Last week, I visited both Japan and Hong Kong. I’d been long looking forward to this visit, but dreading the 20+ hours of travel both ways. I finally figured out the best way to beat the jet lag…do not succumb to the urge to pull out the laptop during the first half of the flight – sleep, then work. I was surprisingly well adjusted upon arrival for a change.
Several things struck me during my week long voyage. The economic meltdown was front-page-top news story every single day. In Japan, there was talk of their own “lost decade” in the 90’s, largely caused by the same challenges being felt in the US – poor loan performance. One major difference between the challenges experienced by Japan in the 90’s, and the US today – The Japanese financial crisis was contained within the banking industry. The US induced challenges have spilled onto other financial industries and spread to other countries making it more difficult to contain.
I couldn’t help but wonder how “ready” the large and well known Japanese electronics manufacturers are given the lack of global economic stability. How would companies like Hitachi, Pioneer, Sony, Sharp, or Nikon manage their pervasively outsourced supply chain given the lack of confidence in future demand? Surely their forecasting systems would not have predicted the current conditions, nor can they assist in determine what will happen in the coming weeks/months.
Some companies are responding by setting in place gross assumptions – such as an overall reduction in demand of 20%. I believe, however, the leaders (and winners) will not make such macro assumptions, and rather draw their attention to learning how to listen and respond quickly to what actually happens with demand. Time will tell as we watch these global electronics giants weather the storm.