Automakers Feeling Effects of Factory Fires, But They’re Not Alone

By Logan Wamsley

EBN has reported that American automaker Ford — as well as General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Mercedes — recently experienced a significant supply chain disruption due to a fire at the Meridian Magnesium factory in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. The disruption was so substantial that Ford was forced to halt production of their popular F-150 truck entirely, sending approximately 7,600 employees home.

Ronnie Gibson, Vice President of Innovation at FM Global, explained the situation succinctly to EBN. “The Ford shutdown is one more example that even with a pretty solid supply chain infrastructure and planning in place, you can still have stuff happen,” he said. “Our collective task is to try to understand a supply chain at level and depth that those sleepers don’t take us by surprise.”

Such unexpected incidents do indeed happen, but they are also happening far more frequently than project managers are used to. In 2017, there were nearly 350 reported cases of factory fires or explosions — up almost double from the year before. Due to the nature of the disaster, these won’t be the kinds of events that make headline news (usually no one is hurt), but for employees whose living depends on a successful supply chain — and for consumers who intend to adopt their products into their daily lives — the effects are every bit as consequential.

The time to consider factory fires “sleepers” on the spectrum of supply chain disruptions has long past. Along with obsolescence and allocation, they deserve to be viewed as one of the most serious threats to an OEM product’s life cycle — and every effort should be taken to make sure business continuity is preserved.

After observing this market need for business continuity, Partstat has taken a bold, innovative step to make such drastic disruptions a non-issue. For customers who enroll in our Critical Inventory Storage Solution, we are proud to offer the supply chain industry’s only custom storage vault.

While rated “best in class” for the storage of critical electronic components, including die and wafer banking capabilities, our vault also has a variety of features specifically designed to eliminate any inventory risk associated with fire. It’s Fire Rated Class 350-certified structure has been tested to withstand temperatures well above 2,000°F for over five hours. As the fire rages outside, the interior of the chamber will still maintain a proper temperature and humidity suitable for even the most sensitive electronic components.

Compare this to the features of a standard concrete vault. In the case of an emergency fire, a standard vault will fill with steam as the cement bond continues to break down, raising the atmosphere inside the vault to 212°F and 100 percent humidity. These are conditions that no type of electronic inventory can withstand, let alone raw die and wafer.

Of course, the outer construction can only do its job if the fire originates outside its walls. Should the unthinkable occur on the inside, your inventory is equally secure. Instead of using automated sprinkler systems — which would eliminate the threat but at the cost of our customers’ critical components — our vault will automatically trigger a chemical suppression system that leaves moisture-sensitive inventory completely unharmed.

Partstat introduced this technology because we saw a demand for it when no other supply chain partner did. And if the recent events plaguing automakers are any indication of what is to come, that demand is only going to escalate in the coming years.

We’re ready. After all, our vault is also modular, so we are capable of expanding it to fit as much inventory as the manufacturing industry needs us to. If guaranteed business continuity is something that appeals to your company, reach out to one of our supply chain specialists today!