Hitachi’s SMT Exit

And then there were … 27?

Hitachi’s board today announced plans to exit the SMT component placement business, selling off certain parts of the division and closing the rest. In a press release, the firm said it would transfer the sales organization to Yamaha and cease its development and manufacturing activities.

Japan has always been the major provider of the world’s component mounters, headed such major conglomerates as Fuji, Yamaha, Juki, Sony and Panasonic. And while Hitachi’s competitors will welcome one fewer player in the market, this in all likelihood won’t shake up the industry.

Over the years it’s been widely assumed consolidation was inevitable, yet it’s taken more than a decade since the Great Tech Recession of 2001-03 for any major moves to be made.

There have been several transactions and reshufflings, of course: ASM bought Siplace (Siemens), Universal was acquired by a private equity group, as was Assembleon. Mydata was acquired by a fellow Swedish OEM. And earlier this week Dima, a small European player, was snatched up by Nordson. None of these deals has truly changed the shape of the market.

In fact, the June 2013 merger of Juki and Sony was the first major deal in which a serious player ceased to exist. Hitachi’s will be the second.

The 27 (at least) remaining players will welcome the chance to grab Hitachi’s roughly $68 million in equipment sales now in play as result of this decision. Someone’s bottom line will look at least marginally better in the coming year. But more moves will be needed before the SMT market can truly regain the types of margins needed to inspire significant commitments to innovation that were standard fare in the 1990s.




Hitachi Exits TVs

Hitachi plans to outsource all its television production, becoming the latest Japanese OEM to exit TV manufacturing.

Which EMS company will benefit?

My money’s on — who else? — Foxconn. A year ago, Hon Hai (Foxconn’s trading name) reportedly was planning to invest in Hitachi’s Display Products Group. (Foxconn has a history of supporting the companies with which it hopes to do assembly or ODM business, and already builds TVs for Sony, Sharp and others.)

Meanwhile Flextronics, which has opened up considerable capacity by exiting the ODM PC business, does not seem to be a contender. The EMS company says it is trying to reduce its exposure to high-volume consumer electronics (along with its inherent cyclicality and margin-challenged ways).

Some of the other Taiwanese ODMs, such as Wistron and Pegatron, may be in the mix. Toshiba has history with both. Toshiba also  outsources some television production Konka Group in China.

Thanks, Hitachi!

This week I made it official. I retired my Hitachi VT 2000A VCR.

It’s been a long time coming. I bought it in 1988, while in college. Since then, I’ve watched approximately 4 million* movies on it. And even after I migrated to a DVD player and relegated the Hitachi to the kids’ basement playroom, it’s handled, without complaint, the best my sons could throw at it: dirty fingers and hands all over the body, Hot Wheels getting stuck in the playing mechanism, attempts to yank cassettes while  the machine was operating.

It’s been the iron man, the Lou Gehrig of VCRs: Shows up every day, ready to play. It’s a testament to good engineering and, especially, good workmanship (not to mention the merits of tin-lead solder). And after 21 years, it deserves a vacation. Thanks, old friend.

*Possible exaggeration.