Sony restarts more quake-hit plants, supply problems remain

Factories are on the way back to pre-quake status, but problems remain at two

Sony has partially resumed production at all but two of its factories that were hit by the March 11 massive earthquake in Japan.

The company's semiconductor laser factory in Miyagi prefecture, one of the hardest hit regions, partially restarted on Wednesday and other factories have been coming online in the last week. Sony didn't disclose the degree to which the factories are operating, but their return to partial production indicates they are beginning to recover.

Production had initially been suspended at 10 sites but only two plants now remain stopped.

One of those factories, Sony's lithium ion battery factory in Motomiya, in Fukushima prefecture, plans to restart production by the end of April.

The second is Sony's Sendai Technology Center in Tagajo, Miyagi prefecture. It makes professional media products, such as tapes for TV cameras and blank Blu-ray Discs.

The factory was the only Sony facility that was inundated by the tsunami that followed the earthquake and workers are still engaged in a clean up.

During a visit to the plant on April 1, the task facing the team was obvious. Mud was still being cleared from the car park, a tsunami-crushed car was removed from the factory grounds, and debris from destruction caused by the powerful waves lay all around. (Watch exclusive video footage of the clean up at Sony Sendai)

Sony has yet to fully appraise the damage at the Sendai plant and has no estimate for when it might be back online.

Several other Sony factories across Japan and overseas have been forced to adjust production schedules because of disruption to the supply chain for components and raw materials. The company said these problems continue.

"The Company is continuing to evaluate the full impact of the earthquake, tsunami and related power outages, including the impact of these production adjustments, on Sony's businesses and consolidated financial results," the company said in a statement.

Sony is due to report quarterly and full-year earnings for the period to the end of March sometime in early to mid May.

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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