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General Electric&Ww Case Hbs

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Bogazıcı unıversıty executıve mba program | ADEX 509 STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT SEMINAR | GENERAL ELECTRIC VS WESTINGHOUSE CASEPOSITION PAPER | | OZDE KARAKAS | 03/03/2012 |

ADEX 509: STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT SEMINAR
Ozde KARAKAS / Position Paper
This position paper aims to illustrate the competitive environment in large electric tribunes market in 60’s between General Electric and Westinghouse and will be evaluating the competitive positioning of both companies.
BRIEF SUMMARY
Market
Turbine generators produced over 80% of the US power supply. Tribunes were the major cost item of the electrical utilities. Therefore any reduction in the prices of turbines increased market share. The buyer of turbines was electric utilities which are owned by the government – federal, state or local – and private investors. The top 25 utilities accounted for 55% of the US demand for turbine generating capacity. The demand for turbines was depended on the peak electricity demand forecasts, which tended to be highly cyclical, of utilities. Furthermore utilities bought large units infrequently rather than purchasing smaller units more regularly since there are rapid advances in turbine technology and turbines require high capital cost. There was two months lag between the order and the shipment due to engineering and manufacturing of the product. The procurement process of government electric utilities was composed of a sealed bids submitted to their specifications. On the other hand procurement process of private investor owned negotiated with manufacturers under manufacturers did not know which type of turbine the competitor proposed or its price. The negotiation process between a private investor owned utility and turbine producer started between procurement agent and sales agent and finalized between top level executives. Pricing of competitor was known by each player within hours of price change since players announces price changes through press release and price books delivered to customers. The market was realized at USD 400 million in 1963. Prices peaked in 1957 – 1958 but then fell by 50% in 1963.
Manufacturing
Manufacturing requires highly skilled labor, large sophisticated machine tools and large amount of space. Direct cost accounted for 65% - 70% of sales revenue materials represented for roughly half of direct costs while labor approximated a third of them. Competitors’’ plans for capacity additions were well known throughout the industry because of lead times in ordering machine tools and information disseminated by trade associations. Building larger turbines, experience curve and product innovations decreased the direct costs.
Product and Competition
In fact there is not a standardized turbine in the market. Each product is customized according to customer specifications. These specifications accounted for 10% of the order cost on average. The market can be segmented according to capacity, efficiency, basic design, accessories and other characteristics of the turbines. Efficiency of the turbine determined the operating cost of the utility. Major achievements in product efficiency were done during 1950s which were becoming harder to catch up with in 1960s. Improvement in turbines is highly dependent on R&D expenditures which exceeded USD 30 million per year in early 1960s. In addition producing larger scale turbines can decrease the prices (i.e. when the capacity of turbine is doubled, price per kWh can be reduced by 7%). Therefore size of turbines increased from 200MW in 1955 to 500MW in 1962.
The US stream turbines market was dominated by three players, GE, Westing House and Allis-Chalmers. The latter one had to exit the market in 1962 after decades of marginal results. In addition these players there were two foreign players who wanted to penetrate to US market, Brown Boveri of Switzerland and Parsons of England. Although they managed to get 13.3% of domestic orders in 1959, their share decreased to 3.8% in 1961 on the back of bitter price cuts of GE and successful lobbying attempts.
GE
GE was a diversified manufacturer of electrical products. Turbine generators accounted for only 3.8% of its consolidated revenues between 1958 and 1962. It reported excess capacity and depressed market conditions. GE has been the innovator in the industry and pioneered most pf the technological advances. GE implemented a policy to reduce large turbine prices whereas increasing smaller less sophisticated turbines. GE spent over USD 100 million for capacity increases after WWII and tended to add capacity two years ahead of Westinghouse. During 1946 – 1962, 26% of largest utilities procured turbines only from GE.
Westinghouse
Westinghouse was also a diversified electrical product manufacturer and 4.4%of its revenues is derived from turbine sales. Westinghouse is perceived as a follower of GE in the industry. Westinghouse had attempts to standardize products in ealy 1950s which had been successful. However it lost popularity afterwards. Westinghouse’s attempt to standardize products was a complete failure since it encountered resistance of utilities. Westinghouse penetrated among medium and small utilities. During 1946 – 1962, 12% of largest utilities procured turbines only from GE.
Allis-Chalmers
It was the smallest competitor with limited financial and technological resources. It mostly penetrated among smaller utilities. It had been hurt the most by the order declines since 1950s and finally went out of business in 1962.
Challenges
Number of players in the market is few thanks to the high entry barriers of intensive capital requirement, importance of learning curve and etc. However bargaining power of buyers in the market is relatively high due to their infrequent large scale purchases and wrong pricing policies. Adding up capacity with a good forecast of demand resulted in excessive capacity. Long production and delivery time also yields to decrease in productivity.

Solutions
From my point of view, the pricing policy should be revisited in a way not to simplify but to make it more complex. By creating information asymmetry with this method, pricing of players might be less questioned by customers. On the other hand, players must try to keep their prices more secret instead of declaring them to competitors in order not to create a price war or decreasing price helicon.
GE could focus only on larger utilities whereas this effort would force Westinghouse to focus on medium and small utilities. With such a segment differentiation, each player can enjoy higher prices in their segments.
To shorten delivery time of the products, players can develop strategic alliances with smaller equipment manufacturers. Via this way, players can continue to produce strategic parts with their in house efforts and can have products manufactured with less technical expertise to 3rd parties. This outsourcing mechanism can shorten delivery time significantly.
Players may also focus on getting peak demand forecasts of utilities in order to plan capacity additions.

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