After quakes, manufacturers step up business continuity planning


The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku and the 2016 Kumamoto quakes have prompted many domestic manufacturers to draw up plans to ensure business operations continue in the event of natural disasters.

In January this year, 12 semiconductor-makers including Sony Corp. and Renesas Electronics Corp. — who each suffered major production-related damages during the Kumamoto Prefecture quakes — agreed to sign a pact aimed at mitigating the impact of disasters on their businesses. The firms discussed how they can cooperate to continue operations in the event of disasters, after monthlong delays for some plants to resume operations following the April 2016 earthquakes. They also decided to establish a contact system to facilitate the mutual provision of necessary parts in the wake of disasters.

Production equipment uses many common components, a semiconductor industry official noted, explaining the significance of the mutual provision system.

Meanwhile, individual firms are drawing up their own anti-disaster measures as well.

Renesas partially resumed production just eight days after the Kumamoto quakes, thanks to efforts to enhance the quake resistance of its plants following the March 2011 disaster. The company toughened its earthquake risk estimates for many locations in Japan after the Kumamoto quakes. Sony took a similar measure.

Earlier this year, Fujifilm Corp. started running a system to swiftly predict damage to its facilities based on the size of earthquake measurements at 10 domestic bases. It has also introduced drones in Kyushu for aerial monitoring.

Automakers, meanwhile, are trying to decentralize production bases and set anti-disaster measures for their entire supply chains, including subcontractors. Toyota Motor Corp. was forced to stop operations at its main auto plants nationwide after plants operated by Aishin Seiki Co., a Toyota group company, were hit by the Kumamoto tremors. In light of this experience, Toyota is taking steps to secure the supply of parts following disasters as well as decentralize production bases.

Honda Motor Co. has decided to would set up a disaster response task force at its plant in Tochigi Prefecture if its head office in Tokyo is damaged by a disaster.

According to a survey of automakers and semiconductor-related companies in Kyushu, compiled in March by the industry ministry’s local bureau, some 70 percent of large companies have drawn up plans to continue product supply in the event of disasters, while the share was less than 30 percent for small companies.

The key now is to encourage small companies, including subcontractors, to create such plans, pundits said.