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Japanese earthquake worsens chip shortage

SHAKEN: The microprocessor shortage could get worse thanks to a recent earthquake in Japan.

Microprocessor maker Renesas Electronics has production halted by 7.4-magnitude temblor

21 Mar 2022

THE 7.4-MAGNITUDE earthquake that struck Japan’s Fukushima prefecture last week has forced semiconductor producer Renesas Electronics Corporation to suspend output at its three Japanese facilities.


The epicentre of the ‘quake was near three Renesas factories: Naka Factory (Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture), Takasaki Factory (Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture) and Yonezawa Factory (Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture).


No impact has been confirmed for other offices and affiliate companies of Renesas Group.


A spokesperson for the company – whose products are utilised in the production of vehicles across the globe – said it was assessing the impact on its equipment and products, as well as the safety of its facilities and the condition of its clean rooms.


The firm suspended production at its plants in Naka, Takasaki and Yonezawa in the wake of the natural disaster, which was expected to further impede worldwide automotive production.


Renesas has subsequently restored limited power to two of its three facilities, but says it cannot resume production until a proper assessment of the impact on equipment and products, as well as the safety of the facilities and the condition of the clean rooms has been concluded.


“Assessment of the impact on work-in-progress is underway, and an outline is anticipated to be attained by March 23. We expect to reach full pre-earthquake production capacity (wafer input base) on March 23,” Renesas said in a media statement.


Renesas’ third facility in Yonezawa is operating in a limited capacity with production at “some test lines” resuming.


Renesas’ plants in Naka and Yonezawa produce microcontrollers for automotive and industrial use, while the Takasaki plant makes so-called PMOS chips used in converting AC-DC electrical currents. The plants shut down automatically when power is disrupted, with the restart process taking “several days”, a Renesas spokesperson was quoted as saying.


Honda and Nissan said their manufacturing plants were operating as normal following the quake. Toyota said is suspended morning shift operation at two assembly plants near the quake zone to conduct safety inspections with operations resuming shortly thereafter.


The temblor hit Japan’s northeast region, which triggered a tsunami, caused blackouts, and disrupted transportation. Three people were killed and 170 were injured, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. Only one Renesas employee was injured in the ‘quake.


“While we initially announced that one employee suffered a minor bruise, further medical examination diagnosed the injury as a bone fracture,” the Renesas spokesperson said.


The ‘quake hit in the same area as the epicentre of the massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake-tsunami that rocked Japan 11 years ago. That disaster killed more than 19,000 people and caused Renesas’ Naka plant to be offline for months.


A Renesas spokesperson said the company would make further announcements as soon as more information became available.

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