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Sharp Overwhelmed By Volunteers For Early Retirement

timothy posted about a year ago | from the every-lifeboat-needs-a-cox dept.

Businesses 103

jfruh writes "Sharp, the Japanese LCD supplier in dire financial straits, is trying to cut staffing by offering an early retirement package. Unfortunately, it seems Sharp employees are eager to abandon a sinking ship. The company was planning on cutting its headcount by about 2,000 employees with the move; instead, it had to cut short the program after getting nearly 3,000 applicants."

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103 comments

this is a bad sign (0)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about a year ago | (#42044063)

a very bad sign.

Re:this is a bad sign (4, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#42044187)

...pretty smart for the employees who applied, though.

Japan's demographics (older than most other countries as an average) do tend to skew things upward a bit on their own, but think about it - instead of getting laid off or cut off, you get a steady income and go work somewhere else at the same time (and even while searching for another job, it's at least something to subsist from).

Beats the hell out of getting a pink slip and nothing from the deal.

Re:this is a bad sign (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42044293)

Beats the hell out of getting a pink slip and nothing from the deal.

So you're saying that Sharp has...sharp employees?

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42046419)

Good thing the company isn't named ShitForBrains, Inc, because none of the employees one would have taken them up on the retirement offer.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42051623)

How sharp of you, Knife S. Kyosuke ...
of Sharp..?..

Re:this is a bad sign (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044299)

Meh, they'll just do what we do to teachers. You wait until they've fulfilled their contracts, over the course of decades, retire, and then just retroactively change the retirement plan so those elderly with no options are left with less than they were supposed to get.

Re:this is a bad sign (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044463)

This is Japan. Their CEOs are known to take paycuts when the company tanks. This is a different culture. The retirees probably live with the children and raise the grandchildren. Sharp probably just has an aging workforce like every other developed country and the retirement package was good enough.

Re:this is a bad sign (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42047015)

any deal where you get money for not working is a good deal

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044311)

Surely needing to offer a compelling reundancy package to loyal workers is... SOCIALISM(*).

This is why the US is doing so well at the moment: it doesn't have to care about anyone earning less than $500k/year.

(*) Actual socialism, of course, is worker control of the means of production, and has nothing to do with what Americans call "socialism" at all.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044485)

Your definition of socialism and the dictionary's definitions differ significantly in their breadth:

Merriam webster's definition:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2
a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Your definition is to take only part of the first option and ignore everything else. I'd say your narrow view on the word is where your problem lies.

Also, was Sharp compelled to do this because it was best for their company, or because someone would go to jail if they didn't? The former is capitalism, the latter is a form of socialism.

Re:this is a bad sign (3, Funny)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about a year ago | (#42045451)

I told you, we're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting.

Re:this is a bad sign (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42046063)

Be quiet!!! I order you to BE QUIET!!!

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42045753)

1. "collective... ownership"
2a. "no private property" (to be distinguished from "personal property")
3. "a stage of society in Marxist theory... distribution of goods and pay according to work done" i.e. worker control rather than capiatlist or equal common ownership

So actually it's half of the disjunction 1, 2a, and 3.

The problem lies in stupid Americans (and they're not all stupid - the vote for Obama has confirmed this) thinking anything that isn't libertarian is socialist.

Know your isms. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044789)

Fascism advocates a state-controlled and regulated mixed economy.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42045113)

is worker control of the means of production

Actually, socio-economists have separated this out to Syndicalism rather than lumping it in with Socialism as separate subbranches of Collectivism. Employee-owned companies are Syndicalist in theory (though I suspect many of them still have a boss they answer to rather than collectively setting their hours and operations etc).

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about a year ago | (#42047301)

Marx and followers (not including Spencer) were unable to separate the concepts of ownership and control. Marx was so stupid he thought it impossible to control something you don't own. (eg driver can't steer a stolen car).

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#42049587)

Marx was so stupid he thought it impossible to control something you don't own. (eg driver can't steer a stolen car).

He died in 1883. If cars existed at all back then they would have been steam-powered monstrosities that would have required a crew of 17 and a great deal of experience to operate. It would have been all but impossible to steal one at all.

Re:this is a bad sign (0, Flamebait)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42045153)

(*) Actual socialism, of course, is worker control of the means of production, and has nothing to do with what Americans call "socialism" at all.

Actual socialism is workers having the illusion of having control of the means of production with the state having the actual control and screwing the workers whenever possible.

Re:this is a bad sign (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42045811)

(*) Actual socialism, of course, is worker control of the means of production, and has nothing to do with what Americans call "socialism" at all.

Actual socialism is workers having the illusion of having control of the means of production with the state having the actual control and screwing the workers whenever possible.

