Following two large and deadly earthquakes that hit Southern Japan this past week, Sony has indicated that its image sensor production plant in the Kumamoto Prefecture of Kyushu Island will remain closed for the time being, according to a report by Reuters. In addition, a second image sensor plant, located in the Kyushu city of Nagasaki will see operations partially suspended. Sony has not provided a timeline as to when operations will be restored to normal for either plant.
This type of production problem can lead to supply constraints for OEMs as Sony provides nearly 40 percent of the market’s CMOS sensors, many of which are used in a variety of smartphones and tablets, not just those made and sold with Xperia devices. Indeed Apple is one such major customer. According to a Sony spokesman who spoke with Reuters on Saturday, the supply chain is not expected to be disrupted:
“We are not expecting any immediate supply disruption as we have some inventories right now.We will make an announcement promptly if any supply issues emerge.”
The individual also stated that normal operations may be restored pending the cessation of aftershocks, and that an update would likely be given late Monday afternoon. Specifically:
“We are still checking for potential damage to the plants, which usually operate on a 24-hour basis.”
Reuters also went on to indicate that Samsung Electronics, who uses Sony’s sensors in devices like its recently released Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge handsets, stated it will not have supply constraints due to having already diversified its sources for image sensors. Indeed some owners of the new Galaxy flagships have already pointed out that their device(s) have Samsung-produced Isocell sensors as opposed to those made by Sony.
While Sony’s situation is seemingly in a stable state at the moment, this may change if damage to either of the facilities is detected, or if aftershocks of a significant magnitude continue.
For reference, the 9.0-magnitude Tohoku Earthquake from March 2011 saw a staggering 900 aftershocks. Of those, three were over magnitude 7.0. The two earthquakes that hit Kyushu this past week were of of 7.3-magnitude (Saturday 4/16) and 7.0 (Friday 4/15). 478 aftershocks have been detected as of Sunday night.
This story stresses that, in addition to the more visible human plight of such natural disasters, they can also have an effect on global supply chain management for commerce, as well.