Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cascading Manufacturing Shutdown

The situation in Japan is a new threat to the hyper-efficient modern just-in-time method of manufacturing.  The last major discussion of this issue, was during the financial meltdown in 2008 when small manufacturers, due to financial uncertainty, slowed up production and gummed up the works.
In just-in-time manufacturing, the "assembler" uses modern communications and transportation to ship parts and smaller assemblies from factories around the world.  All of this is timed to get at the assembling factory "just-in-time" for production of the item.

Often one or two widget manufacturers are the sole suppliers not of one industry, but many, as the suppliers use economies of scale to reduce their prices.

However, if one of these sub-manufacturers has problems, there is usually no easy way around the shortfall.  Toyota, after the Kobe earthquake, is famous for sourcing out to new suppliers, and getting around the problem.  But that is one (world class) company working at a fevered pitch.

Toyota, after the Kobe earthquake, is famous for sourcing out to new suppliers, and getting around the problem.  But that is one (world class) company working at a fevered pitch.

As noted by the BBC

Breweries are shut. Pretty much all automotive manufacturing has been suspended. Sony has closed six component plants. Power across the country is being rationed. There is enormous short and long term uncertainty about the impact of the nuclear debacle on health, the environment and the security of power supply.

A partial list of  problems:

·         Engines and automobile parts for plants around the world

·         Steel, paper, and electronic plant are closed.  Additional problems are with transportation and communications, as well as employees looking for the missing family members

·         Renesas, the world’s largest microcontroller manufacturer (used cars, industrial equipment, office equipment)

·         LCD displays for television sets.
list compiled from Plant Closures Imperil Global Supplies, Wall Street Journal, March 14,2011.


Waldow said...

Falling way behind on yr posts. Really appreciated the home invasion scenarios and having it underscored that entering/exiting a car is a choke point.

I'd guess you will take the more conservative line that the fallout on the Westcoast will be negligible, but as MCR points out as each of those reactors spews more radiation, it makes keeping the other 5 under control all that much harder, and the jet stream comes right over the PNW from Japan. Anyhow, here's a great site with realtime radiation readings. All's fine for the moment, but something to keep an eye on:


russell1200 said...

My first reply was eaten by Google.

The book 2 seconds, which I mentioned some time ago, comments on the fact that most outdoor U.S. assassination attempts occur around the car.

The site's Geiger counters are not well placed for me. Looks like they are just getting up and running.

Based on (my understanding) that the U.S. government was able to hid elevated cancer rates from U.S. testing in Nevada, that it is a risk of degrees rather than immediate death. You would suspect that by the time it gets to our West Coast it is essentially dispersing along that entire latitude band. Unfortunately that band is much of the north of the U.S. and the middle of Europe.

From your last comment, I took it that you were busy planting. How is it going?

Waldow said...

Oh horrible. Cut back on my news reading/poetry blogging/graveyard job hunt to free up time & get going. Well, shortly after I ran out of the last of my savings and had to start making a 50 mile roundtrip to my fight gym by bike. Fighting is more important to me than anything short of air and food, so it is hard to face that I will have to cut it out as well to get planted. Taking next week off from training to get things mapped out and get a farmer's market stand reserved and outfitted. Got an acre of peas in and a few other things but not enough. No detailed business plan. Never have learned time management. Was easy when I faced the immediacy of making a payroll every two weeks. Forced me to get cracking. Never a day late on that in all my years in business, unlike half of the contractors I knew. Internalizing threats like a breakdown in the supply chain because of nuclear meltdowns and tsunamis is much harder.

russell1200 said...

How long does a 50 mile roundtrip on bike take? That is about my current trip to work.

Blogger is being weird. It will allow me, for the moment to post here. But some other blogs, I am getting the cookie complaint.

I don't see the whole supply chain blowing up d without a major nuke meltdown. Northern Japan is a bit of a back water. Without some sort of follow on problem, they will get things back in order. We already have so much stuff.

The more likely result is a continuing crappy economy. Of course if you are already tight for money, more bad economic news is not what we need.

By far the bigger threat is Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. If this keeps up a lot more of us will be riding our bikes to work with you in an accelerated peak oil sort of fashion.

Waldow said...

I live up in the hills so the 25 or so miles in takes 70 mintues. This is with a 30 pound load of boxing gear & stuff. I am not pushing it because I go in to workout hard after the trip in. The trip back is a killer, because it is dark, uphill, and I am tired by this time. It takes 100 mintues to get back, after being exhasted form my workout. I try to carry bus fare in case I get hurt or hit the wall, but at night the bus stops running way before I get home, so I have to make the call before that point. I am at once proud of doing this, and ashamed it has become necessary. It helps my morale to brag about it a bit.

The most important thing if u try stuff like this is to take care of yr fluids. Do not drink pure water for workouts longer than 90 mintues. Hyponatremia will result, which leads to at least temporary retardation & bonking, and can kill you. I make a cheap homebrew of tablesugar, salt, and a bit of fruit juice for flavor that costs me 25 cents instead of $2.00 for gatorade (which does work). If I have the money for it I throw in a little whey protein powder. U do not want fiber of any kind in the drink or u will vomit.

The single most important thing you can do to improve yr cardio to do things like this is to eat a Paleo Diet + milk if u aren't allergic. Meat, Vegetables, Fruit, and nuts. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO BEING IN SHAPE THAN WORKING OUT! Eating fat and protein DO NOT CAUSE heart disease or excessive weight gain. All FDA lies. It just so happens the menu is easier for a homesteader to raise than grains also.

Thanks for the chance to brag. Helps a lot.

russell1200 said...

That does sound like a workout. There is no sin in taking comfort over ones triumphs over adversity.

I remember doing commercial-institutional electrical work in South Carolina in the mid-1990s. We were near Myrtle Beach, but far enough away to lose the sea breeze. But close enough that we would get these sand dunes -versus the usual bright orange rock hard clay.

We would tie clothes to the back of our hard hats to keep the sun off and look like a bunch of bedraggle Beau Gestes. More like Marty Feldman than the FFL. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076297/

I remember tyeing-in some large electrical panels in these little standalone mini-library buildings on this high school campus. It was about 105 degrees outside, but the little buildings with their windows and no power were like pizza ovens inside. I literally would be pouring out water. I would drink 4 gallons of water a day and never go to the bathroom. There would be these crusty salt rings on my tee shirt.

In our current culture, people don't realize that salt used to be a precious commodity. It was Europe's one sure exports to sub-Sahara Africa to get silver to pay for their spices prior to the discovery of the New World.

It was in South Carolina that I learned not to wear minimal clothing when in the sun. Just like with the Arabs, very light loose cotton long sleeve works better. It keeps the sun directly off you and by pulling the water off you increases the evaporative surfaces. A lot of my older coworkers had grown up picking cotten and told me about it.

When I moved up to North Carolina people on the job sites would complain about the heat, and I couldn't understand what they were talking about. It was only 98 degrees! LOL.

I can recall eating more than a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with an apple for lunch because it was all I could afford. The Southeast U.S. is horrible for construction pay scale. It is one reason why there are still a few areas without a Latino work force: if they wanted to work for peanuts they could have stayed at home.