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Business

Sony, Toyota rush to mend broken supply chains

Sony's image sensor factory in Kumamoto.

TOKYO -- Japanese manufacturers are figuring out how to cope with a blow to production from earthquakes in Kyushu, home to factories of some of the nation's biggest corporations. 

    The industrial impact of the disaster is starting to be felt beyond the southwestern island. Interruptions in output from factories there, which include a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings that produces a key LCD panel material, could even have ramifications for manufacturing in other parts of the world.

     A number of factories in Kyushu remain offline.

    A Sony image sensor factory in the Kumamoto Prefecture town of Kikuyo has been shut down since last Thursday as an earthquake swarm rattles the region. On Monday, the company apparently began exploring outsourcing more component production to a Fujitsu factory in Mie Prefecture, far removed from the seismic activity.

    Sony may have to farm out production of even more types of image sensors, which go into digital cameras and other devices. No date has been set for restarting its Kumamoto factory.

    The same is true for a Fujifilm plant in Kikuyo that makes protective film for LCD polarizers. About two dozen engineers have been dispatched there to try to restore production, which accounts for more than 40% of global output of the film.

     For now, the company will try to make due with inventories. Factories in Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures stand ready to pick up the slack if the Kumamoto plant remains offline for long.

     A earthquake-induced fire broke out early Saturday morning at a Hoya factory in Ozu, near Kikuyo. Production there may remain knocked out for a month, the company said.

    The factory supplies photomasks used in LCD production. Hoya says it is making preparations to have its factories in South Korea and Taiwan stand in for the damaged plant.

    A factory in the city of Kumamoto where Renesas Electronics makes automotive microchips has been shut down since Thursday. The company says it is working to set a restart date soon.

    Meanwhile, in the auto industry, Honda Motor plans to keep a motorcycle factory in Ozu idle until Friday.

    Toyota Motor has decided to implement rolling shutdowns of all its domestic factories this Monday to Friday in response to damage to a supplier's factory. The Kumamoto city plant, operated by a subsidiary of Aisin Seiki, makes door controls and other components.

    A total of 26 Toyota group production lines at 15 factories will halt work on Thursday and Friday. The stoppages are expected to affect the production of about 50,000 vehicles. Toyota has sent 60 support personnel to help the unit restart production.

    Electricity to the damaged plant has been restored, but transformers and other vital equipment have not, so employees have not been able to test the production machinery, an Aisen Seiki spokesperson said. The company is considering substituting with production elsewhere. Possibilities are thought to include a factory in Toyota, the automaker's home city.

    A factory run by a Nifco subsidiary that makes plastic autoparts has also been shut down. Nifco will have another group factory take over for it starting Tuesday until production is restored in Koshi, a city near Kikuyo.

(Nikkei)

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