#7. "RE: Nikon Thailand is officially a write-off" In response to In response to 0 Wed 26-Oct-11 09:26 PM by agitater
>Do you know where things stand with the third-party lens >manufacturers?
Great question I think.
Tamron's Japan plant(s) were physically unaffected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Nor did any Tamron employees die in the tragedy as best I can tell right now. Supply lines and logistics were negatively and unavoidably affected, as were employees who suffered damage to or loss of homes and personal belongings in neighboring areas. Tamron doesn't do a lot of business in Thailand, but it has a major distribution and branding operation there. So far there's no news of any affected operations beyond badly fractured logistics (which is quite bad enough of course), and its photography lens manufacturing is unaffected so far except for slower production cycles due to ongoing logistics and regional infrastructure issues dotted throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region. Tamron is keeping its retail distribution chain fairly well supplied. However, according to EE Times sources Tamron is not taking on extra contract work at this time, and has reduced its contract delivery rate since March 2011 - something which may have as much to do with corporate diversification efforts as it does with supply chain management and overarching logistics headaches. Tamron does a lot of contract work for a number of other brands - the exact scope of these deals have never been fully known because of the heavy security imposed on the Tamron/OEM contract deals. The only thing that hasn't slowed down is the production of lenses for security camera applications.
No current bad news about Sigma. Its Japan operations were physically affected only minimally in March. Sigma has very little going on in Thailand. Like Tamron, Sigma's security camera lens production hasn't slowed down at all - a low cost, relatively high margin, and relatively high volume business for the lens makers. As with other companies in Japan that weren't directly hammered by the earthquake and tsunami, logisitics and supply chain management were still heavily disrupted. It's appropriate to note here that lens element makers such as big-hitter Kyocera under contract to a number of companies for its aspherical lens elements using high melting-temperature glass tends to suck up a lot of raw materials for its operations. That means lens makers such as Nikon and Canon end up at the back of the line as their lens making operations attempt to ramp back up after regional recovery (factory/fab/assembly line repairs, restoration of stable power to facilities, replacement of damaged/written-off equipment and so on). Again though, the extent to which Kyocera and other raw lens element and lens blank makers supply Nikon and Canon under contract is completely unknown and a very closely guarded secret. Nikon and Canon aren't standing around like beggars without any influence either - there's plenty of leverage being exerted by Nikon, a very good customer for a number of raw materials suppliers for many, many years. The point is mainly that Nikon lens engineering and Canon lens engineering are each highly proprietary and inextricably intertwined with optical physics, color science, acuity and all the various things of which the respective Nikon and Canon looks are comprised. Any information about contract work by Tamron or contract work by Kyocera - whether it's parts supply or physical product making of any kind - has to always be utterly secret for fear of allowing even the vaguest hint about proprietary information into the market. This is all ample backup for anyone to challenge some random photography equipment salesperson who babbles casually about some Nikon or Canon lens really being 100% Tamron or whatever. Nobody knows and nobody should really care because anything done off-site for Nikon is executed according to the strictest Nikon engineering and specifications and then tested on that basis.
Tokina seems directly unaffected by any of the 2011 disasters. As with Sigma and Tamron though, logistics and infrastructure stability are regularly problematic now in northern Japan, manufacturing pace is slower than it should be (and aside from already downturned retail markets globally). Tokina has very little to do with Thailand at this time.
There are bound to be follow-on effects, but Tamron, Tokina and Sigma do not have any announcements for anything but new lenses, competitions, exhibitions and other rosy stuff in their respective press releases. According to rough estimates, depending on the regions, dealer inventory for all three lens makers is between 15%-30% below the historical levels maintained during the five years preceeding January 2009, mainly because dealers are not stocking anything close to traditional quantities or models. However, if dealers in some region suddenly decided to buck retail trending and increase inventory levels they'd all have trouble getting complete orders in any sort of normal time frame.
Tamron is listed on the Tokyo exchange as 7740. Sigma is a private company. Tokina is a private company. Nikon is a listed on the Tokyo exchange as 7731.
That's it in a nutshell. The big brands have takien a solid kick in the pants - three times in a row within 8 months. Some third-party makers and the second-tier lens brands have fared much better. Thailand-based and Japan-based semiconductor, wafer, discrete component and sensor makers have been devastated. It looks right now - keeping in mind that assessment mode has barely even started, never mind recovery planning of even the slightest kind - that all affected Thai-based manufacturing, fab and assembly work is set back at least until next year's monsoon season before it begins to recover even so much as 30% of its capacity. If there's another historically awful monsoon season in 2012, look for the majority of affected companies to uproot and head for the hills (U.S., Canada, Europe, Taiwan, China - although cost/benefit analyses on mainland China-based operations no longer look anywhere near as rosy as they did as recently as 24 months ago).
The times they are a-changin' (again).
All of the foregoing comes from EE Times, one of my own Asia-Pacific based research resources, NewsOnJapan.com, World News Report (EIN), Digital Trends Inc., Business Week Asia, Bangkok Post, Nippon News and NHK World.