Actual capitalism is workers having the illusion of choice and freedom with the owners having the actual control and screwing the workers whenever possible.

lol witty one liners lol. Also capitalism failed at the beginning of C20, long before the Soviet experiment, but good luck trying to convince yourself otherwise while America continues creeping to the right and China's managed economy smoothly takes over.

Re:this is a bad sign (2, Interesting)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#42046215)

But China is and authoritarian capitalist government nowadays, so capitalism has not failed at all. Actually it is the only economical system that works reasonably well.

What doesn't work is crony capitalism which is what US capitalism is becoming.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42046383)

China isn't anything of the sort. It carefully regulates its industry in the interests of the nation, and you're not going to get anywhere in business there if you don't grease the right palms. Its stock market is still a joke.

(of course, "authoritarian capitalism" is such a misnomer it's not even funny)

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#42047249)

Regulation exists in every single country of the world. Given, China strongly regulates strategic resources and its economy has traits of crony capitalism, but so does US and it has far more regulations than China could possibly dream to have. That is one of the main traits of crony capitalism, by the way: excessive, complex and often illogical regulations, which favor one part over another depending on political will.

And no, authoritarian capitalism is not a misnomer, authoritarianism and free-market capitalism is exactly what conservatives defend. Strong govern control over personal freedoms and as free as possible market. It is basically the definition of conservationism.

Re:this is a bad sign (2)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year ago | (#42049331)

That definition of conservatism is limited to the American conservatives; in Europe, where the term originated, conservatives were far from fans of capitalism, much less of laissez-fair, and supported a controlling state with strong ties to the dominant religion (Catholic Church here in Latin countries), like in the "God, Homeland and Family" motto that was used here in Portugal.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#42049619)

So Maggie Thatcher wasn't a Conservative?

Even by your standards that's dumb.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year ago | (#42052171)

Thanks darling, but I claim no such thing. Like many people, she didn't fit the labels cleanly, but she was still much more a New- or American-style Conservative than a traditional European conservative.

the thing that people do not recognise is that Margaret Thatcher is not in terms of belief a Tory. She is a nineteenth-century Liberal.

-- Milton Friedman

The kind of Conservatism which he and I...favoured would be best described as âliberalâ(TM), in the old-fashioned sense.

-- Keith Joseph

She was much more a New- or American-style Conservative than a traditional European conservative.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#42054457)

Because "people" are wrong, and you and Milton Friedman own the truth, right? Please... You can use whoever warped definitions you may choose for words, but in the end that proves nothing. By the notation officially accept in political science, be it in US or Europe, she was a conservationist.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year ago | (#42055105)

I made a mistake, the last quote is actually Thatcher's, in the memorial lecture of Keith Joseph.

But I don't deny she was a conservative, I'm saying she was a New- or American-style conservative, not a traditional European conservative.

And 'conservationist' is someone who advocates conservation of natural resources. You mean 'conservative'.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#42049815)

God, Homeland and Family are indeed terms very popular among conservatives, be it in US, Europe or basically anywhere. These ideals need harsh and numerous laws to be maintained and therefore strong governments tending to the authoritarianism. The ideals of family and religion in specific have strong ties with private property even in Latin countries (as mine) and therefore with capitalism.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42047649)

Capitalism is a good servant but a bad master.

We, the People, should be masters.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#42049849)

Capitalism is merely a system. It can be used well or badly. It works better than any other economical system devised up to this date, but it certainly has its problems.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#42049573)

Bzzt wrong. Stop saying that. China is a country achieving socialism by the capitalist road. Look up "capitalist roaders", you'll see that it's a heresy of socialism and Mao warned against it as it would destroy everything he worked for in exchange for temporary prosperity. Gosh, what happened after Mao died? The People's Revolution was hijacked by a bunch of jackasses. Sad.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#42049895)

Achieving socialism by the capitalist road is like trying to quench a fire by pouring gasoline onto it, and any "People's Revolution" is always hijacked by jackasses, starting by those who first make it happen. Mao was a psychopath of the same kind of Stalin or Hitler.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42046551)

Actual capitalism is workers having the illusion of choice and freedom with the owners having the actual control and screwing the workers whenever possible.

I don't think that capitalism is about workers at all. They are a side issue in it. What was your point again?

Re:this is a bad sign (2)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#42044987)

Maybe it's good for them. Kodak's retirees are getting the short end of the stick in the form of reduced payments so creditors get more money...

Re:this is a bad sign (5, Insightful)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | about a year ago | (#42044271)

Why is this a bad sign?
Why should people in their mid 50's or older not be perfectly happy to stop working while still being paid? The company I work with is closing down the IBM mainframes and a lot of people are leaving rather than re-training. That comment about a "sinking ship" is totally missing the point, the ship may or may not be sinking but people who have 30 years of working no longer feel they have something to prove. Of course the retirement package on offer has to be adequate but this one certainly seems to be that!

