This is an extremely interesting article in Spiegel and recommended reading. Check it out!
Reading this article, two threads of thought went through my mind.
Firstly, I could have imagined this article describing the state-of-play in one of the busy airports in David Cameron‘s UK, perhaps, Gatwick, Stanstead or Luton opening a new terminal? In Cameron’s austerity-torn UK, quality is subordinated in favor of crude cost-cutting, rather than state-of-the art innovative design. Since the UK’s airports have been privatized from the public sector, they have had a very mixed record and compare poorly to the major airports of the World, with travelers often having disgraceful delays in airports like Heathrow; security is often subordinated to rude, unskilled contractors rather than best-practice scanners. Airports in the UK are a “regulated industry” and the model is essentially cost-plus, so airport owners are not properly exposed to competition to improve customer service and reduce costs. Airport operators seem to be more concerned in profiting from a share of airport retailers revenues, rather than in improving the travelers’ experience.
My second thread moved to reflections on German quality. Is the new Berlin airport saga described in Spiegel a symptom of slipping standards in German industry? Is this the beginning of the end for leading German companies who can no longer live up the image projected by their brands? When reflation eventually comes to Germany and costs increase, German industry will have to compete on level playing fields, rather than benefiting from an artificially low Euro. Will European consumers turn against German brands as prices rise? Perhaps, business schools will write case studies on what went wrong with German industry?
Taking the two threads together, I have a third explanation. Perhaps, in Germany quality assurance is actually working effectively in stopping the new Berlin airport from opening prematurely, disrupting thousands of customers? For sure, in David Cameron’s UK, political expediency would probably prevail and customers would be subordinated.
If I were a betting man (which I am not), I would still put a wager on German industry winning through, in spite of higher costs. On the other hand, I would be cautious of UK industry’s opportunities in global markets. In David Cameron’s UK, there is no industry strategy which dovetails with policies to improve the skills of the UK’s labor-force; far too much weight is still put on financial services, where the big banks operate an oligopoly and customers suffer. For me, David Cameron’s government is fixated with austerity, and ignores strategy, risk, innovation and improving skills of the UK’s workforce; if you doubt me, think about language training for the BRICS markets and professional selling skills. Look to the evidence, with UK companies still hording cash rather than investing in capital spending and creating new jobs.
My conclusion would be don’t be too quick in laughing at Berlin’s new airport. Perhaps, Berliners don’t really have egg on their faces and will have the last laugh?