NAKA, Japan -- Engineers in body suits, booties and face masks shuttle back and forth in the clean room at Renesas' quake-racked factory, racing to restore computer chip output.
But rows of red out-of-order lamps above the high-tech machinery spotlight their challenge: Repairs are still in progress nearly two months after the March 11 quake knocked out the plant.
Renesas Electronics Corp.'s sprawling Naka chip foundry here is ground zero for the global shortage of automotive microcontrollers that has paralyzed assembly plants from Toyota City to Ohio. And despite working around the clock for a fix, full production is still months away.
Workers, including hundreds on loan from customers and suppliers, have repositioned jolted equipment and cleared away collapsed ceilings. But limited production won't resume until June.
During a press tour of the plant, executives said a schedule for returning to pre-quake production levels would be announced in mid-May. They aim to get there by resuming limited production at Naka and supplementing capacity with ramped up output at other sites.
Naka will restart production of its critical 200-millimeter wafer on June 15. Those are the chips most often used in automotive components, and about 60 percent of Naka's output of these chips ends up in cars. But output will resume at only 3,000 wafers a month -- a fraction of the plant's pre-quake rate of 34,000 wafers a month. Test production began April 23.