Re:this is a bad sign (4, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#42044373)

Early retirement is one way to cut the work force – however, if done poorly it can lead to a brain drain. The more oversubscribed it is the more likely this will happen.

Also, you want to downsize as efficiently / cheaply as possible. The oversubscription suggests that the HR people could have gotten the size reduction they needed with less generous terms.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#42044629)

Early retirement is one way to cut the work force – however, if done poorly it can lead to a brain drain.

I'd say it almost always does, because the people most likely to volunteer are the ones most likely to find another job quickly.

One company I worked for decided to lay off about a third of the staff, and half of the staff volunteered to go. They got rid of the third they thought they needed the least, which pissed off the remaining volunteers enough that most of us just found new jobs and quit.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#42044947)

Also, you want to downsize as efficiently / cheaply as possible. The oversubscription suggests that the HR people could have gotten the size reduction they needed with less generous terms.

They should use an auction model where everyone gets the same benefit irrespective of when they sign up for early retirement.

The company offers a package, tells people the package will get better every day. Individuals can sign up for the early retirement and everyone who signes up will get the package offered at the time that the quota is met. That way employees have an incentive to sign up early and the company gets the minimum cost.

Damn, I should have patented that!

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#42051065)

Dutch auction IIRC. Also, more or less, how power pools auction load to generators.

Good luck patenting that.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42051335)

Dutch auction IIRC. Also, more or less, how power pools auction load to generators.

Good luck patenting that.

You are correct -- I described an existing auction method. As for patenting it, may I suggest that you might have heard a "whooshing" sound as you read the post?

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42045299)

The Quebec Government did this in 1997 in the healthcare sector (since healthcare is public) granting retirement 10 years early to 4000 nurses and 1500 doctors, which became an *immediate* problem. We are *still* recovering from this. An entire industry was built around this catch-up knowledge transfer required to fill the gap. It will take another 10-15 years to fill the gap and massive healthcare issues it has created, and will have cost more than the money saved.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42046531)

The company has had 30+ years to transfer knowledge from the older workers to the younger workers, and will be losing the older workers in less than a decade in any scenario. IMHO, early retirement shouldn't be causing a brain drain unless proper training was neglected for decades.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#42054123)

Japanese companies exist firstly to provide employment and look after their workforce. Sounds strange I know. Because of that the workforce feels they are part of a family and it isn't uncommon for them to work unpaid when things get really bad.

I remember when the Nova language school chain collapsed. All the foreign teachers expected to be paid right up until the end, even though the most of the Japanese staff had not been receiving wages for a couple of months at that point. Similarly when Nissan was having problems and drafted in a European (Italian IIRC) to run things one of the first things he did was require employees to take all their holiday time off, because until then they had been reluctant to do so. It's a totally different culture.

Many of the Sharp employees offering to retire are probably just wanting to help the company out, and Sharp offers them a good deal because they are family and it wants to look after them.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42055259)

Early retirement is one way to cut the work force â" however, if done poorly it can lead to a brain drain. The more oversubscribed it is the more likely this will happen.

Only if they granted early retirement on a first-come, first-served basis. They may well have done it on a poorest-reviews, first-served basis. In fact, if you have less applicants than you were looking for, and you let them all go, that is far more likely to eliminate desired talent than even FIFO.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044475)

Why is this a bad sign?
Why should people in their mid 50's or older not be perfectly happy to stop working while still being paid? The company I work with is closing down the IBM mainframes and a lot of people are leaving rather than re-training. That comment about a "sinking ship" is totally missing the point, the ship may or may not be sinking but people who have 30 years of working no longer feel they have something to prove. Of course the retirement package on offer has to be adequate but this one certainly seems to be that!

Aside from the fact that the severance package is probably not worth more than 2 weeks pay per year of service.. which in 99.99999% of the cases won't last
recipient more than a year or two.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | about a year ago | (#42045305)

The severance package at the place I work is a lot better than "2 weeks pay per year of service". I believe Japan has fairly strong employees' protection so Sharp had to make the package attractive.
They did.

I don't live in the US (either) but if I did, walking the Appalachian Trail while still being young enough to make it would be very attractive. A few weeks around the Grand Canyon, there are a lot of things to do if you aren't tied down to going in to work to get paid.

More than a year or two. (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#42046057)

Sharp wants to get rid of it’s employees voluntary, so the severance package has to be sweet. This is particularly true in Japan, where the chance of a older worker finding new, full time employment is slimmer than in other countries.

