I used to work for Kinko’s, during the period when they were owned by a Venture Capital firm who planned on taking the company public. They did a bunch of things to try and standardize operations and cut costs. What follows is just one of their bone-headed moves.
To follow my point you need to understand a little bit about the economics of the business.
The big copier/printers were not owned by Kinko’s, they were leased directly from (usually) Xerox. The lease had three components: 1) the lease itself, usually a 5-year deal, 2) a usage charge which was structured as x number of impressions free each month and y cents per impression above x, and 3) a service plan, tailored to the needs of the user.
After the 5-year lease was up, rather than immediately getting a new machine, usually you would roll over to a month to month deal, with a lower monthly payment and (here’s where it got really attractive for the user) no impression charges.
My branch had a Docutech 5690, with a digital front end which allowed us to do some really cool and useful document manipulation. This was our most important machine, doing more than 60% of our black and white production. At the time this went down, it was at about year 4 of the 5 year lease. We definitely would have kept this machine on at the end of its’ lease, as it was a well-running, versatile and productive machine which we were used to, even to the point of being able to do some repair tasks that might have otherwise required downtime while waiting for a service call. And it would have been really inexpensive to run.
So, what happened was that some bean counter in the corporate office determined that company-wide there was a large amount of unused production capacity. The solution for this was to get rid of all Docutech size machines and replace them with a brand new line of much smaller machines from Xerox. Note I said ALL. There was no attempt made to determine which branches had production requirements that merited the machines they had.
The new machines had production abilities of less than 50% of our 5690. Further, they were a brand new design, with a ton of bugs, and Xerox had not yet trained anything like enough service techs on the machine.
The result was that we were now saddled with a main production machine which on its’ best day was not capable of the volume we required, was down a large percentage of the time and we could no longer get the 24/7 service we had had for the 5690. We also lost the ability entirely to do some regular and highly profitable jobs which required the use of that digital front end.
The corporate solution for this dilemma was to farm out work to other nearby branches which still had excess production capacity. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t practical as so much of our work was on tight deadlines, which didn’t allow for shipping stuff back and forth. We wound up having to turn down business and losing customers because of this.
Basically, they took a branch which was consistently very profitable (in the top 1% company wide), shot us in the foot and then told us to keep running the race. I think you can guess the results.
It’s likely that the financial performance of some of the less productive branches improved from this strategy, but I refuse to believe that destroying your best performers is a viable business strategy.