Going digital: A rapid return to form after flood damage forces factory shutdowns

Along with the auto and food processing sectors, Thailand’s electronics and electrical (E&E) industry is one of the strongest manufacturing segments and accounted for approximately 23% of the country’s export revenues in 2011. The region-leading industry currently has some 800 factories, many operated by high-profile companies, including Japanese heavyweights Sony, Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Panasonic, as well as European, American and Korean manufacturers Electrolux, Schneider Electric, Honeywell Electronic, Emerson Electric, Carrier, LG and Samsung. Total export revenues for 2011 amounted to $44.09bn, with $32.71bn from the electronics sector and $11.38bn from the electrical appliance sector, a tick above the $44.05bn registered in 2010 according to the Bank of Thailand.

The largest single market segment was computer parts and accessories, totalling $14.6bn in exports for 2011, followed by integrated circuits and parts, with $7.91bn. Major export destinations include China, the US, Europe, Japan and other ASEAN countries.

PRODUCTION POWER: Through the first 11 months of 2011, Thai manufacturers produced 1.01m televisions, 1.54m fans, 4.01m rice cookers, 3.9m refrigerators and 9.66m air conditioners, according to data from Thailand’s central bank. These levels were on pace to come in significantly lower than 2010 output totals of 1.78m televisions, 1.64m fans, 4.2m rice cookers, 4.02m refrigerators and 10.47m air conditioners. As a result, the manufacturing production index for radio, television and communication equipment and apparatus averaged 103.8 for January through November 2011, down from the 117.2 registered in 2010 but still higher than the 95.3 recorded in 2009.

Prior to the late-2011 monsoon floods that wreaked havoc on the industry, production was paced to eclipse 2010 output according to data from the Ministry of Commerce’s department of Export Promotion. A ministry spokesperson stated that the export value of electrical appliances through the first eight months of 2011 exceeded $15.76bn, an expansion of 17.5% over the same period the previous year. Exports of air conditioners and accessories experienced even stronger growth, at 26.65% over the same period.

DIGITAL STORAGE: While electric appliances remain an important component of the E&E sector, the value of more sophisticated electronics manufacturing continues to encompass an increasingly large share of the industry’s export value. Producing roughly one-third of all hard disc drives (HDDs), Thailand is the single largest HDD manufacturer and is home to a host to some of the largest producers in the world. These include Seagate, which operates manufacturing facilities in Samut Prakan and Nakorn Ratchasima; Western Digital in Pathum Thani and Ayutthaya; Toshiba, also in Pathum Thani; and Hitachi Global (which is in the process of merging with Western Digital) operating out of Prachinburi near the Cambodian border. Since many of these manufacturing facilities are close to one another around the outskirts of Bangkok, all HDD production was disrupted in late 2011 by the flooding to the extent that global hard drive supply and prices were affected.

SLOWING DOWN: A host of other electronics companies were also wholly or partially side-lined, including semiconductor-based components manufacturer Emcore Corporation, data storage and network equipment producer Emulex Corporation, electronics company NEC Global, and electronic component and chip producer Marvell Technology Group. While the flood damage undoubtedly curtailed production for 2011, nearly all electronics components companies had retooled and were running by 2012.

Apart from HDDs, Thailand’s second most successful electronic subsector is the integrated circuits used in a wide variety of electrical appliances and devices. Major international companies in semiconductor manufacturing and related facilities in Thailand currently include Rohm, Oki, Sanyo, Stanley and Shindengen from Japan; Maxim Integrated Products, Microchip Technology, Spansion and Honeywell from the US; South Korea’s KEC; NXP from Europe; and Taiwan-based firm Lite-On.

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The Report: Thailand 2012

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