The floods that worsened this week across Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam are threatening to devastate the region's electronics manufacturers and assemblers, cutting important links to several international supply chains. Here's an update on where things stand for some key suppliers:
Malaysian Eng Teknologi, a hard drives supplier based in Penang, on the Thai border, has issued a warning to investors that flood-related stoppages are continuing and are now severe enough to put the company into the red for the fourth quarter. The ripples are already being felt up the chain. Partners in the Philippines have already reported slowdowns resulting from delayed shipments from Eng.
Two of three Sony plants in Thailand are currently closed. Similar closures have affected Hitachi, Seagate, and Canon, among others.
The primary facilities affected are two large industrial parks: Bang Pa-in Industrial Park and Navanakorn Industrial Park, both near Bangkok. Multiple reports say the flooding was so bad in Bang Pa-in that manufacturing equipment and entire assembly lines are under water today and will likely need to be extensively repaired or replaced before production can resume.
The difficulties in Thailand could not have come at a worse time for some sub-chains within Asia's electronics supply industry. An acute shortage of disk drives across the industry is almost certain to be compounded by these worst-in-a-century floods. Western Digital, or WD, one of the world's largest HDD supplies, reported a few days ago that it would be shutting production at all its Bangkok-area facilities. The shutdown represents the sudden idling of more than 37,000 workers, who shipped more than 50 million drives last year.
The camera and imaging industry has been among the industries with the most worrisome exposure to the disaster. The floods have come just as industry giants Nikon and Sony were finishing up production for the upcoming new model-year launches.
Nikon has tread cautiously so far, refusing to confirm or deny reports that the flood will push back the launch of new models of its popular APS-C series cameras. The company did say, according to several reports, that its factory in Ayuthaya, outside Bangkok, is under water to the second floor. Sony said its Asian customers will experience delays in two highly-anticipated new models, the A65 and NEX-7, but it has not finished evaluating whether its North American shipments will be affected.
The human cost of the floods is still being calculated. It's safe to say that several hundred thousand Thais and Malaysians who work in the assembly and manufacturing plants outside Bangkok and Penang have lost their livelihoods for the near term. With the disaster still unfolding, OEMs are making few predictions about the likely delays in restarting production in the affected areas, but it could be as long as another week before conditions on the ground improve enough for cleanup to begin. Delays of at least a month appear likely in many cases.
More than 300 people have died in the disaster so far across Southeast Asia.