And it’s early retirement – which implies their pensions kick in. Maybe not at 100% - but it should be kicking out income for the rest of their lives.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#42044551)

Maybe there's something else that isn't public knowledge yet like a free 42" TV deal as severance or even a rumor of that.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about a year ago | (#42044613)

it is a bad sign when a company has to eliminate positions and an even worse sign when there is a rush to take them up on the offer.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

ccguy (1116865) | about a year ago | (#42045697)

Why is this a bad sign? Why should people in their mid 50's or older not be perfectly happy to stop working while still being paid?

They can be happy of course. I'm sure it's great for them. I would take that option in a heartbeat, just so I could continue doing the stuff I'm interested in.
But for the company, it means the veterans would rather be doing something else. And it implies that it's not a great place to work.

Worse then you may think Sony did the same (5, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year ago | (#42044579)

A lot has been written about Sony, especially in Japan where it was THEIR giant taking on the world. Sony USED to be a tech company run by techs. Googles 20% work on your own project sound nice? Pah! At Sony entire teams could work 100% on stuff that nobody knew could ever work. Then around the millennium a new guy was put in charge and he did not come up through the company as a tech but was strictly management. He too wanted to streamline the business and get rid of dead wood old engineers. It worked BRILLIANTLY. Not only was the package VERY attractive so all who could, took it but new jobs were waiting with little upstart companies like Samsung but I don't suppose you ever heard of them. Oh wait, isn't that the dingy Korean company that makes cheap Japanese knock-offs. Well, they can never compete because Japan has all the know-how locked up in job contracts... OOOOPS!

It was an epic brain drain and one Sony never really recovered from. It wasn't their only mistake but it was a hell of a nail in the coffin. Sharp did better, Sharp still has a reputation for Japanese made (and for the very old and very young, there was a time when Japanese made meant quality of an insane degree even the swiss found hard to beat. A Sony TV just worked, yes it was expensive but it just worked. And then management took over, streamlined the business and that stopped. Samsung quality is catching up but only because Japanese quality is going down.

Note that the asian giants on the rise are NOT streamlining their business and all the western ex-giants have streamlined themselves to dead. The simple fact is that pure managers can't see the next hit, the Walkman and the PS were things no manager could have seen. For sony to enter the console industry against the giants in that sector was considered insane.

When the techs left and management took over, Sony lost its edge. In the west people only know Sony the electronics giant same as say Nintendo. Did you know Nintendo once made a vacuum cleaner? Post WW2 Japan grew a tradition of little workplaces were people were busy trying to come up with anything to produce and export. Because with no natural resources and a devastated economy, that was the only way Japan was going to make money. Building thingies, firs cheap and crap, then cheap and okay and finally expensive and bloody good. And they did this at the cost of western companies that were to busy stream lining their businesses.

If your young, name a WESTERN TV maker. That actually still makes TV's. Every western household has a TV but who supplies them? The asians. Yeah, that worked out well, for the asians but the likes of Philips? Shadows of their former self as they focussed on their core compentency in existing shareholder meetings. PIty that it turned out loosing money is their core compentency.

You can see it with Hostess. I said it before, as a EU person I can't see the big deal, their snacks just ain't that good. When was the last time they extended their product range in a significant way? And I don't mean a chocolate twinkie but as a TV company, making a walkman, producing a game console. Look at how much flack MS is getting for daring to go into hardware. Streamlining your business is just another way of saying "we are closing down". In tech, the next big thing needs to be researched yesterday if you want to launch it tomorrow. Except the real time line is measured in decades and you will have many failed research projects in the mean time. But you got to do that if you want that massive hit.

Another reason that racing to the bottom never works is because there is always someone at the bottom waiting to take your place. Sharp can't keep in the display race, that just means the next iPad's displays will be all Samsung, now boosted by the free to hire Sharp engineers.

Surely Sharp knows the history of its major rival. Things must be dire indeed to follow the path of certain doom.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42044827)

Well said... and you're probably right, the TV market looks like Sony vs. Samsung right now, with Panasonic holding down plasmas, but with LED... Sharp had Aquos running good for a while, decent picture, good price, and way thinner than it's counter parts, but it's been almost a decade since those days, not much has changed with Sharp, Sony & Samsung have features that Sharp doesn't. Sharp now sits somewhere between budget and high end tvs, which doesn't have much of a market. Also, Samsung & Sony have way more product lines & some of those product lines integrate with each other (ex. Galaxy Tab controlling your TV), not so with Sharp. I think it's safe to say they've fallen behind the tech curve and the times. When I was buying a TV & I know a few things about them some may say, I never even considered Sharp, I wound up going with Sony on a deal.

There was a time they made vacuums too :)

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (5, Funny)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about a year ago | (#42044889)

I am not worried about Asian dominance in business. I hear they are sending all their best and brightest to American business schools.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42047337)

I am not worried about Asian dominance in business. I hear they are sending all their best and brightest to American business schools.

