October 18, 2011 00:00
By The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News
Thailand's the worst flooding in half a century has forced a number of parts makers and Japanese manufacturers to halt production in Thailand, raising fears the flooding may affect manufacturing worldwide.
The Yomiuri Shumbun reported today that all five key industrial zones were under water in the historic city of Ayutthaya, about a one-hour drive north of Bangkok. Many Japanese automobile and electronics manufacturers are located in the city.
It has been impossible to enter the area without a boat, and many factories are completely submerged.
"Our plant was flooded nearly up to the first floor ceiling," an employee of a major Japanese auto parts maker said at a high-tech industrial complex that has been transformed into a huge muddy pond."
He tried to bring production equipment outside but gave up as he could not find a place to store it. "There is no chance of recovery," he said.
About 320 Japanese companies suffered damage from the floods.
It is expected to take several months before full operations resume, and companies are rushing to find alternate production facilities or supply routes for parts.
Thailand, home to many parts makers, plays a critical role in the global supply chain. If disruptions are prolonged, it could upset manufacturers worldwide, according to Merrill Lynch Japan Securities Co.
A senior official of a major Japanese automaker said the floods are having similar impact as the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear crisis.
Honda Motor Co. suspended production at its factory in Rojana, Ayutthaya, on Oct. 4. The factory is the company's largest in Southeast Asia annually producing 240,000 cars, including the Brio, a compact passenger car released this year for the Asian market. A Honda official said conditions at the factory could not be confirmed.
Since submerged production equipment needs to be replaced, and utilities have to be restored, a lengthy disruption is likely.
Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to suspend production at its three factories there until Saturday as it is unable to obtain some parts, including aluminum wheels, due to submerged roads and factories.
The situation is thought to be a serious blow for Toyota, whose production in Thailand is its third-largest outside of Japan, following the United States and China. In 2010, it produced about 630,000 vehicles in Thailand.
To make up for the production loss, Toyota said it is considering importing parts from Japan or temporarily shifting production to other countries.
Electronic manufacturers also are heavily dependent on production in Thailand. Nikon Corp.'s Thailand plant produces low- to mid-range single-lens reflex cameras, which account for 90 percent of the company's SLR camera production.
Sony Corp. manufactures all of its digital SLR cameras in the industrial area of Ayutthaya.
Nidec Corp. suspended production of hard disk motors at its factory in Thailand on Oct. 10, causing concerns about supplies to other companies.