If you need a new hard disk drive for your PC, be prepared for a potential delay. Western Digital, the world’s largest provider who makes 60 percent of their drives in Thailand has stopped production there due to record breaking floods there. The country manufacturers produce one fourth of all the world?s disk drives. Seagate drives may be curtailed as well due to flooding of component suppliers.
Western Digital?s facility in the Bang Pa Industrial Park of Thailand’s Ayutthaya province will need to dry out or replace some equipment that became submerged. After hitting their operation at Bang Pa, water flowed onward threatening Western Digital?s Navanakorn Industrial Park location as well. The company has not given a time frame for recovery from the intrusive water.
Flooding of Bang Pa Industrial Park home of Western Digital
Seagate Technology is having similar interference from the high waters, but its factories are still running. Supplies of components used in the manufacture of disk drives have also been disrupted by the country?s misfortunes, more so even than those component companies who suffered through the catastrophic tsunami and quake in Japan on March 11, 2011.
Nidec, a component supplier in Thailand, for example, produces around 70 percent of the world’s hard drive motors which are used by Western Digital and Seagate, as well as Samsung, Hitachi GST and Toshiba. Nidec explains that their spindle motors rotate the disks at up to 10,000-plus revolutions per minute. A read-write head moves above the disk, reading or writing the binary bits of data that are the building blocks of instructions and information for all computers. So no motor, no read/write capability. Some hard drives can hold 91,000 digital photos, 80,000 songs for MP3, 140 hours DVD quality video, and more. Where will we put all that if our hard drive needs replacing during the coming inventory drought?
Hitachi Global Storage Technology (Hitachi GST) reassured the industry that its facilities themselves were not affected by the flooding. Chip manufacturer ON Semiconductor who provides power transistors for disk head positioners have not escaped the destruction. The Storage Newsletter reports the effect on other companies:
"the operation of both the Wangnoi Plant of TDK Thailand Co., Ltd. and the Wangnoi Plant of Magnecomp Precision Technology Public Co., Ltd. are suspended from October 13th for the sake of ensuring safety of the employees although both plants suffered no damage to their facilities or equipment."
Toshiba temporarily halted production. In the second quarter, Toshiba was ranked the number four HDD supplier, with 17.8 million units. Now their Thailand facility will sit idle. While you decry the inconvenience of your computer having to sit unused without a new disk drive, give a moments thought to Toshiba?s nearly 4,000 Thai workers who must also sit idle until they can get their country, their job, and their lives back to normal.
Prior to the flooding disruption, disk drives were at an inventory low. Following the water damage, inventory will be at a premium, even though Western Digital?s manufacturing locations in Malaysia, Singapore, and the US remain on dry land.
Disk drive manufacturers have recently been in danger of being trampled by the on-going march of technology. Flash-memory has encroached on their sales and the popularity of tablets that rely on flash memory chips instead of magnetic disks have directed consumer?s needs away from the traditional configuration.
Consumers will feel the backlash of the flood waters. Product will be scarce and when available, will be more expensive than before.