I wouldn't worry about Asian business dominance either, but I would learn to speak Mandarin. Americans, by comparison are fat, dumb and happy. The Chinese are happily unaffected by ethical constraints in business. They neither value nor consider the local or global environment, and human life, for all of their much longer political existence, is just another resource. Americans, at least for a time, created political institutions designed to ensure consideration and debate for quality of life. The FDA, EPA OSHA and SEC serve to remind us that there is more to life than pure profit. The Chinese have no such institutions to slow then down, and to the degree that we've circumvented the democratic process by assigning our right to demand consideration for the underlying issues of health, safety, fairness and care in the manufacture of goods throughout the world by signing on to the WTO, we've degraded our stand on human rights once helped elevate quality of life above pure financial profit in our political continuum of concerns.

There's really nothing to worry about when you look at the efficiency with which the world's business operations, human population growth and their multiplicative consequence are set to challenge the integrity of the biosphere over the next 2 centuries.

Just sit back and enjoy the overture. It's all just beginning to unfold.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42045233)

If your young, name a WESTERN TV maker. That actually still makes TV's.

Element Electronics

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year ago | (#42045469)

Googles 20% work on your own project sound nice? Pah! At Sony entire teams could work 100% on stuff that nobody knew could ever work.

I think this is the norm in any innovative company. I don't know anyone who does science and doesn't spend a third or a half of his or her time developing personal projects.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about a year ago | (#42046161)

FWIW, I think you are making some over generalizations about Sony, Japan, and the history of tech innovation.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#42046487)

and for the very old and very young, there was a time when Japanese made meant quality of an insane degree even the swiss found hard to beat.

My grandfather has told me on a number of occasions how Made in Japan indicated that products were complete and total junk prior to 1980 or so. Essentially the same stigma that "Made in China" bears today. So I'm not sure which era for the "very old" you're talking about - perhaps prior to WW2 or something?

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42048335)

Japanese were making quality goods like camera's and automobiles before the 80's!

I heard there first initial cars to hit the market were crap (back in the 60's), But i do know there was alot of stigma about japanese and products, they were shunned by Americans anyway, i also heard the japs had a bad reputation for quality when the Americans had the japs making tin toys and matches after there surrender in WW2.

before ww2 Japan was already making high quality samurai swords, and wood working tools going way back they industrialised, I think quality just comes from the Japanese way, meticulous attention to detail and continual honing to perfection.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#42051185)

I can testify that the 1970 Honda 600n was (and is) a fine automobile.

Air cooled converted motorcycle 600cc two banger with a four speed shifter in the dash.. No car ever improved my driving as much. You have to drive like Schumacher to keep up with traffic. Learn how to drive it, then learn again with 3 friends in it with you. I should get another, they float by on craigslist every once in a while, some times for way too much.

Maybe get a shell and stick a mouse under it.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#42046619)

this is true also when you look from management perspective - overoptimised organisation is not capable to adapt to change in environment because it can only do what it does well. This said - not all of optimizing is bad. Companies grow fat and this fat need to be cut somehow from time to time. I have been working motly in big corporations and there is another thing that they do not have - easy way to change. In fact in some situations it was easier to fire the whole dep and hire a new (usually but not always smaller) one to be able to do things differently. What I want to say is that it is not always doom and gloom - sometimes the corporation can reinvent itself again and again. It is difficult and painful but it happens.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#42046631)

Every western household has a TV but who supplies them? The asians. Yeah, that worked out well, for the asians but the likes of Philips?

Overrated. Most Philips consumer electronics like TVs or VCRs two decades ago had labels saying: manufactured in Japan by Matsushita. Most Philips devices were in fact manufactured by Asian brands. Other times it was Blaupunkt or Grundig doing the manufacturing in Germany. Philips did manufacture lightbulbs and shaving machines but little else. Most was relabeled.

I bought a Sony TV recently and it said: manufactured in Slovakia. The screens supposedly comes somewhere from Asia and are manufactured by Samsung but the assembly is still done in the EU. The manufacturing tools are probably also made in the EU and ASML is an EU company. So things are not that bad, except for the semiconductors which was something the EU never quite got the hang of manufacturing in the first place. EU investors are not interested in high capital expenditure industries with marginal profits so we don't have the fabs nor the chip designers, nor the tools designers we should have.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (3, Interesting)

debrain (29228) | about a year ago | (#42050603)

This is a fascinating post. Thank you for posting it. Not enough is written about the fall of Sony.

