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Dell to ramp up Scottish operations

After enjoying success in Ireland, the company now sees Scotland as fertile ground to grow sales, support operations.

Dell, whose operations in Europe have centered on Ireland to date, is looking to double its work force in Scotland.

The PC maker plans to take advantage of a large pool of skilled information technology workers in Scotland who have previously worked for companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Dell began setting up its operations in Scotland around December 2004, according to Josh Claman, Dell's vice president and general manager for the U.K. This was around the time that IBM announced it was selling its PC business, part of which was based in Scotland, to Lenovo.

In May 2005, "we started moving some people to Glasgow," Claman told ZDNet UK. "We moved a lot of technical support into Glasgow for our commercial business, and we moved a lot of salespeople into Glasgow and hired a lot in Glasgow."

"So we went from zero to 500 people," Claman explained. "That will continue to ramp up, and we will have about twice that many in the next 12 to 18 months."

IBM employed thousands at its manufacturing plant in Greenock before selling it to manufacturer Sanmina-Sci, and HP divested itself of its plant in Scotland some time before that. It appears that IBM's decision to sell its PC business to Lenovo in December 2004 prompted Dell to move in.

"There are a lot of good skills in Scotland," Claman said. "We hit the ground running and we do three months of training, which is a lot in our industry. That is both in technical support and in sales."

While Dell has been growing its support in the U.K. and Scotland, Claman acknowledges that some--albeit a minority--of the support for the U.K. market will continue to come from India.

"Quite a lot of our consumer and very small business (support) has gone to India," Claman said. "Very little of the business I am responsible for has gone to India, although parts have. Back-office functions have gone to India, with great success. They are actually better than they were in the U.K.--because of quality and customer satisfaction."

Claman admits that in the past "Dell has gotten in trouble" through outsourcing, but believes that "other companies have had the same problems" because they were "trying to go too far, too fast."

"Instead of saying, 'We are going to do this function and we are going to do it well,'" companies need to be "just obsessive about the transitional detail, the training, supervision and the incentives to staff, and meeting the local cultural requirements," Claman said. "When we do that, when we do it at the right pace, we get best-of-breed results."

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.