TOKYO -- For months after Japan's killer earthquake, two auto suppliers that were all but unknown before the disaster were grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons. Renesas Electronics Corp. and Merck KGaA emerged as key bottlenecks blocking vehicle output worldwide.
Today, those two companies' operations are back to normal. But rebuilding at the microchip company and paint pigment maker is far from over: They are readying their operations for the next disaster. And the lessons they learned the hard way through months of lost business are a template for the entire supplier industry as it tackles newly discovered supply chain liabilities.
The main strategies: Make parts at multiple locations, source subcomponents from alternative suppliers, reinforce factories against bigger temblors and work with customers to create larger emergency stockpiles of critical products.
The changes will leave Renesas and Merck better prepped for the next disaster. But fully implementing improvements will take a long time. And while those two know firsthand the urgency of change, other suppliers may drag their feet on similar changes, remaining weak links in the supply chain.