The entrance of HP into the 3D printing market has been a source of great excitement for many in the industry. The introduction of their Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing system was one of the biggest stories of last year, and although we have yet to see the printer’s full release, it’s already significantly disrupting the market. It’s disrupting a lot more than that, too, unfortunately. As HP turns their focus increasingly toward 3D printing, a lot of internal shuffling is going on, and it’s resulting in job loss for thousands.Toward the end of 2015, thousands of employees were laid off as HP prepared to split into two separate entities: HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. A few months later, thousands more lost their jobs. Now 500 more workers will soon find themselves out of work as HP announces the closure of their print facility in Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland. The facility, which produced printer ink cartridges, had been in business for 20 years, but had become increasingly obsolete over the past few years as digitization and cloud computing become the norm.
Such obsolescence is a big part of what has pushed HP toward 3D printing – much of the long-standing foundation of their business has become shaky in recent years as the market for PCs and printers has fallen off.
“In line with our previously communicated strategy, HP’s global print business is working to drive continuous efficiencies and cost savings that enable investment in new market opportunities and growth initiatives, such as 3D printing,” HP said in a statement. “As a result, we have made the decision to close our global print business at the Leixlip site. It is likely that close to 500 HP employees will be impacted and leave the business over the next 12 months.”
The Irish government fought hard to keep the jobs from being cut; Kildare North Fianna Fáil TD and technology spokesperson James Lawless called it a “bolt from the blue.”
For their part, HP has stated that they intend to work with employees to help them through the transition and see if they can be repositioned elsewhere within the company. The company will also make an effort to help employees who can’t be repositioned to find work elsewhere. General Manager Maurice O’Connell said that Ireland remains an important market for HP, and that the sales and marketing portion of the site will remain in business.
“HP has a long tradition of investment in Co Kildare and it is a very highly skilled workforce in the area. The demographic would be very much graduates and technology workers,” he said. “A lot of people commute from Dublin to these technology firms, so this is really a hammer blow…I understand it is the print area that is being hit, the traditional print industry is changing, but I would have hoped to see some innovation, the likes of 3D printing is a new avenue for print to go. I have asked the HP communications team to clarify the situation with the R&D facility and the Enterprise facility here to see if they can give a commitment to those facilities.”
In addition, HP will repay the government €3.9 of the €62.3 the company received when they arrived in Leixlip, according to Enterprise Miniter Mary Mitchell O’Connor.[Sources: Independent.ie]