Quakes in Japan: Toyota puts brakes on production

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Toyota, the world’s biggest-selling automaker, said it would suspend much of its production at plants across Japan this week after earthquakes in the country’s south led to a shortage of parts, while some other manufacturers extended stoppages due to damage to factories.

The earthquakes on Thursday and Saturday, which killed at least 41 people, reflected the vulnerability of Japanese companies to supply chain disruptions caused by natural disasters, and also highlighted the “just in time” philosophy pioneered by Toyota and followed by many others.

Companies had made efforts to address these problems after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which led to a nuclear disaster and nearly 20 000 deaths, badly dented output. The way that companies deal with the impact of the latest quakes will likely show how robust these changes have been.

Honda said it would keep production suspended at its motorcycle plant near the quake-hit city of Kumamoto in southern Japan, though Nissan said it would resume operations at its plants north of the epicentre from Monday.

Electronics giant Sony said production would remain halted at its image sensor plant in Kumamoto, as the electronics giant assessed structural and equipment damage. But the company said it had resumed full operations at its plants in nearby Nagasaki and Oita, which also produce the sensors – used in smartphone cameras, including Apple’s iPhone.

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