Buyers of Japan’s high-tech consumer electronics kit and gadgets are about to find supplies drying up. Factory shutdowns because of the earthquake are beginning to impact the production of flat-panel TVs, iPads, tablets, games consoles, certain cameras and some ‘smart’ phones. The problems are compounded because of the mandatory electricity black-outs affecting much of the country.
Semi-conductor output, vital in the production of most consumer items, has been badly affected. The problems are also affecting automobile output in Japan, and have already spread to Europe where General Motors has suspended work at its Zaragoza (Spain) and Eisenach (Germany) factories because the supply of key components from Japan have dried up.
Sixty per cent of the world’s silicon wafers come from Japan. Toshiba, for example, has shut two LCD plants. At least six of Sony’s Japanese plants have yet to re-open. Panasonic‘s significant Osaka-based production was not directly affected although operations are suspended at its giant LCD facility in Chiba. Panasonic also has factories at Sendai and Fukushima, say that some of their employees suffered minor injuries, and the buildings themselves suffered damage to ceilings and walls. Production is suspended in particular because of further risks from aftershocks.
Apple has pushed waiting lists back by many weeks for its iPad-2 products because even though its production is centred on China it depends on many component imports from Japan.
“The Japan earthquake and tsunami could result in significant shortages of certain electronic components, potentially causing pricing for these devices to increase dramatically,” a report from iSuppli says.
Even non-Japanese companies such as Nokia are likely to be impacted for its supply of phone screens and batteries. Nokia obtains some 12 per cent of its components from Japan.