the ranks learning as I went, trying to make the best decisions I can for myself and my business.  In the end it’s all about self-preservation, but not at the expense of others.  It’s a simple credo, but one that seems to be lost on some big businesses.

That is why when you hear about a big company coming in and buying up a local plant it always makes me leery.  Small companies can be personal, they know the employees and the community.  Large companies  know business and look no further than the bottom line.  That’s how they became large companies, squashing the little guy or buying them up to get their technology before shutting them down.  Moving their production facilities to places where they can get cheaper labour, or can operate without having to provide the standards of living that we consider to be the minimum.  Even my fave tech company, Apple, with all its “Designed by Apple in California” doesn’t actually fabricate them there, but they make no bones trying to hide it.  They fully admit their products are being assembled elsewhere, typically China.  It’s cheaper and that’s where the parts are made.

Sadly that is what keeps happening in London, the town I’ve called home for most of my life.  We’ve seen a number of area plants close, most notably of late the closure of the Electro-Motive plant.  I’ve heard a big part of the problem was in-experienced management coming in from other recently closed plants and not listening to the workers who know their jobs but instead listening to head office and concentrating on the almighty dollar.  It’s a recipe for disaster when you become so separated from the people who actually do the work, heck there is a TV show all about it, Undercover Bosses.  The disconnect gets even worse when the people running the company aren’t even in the same country as the plant or business.   When it comes to business if the bottom line is all that is being considered, then profitability is all they look at, and in this case it wasn’t enough for them to keep it operational.  Better or worse, that’s what it all boils down to.  Numbers on paper.  People’s lives don’t come into account on a checks and balances spreadsheet.  They could get the same product produced elsewhere for less money and, like any global company, that seems to be all that matters.

I’ve heard it said they should have kept the plant open, the parent company was making lots of money. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.  Convincing shareholders that they should spend money when all they want is more profits is a losing argument.  Electro-Motive in its various incarnations has seen many changes over the years since the plant opened in 1950 and managed to pull thru, but this last time it seems the cards were stacked against them.  The US is pushing to bring jobs back and having a US owned parent company meant it was only a matter of time.  The only way would have been to make the plant more profitable, and as far as I understand that was never going to happen with the current management.  Profitability is king.  Remaining competitive is what drives all businesses.  Whether its Progress Rail, CAT, GM Diesel, Ford, you name it, the bottom line is all that matters.

So what can be learned from this?  We need to think globally, we can’t just think locally anymore.  If we think we are only competing with other local businesses we are going to be in for a big shock when some foreign company comes in and takes away our jobs or undercuts us in the name of making money.  It’s just business, and its ruthless at times, most often at the expense of the community that welcomed in the company with open arms in the first place.  There are no guarantees beyond their leases on the property, and even those can be broken.  Many times the competition isn’t even a brick and mortar entity nearby.  Depending upon what is being manufactured or produced, the competition is from almost anywhere in the world.  The way we used to do business is changing and sadly many people’s lives are being destroyed as they learn that lesson.

One thing that does make me proud about the EMC closure, is the selfless support put forth by this community to those now jobless who are wondering what their futures hold.  From the newspapers, to twitter, to the radio& tv stations, the media coverage and social networking has shone a light on big business and help to push them to be held accountable and answer for their actions.  To that I say good for you London and area, let’s do all we can to help move this city in the direction it needs to keep creating and maintaining jobs.  Treat this as an early wake up call to become a city that thinks globally.

The coming weeks will be full of stories of workers leaving this area in pursuit of work wherever they can find it, some already have plans to head out west, part of the growing shift of jobs that has been going on for years.  Whether you choose to leave or to stay, I wish all the best to the workers at EMC London.

(I realize this is quite a departure from my usual blogs, but sometimes things just need to be said.  this was one of those times)



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