Several of us have commented over the past few days on Dell’s announcement that it is closing the Austin desktop PC manufacturing operation. Perhaps the most emotional was from our friend Mark over at the Lean Blog, who happened to have worked at that facility.
Poor planning, poor execution, now they’re crapping on Austin and the
people there. Where’s the sense of responsibility? Where’s the respect
for people? Would Toyota shut down their Toyota City plants to build cars in China? No way.
Dell is just doing what’s right for the shareholders." Bullshit. They
obviously had no commitment to the people of Austin, or they would have
planned better to protect those jobs. It’s upper management’s
responsibility to lead the company in a way that doesn’t end up
screwing the employees.
can’t find a single quote where Michael Dell says "sorry" or "it’s
unfortunate" or anything like that. Just talk of aggressively going
after productivity and efficiency, keeping the Wall St analysts happy
(there’s not-so-coincidentally an analyst meeting going on with Dell
executives this week).
When I get home I’m putting on my old "Dell Hell" t-shirt (made by some
former employees after some 2001 layoffs, I had bought one online). How
Indeed. Joe over at The Stalwart also had a brief comment, and we’ve long discussed how Dell isn’t exactly a lean manufacturing company. An somewhat different perspective came from The Motley Fool, proposing that Apple is at least partly to blame.
Dell, after all, is a build-to-order shop that practically invented
the idea of lean manufacturing and, in the process, created what many
viewed as a sustainable competitive advantage.
Many including [Dell President of Global Operations, Mike] Cannon — until recently. Quoting once more:
"A typical desktop program for Dell can have over
half a million different configurations. Why did we do that? Because we
could. But now, if customers don’t need that, we’ve got to go rip that
Translation: We’re going to simplify the product line and outsource some manufacturing. So, yeah, we like what Apple’s doing.
First off, let’s dispell once and for all the hubris that "Dell practically invented lean manufacturing." Nothing could be further from the truth… both in terms of what company invented lean and in Dell being lean to begin with. But without the core competency of supply chain management (note I did not say "manufacturing") that Dell did excel at, what is Dell?
And after that, what’s next, Mike? When Dell is a lower-cost version of Apple,
with fewer products, a limited R&D budget, a decent retail
presence, and a vastly diminished build-to-order business, isn’t it
just … Gateway?
There’s more to Steve [Jobs] than the black turtleneck, Mike.
Very true. Which is one reason why last month, after owning a string of Dell’s for over a decade, I switched to a Mac. Now I have another reason.