Coronavirus Hits the Magnetics Community as Manufacturers Wrestle Supply Chains and Production Schedules While Trying to Protect Staffs

Inextricably linked, China and the global magnetics industry are experiencing a significant impact from the Coronavirus which broke out in Wuhan and has spread to an assortment of industry and end-user facilities and their people. As some signs of respite occur at the epicenter, new signs of disruption are spreading to more areas in Asia and worldwide. 

In this article we present a sampling of situations involving people and operations involved in magnetics operations that have been affected. As companies wrestle to maintain their supply chains, minimize disruption to their manufacturing capability and to protect workers, the impact is a mixed bag changing rapidly. Plant closures and re-openings, sometimes limited, have occurred in some places while in others new restrictions have been put into effect. 

Travel and shipping restrictions along with limitations on personal contact are perhaps the most widespread impact of all. Freight forwarders and many airlines have suspended or restricted service for air shipments to and from China while domestic shipments within China have been impacted as well. 

CWIEME Shanghai 2020, one of the industry’s biggest trade fairs, was quickly postponed from its scheduled dates in late March and has since been rescheduled four months later. Now it is set for July 29-31 at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center. 

BLOCK Transformatoren-Elektronik GmbH, a German based transformer manufacturer with operations in China, issued an advisory from Udo Thiel, managing director, on February 14 that it expected possible delays in the inflow of goods to and from China to be limited. It was monitoring the development with great attention and keeping in close contact with its suppliers as its purchasing department was continuously working to find alternative routes and service providers to ensure a seamless and on-time supply chain. Many of its material suppliers in China have fully resumed production, said the company. 

As a precautionary measure, the company also has taken steps to help contain the spread of the virus. There is a ban on all employees traveling to and from China on business trips and on employees in China traveling to other countries on business trips. Its plant in Kunshan, located 800 kilometers away Wuhan, was closed for the Chinese New Year and local staff did not leave Kunshan during this time. The New Year holidays were extended for the workforce. 

“We are in close contact with the authorities and have carried out all the required measures, said Thiel. “Currently we are only waiting for the governmental approval to resume operations at our Chinese production facility. 

“Our in-house vertical range of manufacture is proving its worth and allows us to act extremely agile and flexible in this situation, in order to counteract emerging bottlenecks of our suppliers,” he noted. “In all our factories we have an extensive stock of primary materials as well as standard products. We are therefore well prepared for current and planned production orders in the coming weeks.” 

Sumida Corporation, a global manufacturer of magnetic and electronic components, reported that its plant in Jiangsu Province resumed operations on February 15, bringing back onstream the last of its impacted factories. Due to local travel restrictions, however, some of its employees could not return to work and procurement of raw materials and logistics were not yet been fully restored.  Aiming to resume full operation as soon as possible, the company is currently coordinating with related business partners. 

Securing the safety and health of our employees is their first priority, said the company, noting it has taken measures such as wearing masks, measuring temperature and maintaining hygiene of employees in accordance with the instructions of the local authorities. 

Vacuumschmelze advised on January 31 that all its sales and engineering offices located in mainland China would remain closed until further notice. Certain production facilities also closed. The VAC manufacturing facility located in Shenyang China was closed. It produces components only.  This facility closure does not impact the production of VAC’s permanent magnet, crystalline material or stamped parts, the company said. 

VAC facility in Shenyang 

The company’s joint venture SANVAC located near Beijing which produces a small portion of VAC’s overall permanent magnet products, was also closed. Meanwhile, the company said, all its other global manufacturing facilities were currently continuing operations. 

Sumitomo Corporation, based in Tokyo, quickly donated 10 million yen through a dedicated account established by the Chinese Embassy in Japan toward relief efforts for measures against the spread of Coronavirus infection in China. 

According to a report February 19 by news outlet IdeaStream, a rare earths magnet maker that normally employs about 300 people in the city of Hangzhou, south of Kunshan, had received permission to reopen. The factory was able to begin manufacturing again with a skeleton crew after buying a large disinfectant machine.