Major Brands Recover After Japanese Earthquake

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Apr 20, 2016
Earthquakes can damage production facilities.
Earthquakes can damage production facilities.

For consistent performance, supply chain logistics management needs dependable data on consumer demand, business partner performance and relevant markets. Warehouse and distribution managers also rely on the stability of the ground manufacturing plants are built on. When earthquakes and other natural disasters hit, a once rock solid supply chain may crumble if the company does not plan contingencies and prioritize flexibility.

The recent earthquake in Japan brought the distribution and supply routes of many major brands to a standstill. Some companies were able to weather the setback better than others, and businesses of all sizes can learn from the examples of both types of organizations.

Earthquake in Japan
In April 2016, Japan experienced a magnitude-7.3 earthquake that caused massive damage. Fortune detailed how numerous international companies had to stop manufacturing and halt supply chains to deal with the effects of the national disaster.

Toyota was dealt a huge blow when factories that build engine parts and body components for the company were damaged by the seismic activity, according to Auto World News. Production was halted for days as the facilities dealt with broken windows and walls. Factories in the area that assemble other Toyota parts weren't damaged but had to stop because of the problems with the supply chain.

Meanwhile, Sony had to shut down an image sensor plant. The Kumamoto, Japan, facility was affected by the earthquake, but other locations managed by the electronics giant remained productive. The other facilities also created sensor products, so the company was able to keep its supply chain moving.

A few other auto and electronic manufacturers were affected by the earthquake, either directly through structural damage or loss of partner shipments. Some organizations were affected less severely than others because they had learned from previous incidents.

Preparing for Disaster
Japan lies within an area that is not only prone to earthquakes, but tsunamis. In March 2011, the country suffered through one of the worst tsunamis in recent history. The Miami Herald said the effects of the disaster rippled throughout the global supply chain. Many organizations saw the event as a wake up call.

The 2011 tsunami hit while many companies began to recognize the benefits - and obstacles - of expanding a supply chain into foreign markets. The incident helped companies identify the need for data collection solutions and communication prioritization when dealing with multiple locations and global partners. When disaster strikes,  that a business can get real-time information from facilities in the affected area and take an inventory of available resources to overcome disruption.

When selecting a data collection system, it's important businesses recognize possible disasters. Certain territories are more likely to experience natural disasters than others. Due to climate change, however, natural disasters may become more likely in an increasing number of territories, and the effects may turn out to be more severe.

Mobile Data Collection Solutions
Flexibility should be a top priority for any company that relies on a dependable supply chain. Organizations need partners with effective communication procedures and to find alternatives for primary facilities and distribution routes. A proper internal data collection system allows decision-makers to observe available resources and backup strategies while updating stakeholders as soon as plans are made.

Mobile data collection devices and other convenient computing options are especially effective when companies need to know exactly what's happening with manufacturing facilities and warehouse management. The RFgen whitepaper "The Power of Adopting an Enterprise Mobile Strategy" explained how warehouse and production line employees collecting data through handheld devices create an accurate picture of current operations in real time. Designing a consistent information system that works in multiple locations means data collection procedures are uniform and helpful when determining what facilities face challenges and which can pick up the slack.

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