The tragic earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear emergencies that have struck the northeast region of Japan since last Friday has affected the manufacturing operations of some of the major players in the consumer electronics industry.
Factory shutdowns have been reported by several electronics manufacturers including Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba, and touch many different market segments.
The hardest hit thus far appears to be Sony, which has reported halting production at 8 separate factories in the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures. One facility manufacturing Blu-ray components was flooded by the tsunami, while two others manufacturing lithium-ion battery cells were forced to shut down as a result of the disaster. Some of the company’s disc production facilities were also affected. Despite the severity of the situation, company officials reported that all workers had been evacuated safely.
Panasonic reported that some of its factory workers in the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures had been injured as structures collapsed during the earthquake, and plants have not yet been inspected due to frequent and powerful aftershocks. Affected facilities manufactured cameras, audio equipment, and some small electronics parts.
A Toshiba NAND flash memory manufacturing facility had to shut down for a short time during the emergency, but has been able to resume production. Problems could still loom for that facility, however, as some of the primary silicon wafer suppliers in the industry have been affected by the disaster, leading to possibly severe parts shortages. Those shortages will also affect DRAM productions, and suppliers have declined to provide quotes to distributors and traders until they can get a more accurate reading on the severity of the situation.
”Japan is a significant source of (NAND and DRAM) chips to support consumer electronics devices. A two-week shutdown would remove from production a sizable share of each of these,” said industry analyst Jim Handy told Channel News. “It doesn’t take a large production decrease to cause prices to increase dramatically. “
While many of the Japanese factories producing flat panel displays and LEDs were located far from the epicenter of Friday’s earthquake and were not directly affected, there may be problems in the future as these plants try to re-stock the raw materials used to manufacture the products.
As the disaster continues to unfold in the region with continuing aftershocks and widening evacuation zones around the crippled nuclear energy facilities, it’s certain that the full scope of the situation has not yet been realized.