Supply Chain Matters provides another reader update regarding the global supply chain impacts from the devastating monsoon floods that impacted Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries in the Fall of 2011. Readers might recall that beyond the tragic loss of life, the flooding impacted over two-thirds of the country’s provinces and that seven of country’s important industrial manufacturing parks were severely flooded. While some factories have restarted operations, others continue to struggle with various issues.

In our previous general update in mid-November, we honed in on the specific impacts that both the high tech and automotive industries would potentially encounter. As we enter 2012, these impacts continue, although the picture appears to be a bit more optimistic.  On the other hand, as noted in our 2012 Predictions for Global Supply Chains, the broader and more far reaching implications concerning the Thai flooding and other 2011 disruptive events are raising significant new considerations for strategic and other product sourcing decisions in the months to come.

For high tech and consumer electronics, all eyes remained focused on hard disk drives (HDD) production.  Western Digital, initially the most impacted manufacturer, re-started some partial HDD production in its Thai Bang Pa-in facility in the first week of December, one week ahead of schedule.  That facility had been submerged under six feet of water.  Western Digital expects to ramp-up production at this facility during the March 2012 quarter. Other of the company’s production facilities in Thailand are in the process of re-starting.  The expected impacts on reduced overall HDD supply and pricing are underway.  Both EMC and HP increased large-scale storage system pricing in late December in the range of 5 to 15 percent, but supply shortages have amplified price levels even further. In Asia, there are reports that HDD pricing at the retail level has spiked as much as 50 to 100 percent. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) released a statement in early January noting: “Supply chain disruptions resulting from the floods in Thailand have impacted semiconductor sales in the near term, however OEM’s are expected to recover production losses over the course of the next few months.” Industry leader Intel attributed its latest quarterly decline in revenues to the impact of supply brought about from the result of the floods.

Computer OEM’s such as Apple, HP, Lenovo and Dell remain publically silent concerning an ongoing shortage of disk drives but we are sure that internal supply planning teams have been hard at work sorting out disk allocation and various product offering scenarios.  As anticipated, most of the available supply is being allocated to higher priced, more profitable PC products.

Regarding other industry impacts, reports from Japan indicate that the country experienced a 2.6 percent month-to-month drop in factory production for November, which was worse than had been predicted. According to an AFP report, production of passenger cars and mobile phones were among the hardest hit because of the supply shortage impacts emanating from Japanese-plant sourcing in Thailand. However, Japanese automotive providers were reported to be more optimistic for December and January production output levels. Both Toyota and Honda have now acknowledged that the combination of massive supply disruption brought about from the earthquake and tsunami that impacted Japan in March, and the Thai monsoon related floods, have caused both to lose market share because of reduced vehicle output.

Other industry impacts have come to light.  PPG Industries has indicated that production of certain optical components prevented that company from satisfying supply contracts and conducting normal business.  Goodyear Tire and Rubber warned in December that impacts of the Thai flooding could result in “a potential global shortage” of aircraft tires.

Beyond the tragic loss of life, the World Bank estimates that flood damage has reached $45 billion and rebuilding efforts are estimated at about $25 billion. This loss, along with the unprecedented magnitude of loses emanating from certain areas of Asia and Australia has motivated major global insurers and re-insurance firms to reduce their exposure to certain catastrophe prone areas.  The Financial Times recently reported that exposures in Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam have all experienced large insurance premium rises during key early January policy renewal negotiations.  Noted were premium rate increases in the range of 10 percent to as high as 35 percent in these countries, with certain exposures in Australia rising in the range of 40-75 percent, and New Zealand 80-150 percent.

Supply Chain Matters continues to believe that these developments will motivate CFO’s and Chief Supply Chain Officer’s to revisit near and longer-term sourcing strategies that directly relate to regions deemed high risk for natural or catastrophic future incidents.  Beyond the cost of direct labor and transportation, a new, more sobering financial input has been added to the evaluation of strategic sourcing, and that should be prompting strategic sourcing teams to begin to revisit sourcing strategies.

The year 2012 has not added to the confidence of a year that was not like 2011 in terms of global supply chain disruption.  Last week, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck of the coast of Indonesia prompted a brief tsunami warning.  Luckily, the tsunami did not occur and damage was reported as minimal, but nerves were definitely rattled.  The bottom-line is that the probability for global supply chain disruption prompted by natural disasters and catastrophe events remains high and manufacturers are about to actively re-examine global sourcing strategies weighting a new and financial sobering aspect of geographic exposure to regions more prone to these incidents going forward.

Bob Ferrari

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