Quake-hit factories largely back to normal in Kumamoto

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Aisin Kyushu Co.’s factory in Kumamoto

Jiji PressKUMAMOTO (Jiji Press) — Many of the factories that were forced to suspend operations following a string of strong earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture a year ago are back working as normal.

Losses stemming from the shutdowns were large, however. Some companies are starting to consider measures to minimize impacts from major disasters, learning lessons from the Kumamoto quakes.

Sony Corp.’s plant in the town of Kikuyo, which makes image sensors for digital cameras, was heavily damaged by the disaster, leading to a halt in shipments. This in turn affected production at camera makers.

The plant fully restarted operations in late July 2016, but the amount of damage, including lost revenue, totaled more than ¥50 billion.

At the plant of Aisin Seiki Co., an affiliate of Toyota Motor Corp., in the city of Kumamoto, the capital of the prefecture, production of parts for automobile doors was suspended, causing the top Japanese automaker to suspend the operations of its key domestic plants.

The Aisin Seiki plant almost entirely went back to normal operations last September.

Honda Motor Co.’s motorcycle plant in the town of Ozu took five months to resume full operations after the quakes because of time-consuming work to inspect damage to its facilities and equipment.

The Suntory Holdings Ltd. group’s beer factory in the town of Kashima sustained serious damage and has yet to be brought back to full operations.

Hoya Corp. gave up resuming operations at its plant in Ozu that had made photomasks, used to make liquid crystal display panels, and shifted production to Taiwan and South Korea.

Meanwhile, chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp.’s plant in the city of Kumamoto and the Fujifilm Holdings Corp. group’s LCD parts plant in Kikuyo went back to full operations about a month after the temblors.

This was partly because they had introduced backup systems used in times of disasters following the March 2011 powerful earthquake and tsunami that mainly struck the Tohoku northeastern region.

Japanese manufacturers are now taking steps to make their plants more resilient to earthquakes and other disasters.

Sony, which has asked other firms making semiconductors about the possibility of supplying parts and components to one another in times of disasters, is working to devise a system enabling its plants to return to normal operations within two months if a disaster on par with the Kumamoto quakes occurs.Speech

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