Incidentally, from a previous post I wrote [slashdot.org]:

The history of Sony's management is quite fascinating. I've lost the link, but I recall there being an article about Sony's decision over who to replace their then-CEO around 1999 (Norio Ohga), who had been CEO for ages and brought Sony to new economic heights. The choice of his successor was either the head of Sony Entertainment (i.e. the copyright/media side of Sony) or the head of Sony Computer (i.e. the head of the electronics side). They ended up choosing the head of the copyright/media side of Sony, Nobuyuki Idei.

Anecdotally, since that decision, I've noticed that Sony's technology shine has dropped completely off my radar (i.e. I don't even turn to them to find out what the latest and greatest tech is, whereas at one point they were certainly a contender for something that I'd consider cool), while their foray into rent-seeking for their copyright has also gone off the deep end.

I might be wrong about the details of the history - I'd be interested in finding the article again, or having the background.

If it's true, I believe the change in the "personality" or "culture" of Sony reflects the decision that they made to make the head of their copyright/media division the head of the company. I believe their shareholders have been paying for that decision ever since.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year ago | (#42052729)

That was his name: Nobuyuki Idei, wasn't sure and to lazy to google.

Pure management who basically payed his knowledge workers to give their knowledge to his competitors.

To me it remains funny every time MS or Google is blasted for having to many side projects. I hate MS with a passion too but their attempts with the Zune were bad BUT necessary. Sure, it is fun to laugh at their failures but that they tried shows they still got the right idea, just the wrong execution.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about a year ago | (#42051535)

Sony's woes also stem from the fact that it essentially got too big for it's own good and ended up competing with itself and eating itself from within. The company that practically invented the portable music market lost most of it's market share, even at home, to companies like Apple because their music arm was constantly fighting with their manufacturing arm trying to hamstring the mobile devices they sold. The result was stagnation.... I see Samsung going down a very similar path, for instance they sell phones AND sell parts to other companies that make phones. That is going to end in conflict sooner or later. For a western example look at Microsoft, massive amounts of infighting has basically given smaller, more focused companies a chance to break into what was once thought to be an impenetrable market.

Now on the flipside look at companies that don't compete with themselves, that keep their product lines streamlined. Love them or hate them, Apple's management is on the ball here. Apple has an incredibly limited product lineup, and that is on purpose. They don't want to sell devices that simply cannibalize their other offerings. Sony at one point was such a lean company, but they got too big for their own good.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42052515)

Love them or hate them, Apple's management is on the ball here. Apple has an incredibly limited product lineup, and that is on purpose. They don't want to sell devices that simply cannibalize their other offerings.

Yeah, when apple drops that one ball they don't have others to fall back on. When apple begins to sink it'll do some kind of a world record.

But that happened AFTER management took over (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year ago | (#42052747)

Your right, Sony SHOULD have created the iPod. In fact, during the Samsung/Apple trial it became clear BOTH had been looking at work Sony was doing for inspiration. So... where did these Sony phones that inspired the iPhone end up?

Sony had done their own tech before the management take over but they did because they thought they had the superior system. Afterwards they did it for pure lockin reasons, like the mini-disc fiasco. It should have just supported MP3, I had one that I purely used with selfmade discs and it was damned good (still works) considering the alternatives (tapes, HD, CD and very small flash). But they didn't until it was way to late. Because management wanted to combine business interests instead of going for the best solution.

Sad.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#42054209)

Thing is Sharp's problems are all financial. The high value of the Yen makes their products expensive to export so it is hard to compete with Korean and Chinese companies. It is hard to understate just how bad it is. In 2006-2007 you get about 230 Yen to the Pound, now it is about 130 Yen to the Pound. Back then I was rich when I visited Japan, now everything costs twice as much and I have to be frugal.

They also invested a lot of money in developing their business right before the Yen went up, so while they do make really good TVs the margins on them have been forced right down, and even then they are expensive. I'm not sure if Sharp do it but I know some of the cheaper Toshiba sets are actually made by a company in eastern Europe and rebranded, because there is just no way actual Toshiba sets could be sold that cheaply here now.

Re:Worse then you may think Sony did the same (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42055319)

You had me until you brought up Microsoft going into hardware. They're not "going into hardware", they have been into hardware for as long as I can remember. Partly that's because I'm younger than some around here and I come from the PC era, but that only drives home my point; really old PCs were outfitted with Microsoft mice, often bus mice. Much much later Microsoft put out game controllers and they've even made two game consoles! Microsoft is not "go[ing] into hardware". They're competing directly with their partners, that is what they're getting "flack" for.

Re:this is a bad sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42044757)

these black friday deals are getting ridiculous.

Re:this is a bad sign (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | about a year ago | (#42045503)

we do not know how significant 1000 extra employees are (other than a 50% increase in expected numbers). What would make it more meaningful would be to know the size of the population of employees who were given the offer (what if 5000 employees were given the offer, what if 500,000?).

so there is not enough info in the summary to make that statement.

