Foxconn factory explosion hurts tech supply chain
Those on the waiting list for the Apple iPad 2 will probably have to wait even longer than expected.
According to report in the Wall Street Journal published on Monday night, Foxconn has closed all of its polishing workshops across China after a factory explosion killed three workers and injured 15 others last Friday.
The blast occurred at Foxconn’s Chengdu factory, a relatively new facility in rural China. At this point, the explosion is being blamed on a buildup of combustible aluminum dust, although that’s yet to be confirmed.
Foxconn’s affected polishing factories serve as one of the final stages of its electronic production process. While Apple hasn’t confirmed that the closed factories produce iPad or iPad components, multiple media reports across China are reporting that the plant does in fact produce parts for the cherished Apple tablet.
Before the latest explosion, Foxconn’s labor and part shortages were expected to affect iPad 2 production by 30 percent. The Foxconn China factories are closed indefinitely, while investigators seek the exact cause of the explosion.
In addition to Apple, Foxconn’s polishing plants handle electronic parts for Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Dell and Nintendo.
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The explosion is the latest incident to affect the Chinese company. In addition to the three deaths and 15 injuries from the Chegdu explosion, Foxconn recently made employees sign an agreement saying that they would not commit suicide.
Last year, 250 workers at a Foxconn factory in India were taken to a hospital after suffering from pesticide poisoning.
In June of last year, an employee died from the effects of exhaustion, following a reported 34-hour shift for Foxconn.
See the video below for more coverage on the Foxconn factory explosion
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.