Sony to idle five domestic plants due to parts shortages

The March 11 earthquake disrupted supply chains, forcing the plants to temporarily close

Sony plans to temporarily suspend production at five factories in Japan because of problems obtaining raw materials and components following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, it said Tuesday.

The magnitude 9.0 quake and subsequent tsunami caused widespread damage across Japan's eastern coast and killed more than 9,000 people. Areas that weren't directly damaged have been affected by the closure of roads and rail links, and power shortages that have brought planned blackouts to a large area of east Japan.

For factories outside the quake-hit region, the disruption has meant a breakdown in Japan's usually efficient supply chain.

Sony said it will stop production until at least March 31 at its Inazawa plant, which produces Bravia LCD televisions, and the Kohda plant, which makes Handycam camcorders and Cybershot digital still cameras. Also idled will be the Kosai factory, which makes broadcast and professional equipment; the Minokamo factory, which makes cell phones and camera lenses; and the Oita factory, which produces microphones and headphones.

Sony said it will attempt to secure supply of the raw materials and components it needs from other sources, but warned it might move production temporarily offshore.

The company previously stopped production at nine plants that were directly affected by the disaster or resulting power shortages. Full production has resumed at one plant, partial production at two plants, and six remain offline.

Supply problems are being felt beyond the electronics industry.

On Tuesday, Toyota Motor said it will stop all domestic auto production until Saturday because of problems obtaining some parts. Honda will keep production lines idle until at least Sunday for the same reason.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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