Fujikura shifts production in earthquake aftermath

The full effects of Japan’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake – and subsequent tsunami and nuclear crisis – won’t be known for years, but its immediate consequences certainly are being felt by golf equipment companies.

Shaftmaker Fujikura, for one, is coping with unexpected challenges.

In November, the company built a 200,000-square-foot plant in Fukushima Prefecture – just 12 miles from the Fukushima nuclear power plant that is spewing radioactive gases and forcing evacuations of people living and working within a 19-mile radius.

According to Pat McCoy, Fujikura’s director of technical services, the plant incurred minimal damage from the earthquake. But its operational status remains uncertain because company personnel haven’t been allowed to return to the area since the March 11 earthquake. Fortunately, all employees were sent home unhurt.

“Right now, everybody’s just trying to figure out what they can do,” McCoy said. “They get four or five hours of electricity a day; there’s no gas. The food is difficult to get in that area right now, and so they’re just struggling to figure out what to do next.”

Most of the products – approximately 80 percent – manufactured at the Fukushima plant were designated for Japan and other Asian markets; the balance was targeted for Europe and the U.S.

Inventory levels at the Fukushima facility couldn’t be precisely determined, but company officials are preparing for the worst-case scenario, in which none of the shafts, in various stages of development, are usable.

According to David Schnider, Fujikura’s president and chief operating officer, the company is planning on producing 60,000 shafts over the next couple months to meet demand. Such manufacturing will be shifted to the company’s two additional Asian plants (one in China, the other in Vietnam). In addition, Fujikura likely will use the services of a back-up facility, which the company has contracted in the past.

“Existing orders that we were going to ship out we now have to remake,” Schnider said of orders placed with the Fukushima plant. 

With few orders coming from the Japan market, Schnider said he expects Fujikura to be back on schedule by the end of April.

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