Not sure I understand (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about a year ago | (#42044403)

Is this article trying to point out that the company having to offer retirement packages is going to hurt them financially or talent wise?

Re:Not sure I understand (5, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | about a year ago | (#42044805)

When you offer an early retirement package and there's a mad scramble of people trying to take you up on it, the real danger is that you lose your best and brighttest. While it does get rid of headcount, it runs a real risk of losing people that you can't actually afford to lose.

Plus if the employees all want out, it doesn't say good things about their faith in the future of the company.

Re:Not sure I understand (1)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about a year ago | (#42045839)

If Sharp suffers from a Dead Sea Effect [slashdot.org] wouldn't that give them a way out without losing face and thus the mass egress? So why not clear the slate and start fresh then?

Re:Not sure I understand (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about a year ago | (#42049775)

It's not that simple. The company is still alive and selling/developping new products. You can't just stop and start over. What you want is a cleanup.

I have a feeling this article doesn't include enough information to understand the actual issue at hand. Getting 3000 applications doesn't mean they actually qualify. Then again, we don't know what qualifies a person for early retirement at Sharp. If there's a union is gets even trickier.

Re:Not sure I understand (1)

radtea (464814) | about a year ago | (#42048061)

While it does get rid of headcount, it runs a real risk of losing people that you can't actually afford to lose.

Other the CEO and their highly-paid cronies, who exactly can't a company afford to lose? As near as I can tell the modern "I can manage anything without knowing anything about it" manager thinks only THEY are indispensable. Everyone else--you know, the people who actually know stuff about the industry and technology the company depends on--is just a replaceable cog in the machine.

So while the point you make is obviously true there is ample evidence that CEOs are heavily selected to be the kind of person who is capable of ignoring obvious truths.

Millions work just for healthcare. (0, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#42044745)

During all these debates and points and counterpoints made during the elections about Obamacare and unemployment rates etc was this nugget:

About 1 million Americans have saved enough for retirement and would retire right away if affordable health insurance was available to individuals. They all hang on till they are 65 (some till their spouses are 65) to qualify for medicare.

In our company one of the very rich founders, a real genuine millionaire, was working as the CFO for the salary of 1 $ a year plus healthcare!

If Americans can buy health insurance at affordable prices, as individuals, not as part of a group, so many would go part time, or move to start ups or start their own companies or even take long breaks. So many Americans who have health insurance through their jobs fight tooth-and-nail any attempt to de-link healthcare from employment. But it is a devil's bargain, as long as this system continues, it is yoking so many people to the jobs they hate.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (0)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#42044817)

But it is a devil's bargain, as long as this system continues, it is yoking so many people to the jobs they hate.

You seem to think that's an unintended consequence of the health insurance laws.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#42045137)

I can understand why the employers are for such a system. I can understand the employers buying a few politicians, and politicians and shills allowing themselves to bought, to make perpetuate the system.

But what galls me is that the employees are the most strident defenders of this system. Oftentimes it is the same employees who shout vociferously about freedom and liberty. They talk till cows come home about how the entrepreneur is the essence of America and how great it would be if everyone and their brother becomes a small business owning entrepreneur. But one of the significant impediment for starting a new business is the lack of healthcare at the initial phases for the entrepreneur and his/her family.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#42052817)

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#42054103)

The debate with Bush is a great example of the problem.

"Now, the difference in our plans is I want that 2,000 to go to you, and the vice president would like to be spending the 2,000 on your behalf."

And it is, of course, a completely accurate statement - Bush wants the $2,000 to go to the voter, because he knows that more of it will end up in the pockets of his campaign contributors. What it doesn't cover is the value for that money.

I'm mystified why the USA is not familiar in general with these numbers (it probably has something to do with media ownership). Here we go ( taken from 2006 WHO data [who.int]) :

The USA spent $6,719 per capita on healthcare.
The UK spent $2,815 per capita.

The UK and the USA have roughly equivalent health outcomes. The UK has universal coverage, and no-one goes bankrupt because of medical expenses. The USA has 50M people uninsured who would have to choose between losing a finger and sending their kids to college.

Incidentally, Cuba spent $674 per capita, has (per capita) more doctors, more hospital beds, equivalent life expectancy and better cancer mortality rates. If the USA were really proper capitalists, they'd outsource all their healthcare to Cuba, who can apparently provide a quality product at around a tenth the cost.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#42054983)

The problem is that in Cuba, being a doctor is one of the few professions where you both get respect, and, against the relative levels of poverty in Cuba, an acceptable standard of living. The problem is that Cuba does not allow doctors to emigrate out of the country. I sympathise with why they do this - if they spend the time and money training these people to get them a better lifestyle than the average Cuban then why should the state then let them use that additional income they gain in that profession to leave the country and go elsewhere?

