TOKYO -- Sony is revising its business continuity plan to speed the recovery of factories after a disaster, applying lessons from the company's experience following an earthquake in southern Japan.
A Sony group factory in Kumamoto Prefecture was rocked by the April 16 quake, whose epicenter was just around 20km away. As aftershocks continued, people could not enter the building safely for about two weeks.
The factory, Sony's main image sensor production base, did not resume full-scale operations until late July, three and a half months after the initial quake. Shipments from the plant finally returned to the pre-disaster level in late September. Sony estimates damage from the Kumamoto earthquake will cost the company 80 billion yen ($776 million) in operating profit.
The clean room on the third floor was shaken far more intensely than it was designed to withstand -- 1,396 Gal versus 900 Gal, a gal being a measure of ground acceleration.
With the walls and ceiling damaged, equipment toppled and semiconductor wafers scattered around, "I thought we might have to withdraw from Kumamoto when I first stepped inside," said Yasuhiro Ueda, president of Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing, which runs the factory in the town of Kikuyo.
But with a reinforced structure and assistance from business partners, full-scale operations at the plant resumed one month sooner than initially expected. Sony's new business continuity plan will lay out a path to shorten the recovery time following an earthquake to just two months.
Wafer storage shelves will be reorganized to minimize damage to partially finished inventory. Sony will also streamline the checklist it uses in the recovery process. It will disperse production of some products among multiple locations and increase channel inventories as well.
"We want to share the know-how gained through this experience with not only Sony group factories, but all of Japanese industry," Ueda said.
As a first step, the company plans to conduct a drill based on its new continuity plan later this year.