With a new ED drug Kodak could rise again!
More on Kodak's pension obligations issues, particularly UK and overseas:
I lived on the Monongahela and spent many hours in the city at the headwaters of the Ohio! That's Pittsburgh for those who don't know geography. But, a few miles from Pittsburgh, it probably resembles rural KY.
Think what they could do with a better education and some good jobs!
We have veered a little off topic here and I bear some of the responsibility. But it is hard to talk about business (at least in the US) without veering into politics, regardless of your personal philosophy. The two are deeply intertwined.
That said, back to the subject at hand.
It's very hard to know what is going on inside Kodak if you're not there (and in the upper echelon...) To their credit, they DID modernize (and rationalize) their film manufacturing back in 2007, or so. They built a brand new coating facility which is, no doubt, the most advanced in the world. But did they miscalculate and make it too big? If they'd made it a bit smaller, could they have avoided some of the discontinuances? Did they pull the plug on some products too quickly? It's hard to say because we don't have all of the data.
One of the problems with extremely large enterprises (like Kodak WAS 5-10 years ago...) is that their scale demands they only compete in markets that have HUGE gross earnings and make HUGE profits. In some other posts I've mentioned P&G. Over the past 5-10 years, they too have shrunk. They've sold off all or most of their manufacturing and they've sold or discontinued any brand that didn't bring in one billion dollars a year (thousand million, for those outside the US). Since the downturn in 2007, they've now found that people are cutting back -- instead of buying the "top priced" brands, they are buying less expensive ones, which P&G no longer competes against.
One thing I will say about P&G is that they promote from within. They hire right out of college and immerse you in the culture. Every CEO they've ever had started out at the bottom. I don't know if Kodak used to do that or not, but they don't anymore and maybe that's part of their problem. Perez knew NOTHING about the photography business -- what he knew was selling printers. So is it any wonder that Kodak has now decided it wants to be "a printer company?" How they expect to compete with Perez's former employer, HP, or with Epson or Canon or any of the other companies that make very good printers is beyond me. But I don't think we should be shocked or surprised that he doesn't want to sell film anymore.
Ed, I too bear the responsibility for the veer off target of the thread.
Here then are my takes on your post..
The new coating facility was built in the 90s in response to the huge demand for film world-wide. It was completed well before I left EK in '97. It was overkill for the resultant decline in about 2005. It is now running well under capacity.
Think of this. Kodak had about 9 coating facilities WW, and some of them had multiple coating machines. Paper Mfg for example, had 6 machines in one building at Kodak Park. They all ran 24/7/365. Today, they have one machine that runs part time! That is because it has too much capacity. But, it is used for quality purposes. It produces the best quality.
The Research Labs themselves had about 9 coating machines and half of those could do slide coatings and 2 of them curtain coatings. One coated at 11" and could do production. The plant had 2 machines that did narrow width pilot coatings.
I could go on, but today they have none of these.
As for promoting from within, there is something to be said both pro and con about this. Pro is that the person knows the company and the business as well as the science behind it. The con is that the person may be too Kodak centric and narrow. We have seen both at EK, but Perez knew nothing about EK and nothing about film. He was blind to both the culture and the methodology, and even the potential market which we all know is there.
Today, Perez is using the film profits for funding digital when he could divert some funds to advertizing and sales and distribution of film which would increase profits to split with digital. But, the reorganization recently announce has one possible side effect. Combining some film and digital divisions allows easier transfer of film profits to digital needs! ;)
In any event, did hiring from outside help? No. Did promoting from within help? Only sometimes. Political decisions sent Kodak off on a tangent back in the 80s that they never recovered from. For example, when Eilers became CEO, Gable retired along with some of the best people. Gable, IMHO, was the better choice. When Carp won out over Kohrt, it was similar. IMHO Kohrt would have been the better choice. Many agree with me and many disagree so you see the politics that were involved even in the opinions of the lower ranks.
Fischer looked outside the box. That can be said for him. But, like Perez, he knew nothing about film and from what I have heard, he could be dictatorial in his decisions, right or wrong.
With all due respect PE, there are no "film profits" at EK. That division has lost money every Q for almost a decade now. When the losses narrow, it is because of asset sales, which are then patriated to the mothership to fund areas of potential growth. That growth is not in analog for the same reason there are almost no film cameras still in manufacture on an industrial scale. The legacy costs of film manufacturing are still evident in the pensions (deferred earnings).
No matter how one measures it, the balance sheets show continuous declining revenues with liabilities still exceeding assets. Even if all non vested pension/medical obligations are wiped by Ch. 11, EK film still bleeds red ink. It's hard to operate and amortize a major industrial system part-time.