If Cuba's doctors were allowed to emigrate away with the skills they have gained then Cuba would have to up the wages it pays doctors to not simply be better than the Cuban average wage, but to compete with international wage standards in order to convince them to stay. This would drastically increase the cost for Cuba.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#42045105)

The guy working for $1 owns a large chunk of the company. He's paid in either new or pre-existing stock options.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#42045829)

I know, I know. I was just pointing to the ridiculousness of the situation where a millionaire is occupying a position just to get healthcare.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42047235)

Because that health care is probably focused toward major medical no-limits style plans. How long is a self payed healthcare millionaire's fortune going to last against a long battle with cancer?

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#42045223)

About 1 million Americans have saved enough for retirement and would retire right away if affordable health insurance was available to individuals.

Then they haven't saved enough for retirement.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42045965)

Then they haven't saved enough for retirement.

I'm in my early thirties, and I've saved enough for retirement! ...Assuming I hit the Mega Millions this Friday.

de-linking will also stop some of the hours games (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42045539)

de-linking will also stop some of the hours games / temping that some companies do to get out of needed to give people health insurance through the job.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#42046343)

Some mod thought it is off topic. Getting overwhelming response for an early retirement scheme is nothing unusual. Only in the USA, because of the unnatural linking of healthcare to employment, we see such early retirement options as strange or newsworthy. May be I should have explained it better.

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42046649)

Perhaps the millionaire just wants to avoid the hassle of shopping for insurance himself?

Re:Millions work just for healthcare. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#42051281)

The founder is a smart dude. Keeping an eye on his investment.

Insurance is a separate issue. How does the CFO make his copay with a $1 salary? reach into his pocket? Does he have 'special' insurance? Can you get his coverage?

There are non-employer based health groups. IEEE after a year. Join anyhow, having a non-employer insurance group at hand is always an ace in your pocket.

Early Retirement? Yes please! (2)

Impish (669369) | about a year ago | (#42045763)

I can two types of people who would jump at the chance for early retirement:

1) People actually close to retirement
2) People who are not close to retirement, but know they have the skills to get another job

The person who is barely scraping by at their job? Not going to jump ship (unless they are planning on changing careers). I see this as a fine way to lose some of the best and brightest really quickly.

Hell, every time our management talks about reductions or outsourcing my hand goes up. A nice package for leaving so I can coast for a couple weeks then look for a new job? Sure, sign me up!

Re:Early Retirement? Yes please! (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#42051739)

Or companies offer buy outs. I've seen it a lot lately in the US and it's usually the smarter ones who take the packages because after the offers for early retirement or buy-outs close, then you're left with the folks Couldn't find a job because of multiple factors (too lazy, no ambition, no skills etc.) or are not financially secure in doing a job transition. Then eventually, layoffs occur and you start to get into "survivor syndrome" [appelbaumconsultants.com] where the rest of the people left start to resemble something out of the "The Living Dead", just trying to get by and keep their jobs. They don't want to rock the boat and get by by doing everything they're told, don't question management and the management that's left over is usually made up of all those bottom feeders with no imagination and no interpersonal skills, they're in the same boat as everybody else. Yeah, that'd be a real great place to work.

I watched my step father go through it in the 70s when Carter killed the B1 program (not the current B1-B but the real B1) he had worked at North American Aerospace for over 20 years as an inspector and the company kept moving him from place to place and to more menial jobs. He was in that latter "not financially secure" area given that he'd had three heart attacks and was still paying those bills (yeah even with Aerospace Union Med Insurance) Given that he was in Aerospace, there wasn't a lot of job openings in SO. Cal in the late 70s anywhere and also remember that interest rates were up around the high teens to low twenty percent range, it was tough to find work, period. He held on until they finally had him commuting to Palmdale three times a week, at the time about 80 miles one way for him. He eventually got tired of it and retired early. It took him almost 9 months to find another position and at the time he was 57. He never really recovered from it.

After seeing that when I see a company start to hit the rocks like Sharp is, I have my resume already updated and I'm heading for the border quickly before the rest of my co-workers trample me as they make for the exit as well. To those who took early retirement, good for you! In the US all you'll likely get nowadays is a couple of boxes and an escort by security out the door.

Japan is about to face a crisis (much like us) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42048741)

A lot of people are getting ready to retire and just like in the US, their social retirement program (think: SSI) is not funded well enough to support all of these people. However, unlike in the US, they will likely live with their children since it's common practice to house your parents instead of sending them to a home. If you can get an early retirement package, it would almost guarantee your financial stability until you die, and seeing as how Sharp is quickly becoming blunt, the only reasonable thing to do is to retire early. Now just wait until this problem is found everywhere around the world, and not just from one company.

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