Fire: The Oldest and Deadliest Risk to Supply Chain Business Continuity

By Logan Wamsley

The idea of a raging fire consuming large portions of what we hold dear is one of the oldest threats mankind has faced — and while multiple millennia’s worth of technology, planning, and old-fashioned trial-and-error have minimized this risk somewhat in general households, in the manufacturing industry many analysts have moved this issue back to the forefront of the modern supply chain.

In 2017, there were nearly 350 reported cases of factory fires or explosions — up almost double from the year before.

There are a number of factors that contributed to this disturbing trend, and some are easier to explain than others. According to Business Insider, for example, 2017 represented in the United States the single most expensive firefighting effort in recorded history with over $2 billion spent on the containment efforts. By the end of the season, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported that over 8 million acres, as well as over 500 homes, were caught in the devastation.

The other, more complex explanation for this drastic increase has partially to do with the increasing trends of supply chain diversification and globalization. As OEMs seek to meet ever-tightening production schedules while working to minimize labor costs, many have opted to expand their infrastructure into less-developed countries. While this does offer these areas additional jobs and a significant boost to often struggling economies, there are also added risks that come with such a transition.

The more locations an OEM tasks with the proper storage and fulfillment of critical inventory, the greater challenge it becomes to ensure each of these locations complies to the strict regulatory standards expected of them. Should even one of these standards fall short, the greater the chances are of compromising years’ worth of downstream revenue due to the mishandling of moisture-sensitive inventory, geopolitical issues, power outages, extreme weather phenomena, labor disruptions, and, of course, fire.

The manufacturing industry over the years has tried numerous methods to find ways to minimize the effects large-scale fires might have on their supply chain — but there has been no way to completely eliminate the threat and ensure long-term business continuity until now.

Partstat’s Critical Inventory Storage Solution takes great pains to eliminate all the unforeseen variables that could result in production delays – such as magnetic interference, natural disasters in all their forms, and insufficient humidity controls – but our unique ISO:9001 and AS9120-certified approach is particularly suited to making any possibility of inventory loss due to fire a relic of the past.

As part of our solution, all of your critical inventory will be stored in our one-of-a-kind vault chamber. Crafted from state-of-the-art spun ceramic panels and rated as “best in class” for component and raw material storage, this Fire Rated Class 350-certified structure has been tested to withstand temperatures well above 2,000°F for over five hours — while still maintaining the proper temperature and humidity inside for even the most sensitive electronic components. In the case of a fire, typical concrete vaults 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.

Should a fire break out inside the vault structure, Partstat is prepared. 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 even the most moisture-sensitive inventory unharmed.

If you factor in our vault’s additional features — ECD SmartDRY™ Cabinets designed for die and wafer banking, magnetic field protection, Zone IV Seismic-rated structural steel design, and a 1,100 lb. vault door — we are confident that no other supply chain partner has gone further to guarantee OEM business continuity.