In a bid to "increase the company's competitiveness in the diverse global mobile device market," Nokia is trimming down its manufacturing operations in Europe and Mexico and transferring device assembly work to its factories in Asia. As a result, the facilities in Salo (Finland), Komarom (Hungary), and Reynosa (Mexico) will be downsized dramatically — by a full 4,000 members of staff — and will be repurposed to focus on providing "smartphone product customization." The redundancies will take effect on a rolling basis between now and the end of 2012, and Nokia promises to provide a comprehensive support program to help those who find themselves without a job.

It's difficult to sugarcoat the impact of this decision on Nokia's workers, particularly those in its home nation of Finland who may have expected more, but the company is right to say that its competitiveness depends on shifting more of its operations to Asia. For one thing, all the component suppliers are now based in China, Taiwan or the surrounding nations, which Nokia explicitly identifies as a compelling reason to move more of its hardware operations to the region. Time to market, the thing Stephen Elop has been stressing since taking the Nokia helm, should improve with the company positioned closer to its parts suppliers, while there are added benefits to be reaped such as flexibility, economies of scale, and greater responsiveness. Cheaper labor costs aren't cited as a reason for this restructuring, but you have to figure Nokia wouldn't be going to all this trouble without it making financial sense.

Looking at Nokia's production facilities map, the company already has five of its nine factories in India and Southeast Asia, so today's news is really in keeping with a longer-term structural move. Still, the Salo facility was opened in 1979, the Reynosa one in 1996, and Komarom started work in 1999. While none of them are being shuttered, their decades-long history of importance to the company is now being diminished.