This week Sony Corporation announced a series of measures to strengthen the overall profitability and operating efficiencies of our global electronics businesses. As you’ll see in the press release, these include reconsidering certain investments, consolidating manufacturing operations, and reducing the number of electronics’ employees worldwide by about 8,000 from around 160,000 globally.
The news hit home here in the U.S. as our Pittsburgh Technology Center was subsequently announced to be one of the first of five or six manufacturing facilities to be discontinued, along with a recording media plant in Dax, France. Television assembly operations at the Southwestern Pennsylvania facility, which is actually in the town of East Huntington, will come to an end by March 2009, while repair services at the site will continue into the Fall and our East Coast television distribution center operation will be running up to the following March 2010.
Business is business, and I know that the market demand for BRAVIA flat-panel LCD televisions in the U.S. and beyond can be supported by our existing operations in Mexico, but the Pittsburgh plant has always had a soft spot in my heart and it will be sad to see it go.
I actually joined Sony Electronics in April 1990 on the day when our U.S. executives at the time, including Masaaki Morita (the youngest brother of Sony co-founder Akio Morita), were in Pittsburgh with deceased Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey to announce that Sony would be taking over the former Volkswagen automobile plant to produce large screen televisions.
Over the years, we produced big rear-projection sets there, as well as large (up to 40-inch screen sized) Trinitron cathode ray tube sets. In fact, we also for a while had another plant across the street that produced the glass for those CRT sets, and at time had more than 3,000 workers at the site.
Even as the television market has evolved toward high-definition and, of course, flat-panel technologies like LCD and plasma, our Pittsburgh operation has remained determined and entrepreneurial. Most recently, the team there implemented new automation and robotic-based production systems to stay competitive in the assembly of 46- and 52-inch BRAVIA LCD televisions.
In any event, there will be about 560 employees, in addition to contract workers, who lose their positions at the facility over the next 16 months. I wish them well and better fortune in their future endeavors.
Meanwhile, I’m a "glass full" kind of guy and remain confident that Sony will be quick to make the necessary adjustments in this difficult economic environment. I expect Sony to continue to innovate and take full advantage of our wide range of entertainment and technology assets so we are in a position to lead the industry.
Below is a timeline with some of the milestones at the Pittsburgh Technology Center over the years.
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