Japan disaster triggers Lenovo plans to test PCs for radiation
Posted March 31, 2011 3:48 p.m. EDT
Updated March 31, 2011 3:49 p.m. EDT
Morrisville, N.C. — Lenovo, the world’s No. 4 PC maker, is preparing to test parts purchased in Japan for radiation and also expects to experience shortages that will affect the availability of multiple products this spring.
Ray Gorman, head of media relations for the Morrisville-based company, confirmed the radiation tests would begin in the near future and several laptop models will be in short supply starting in May.
No Lenovo employees have been affected by the March 11 earthquakes, tsunami and ensuing radiation leakages in Japan where it employs fewer than 2,000 people. “We are fortunate that all Lenovo employees and their immediate families are safe and in good health,” Gorman said. “In addition, we have experienced minimal damage to our business infrastructure in Japan due to this tragic event.”
“Operating with an abundance of caution, we are currently developing a plan to test our systems for radiation before they leave the factories,” Gorman said. “Testing details and implementation plan are [to be determined] in the very near future. Date to begin testing is [to be determined.]”
Asked if some parts would still be used even if exposed to radiation, Gorman replied: “Part of our test plan will be to identify the appropriate, widely accepted safe standard.”
The spread of radiation from damaged nuclear reactors has reached far beyond the areas directly affected by the multiple quakes and massive tsunami that has taken an estimated 25,000 lives. Manufacturers from PC components to automobiles have been affected with entire plants in some cases shut down due to quake damage.
“No evidence” of radiation exposure
“There is no evidence that any currently available Lenovo products are at risk of, or have been exposed to, elevated or unsafe levels of radiation,” Gorman explained. “Our PCs have been used around the world for three decades without any known health issues associated with radiation.”
Like many manufacturers, Lenovo acquires components from a wide variety of sources. Most of its PCs and laptops are assembled in Taiwan and China. Lenovo does have a design lab in Yamato, Japan, and is in the process of buying the PC division of Japan-based NEC.
Media reports have indicated that other PC manufacturers will be affected by the supply chain disruption.
HP is No. 1 in global PC sales followed by Dell, Acer and Lenovo.
In an attempt to alleviate the parts situation, Lenovo is “strategically buying ahead key components where we anticipate industry-wide supply constraints,” Gorman said. The company is also “working to qualify additional sources of supply for some commodities.”
The supply chain problems come at an especially inopportune time for Lenovo. The company, which bases most of its operations in China, reported record revenues and profits in 2010. A sales surge lifted Lenovo to above a 10 percent market share around the globe for the first time.
Over the past two years, Lenovo has been extremely aggressive in rolling out new products, from laptops to new tablets known as “LePads” and smart phones called “LePhone.”
ThinkPad models to be affected
According to Gorman, shortages are expected as soon as May and as late as “possibly July.”
The most likely products to be affected are ThinkPad laptops in the T, X and W Series, Gorman added.
“There is a lower risk of shortages for other Lenovo laptop products in the ThinkPad, IdeaPad and Essential families,” he explained. “At this point, we do not anticipate any impact on supplies of desktop products.”
Lenovo also does not plan to delay the international launch of the LePad, which is set for this summer. Currently LePads are only available in China.
Among the parts affected by the Japan disaster are hard drives and batteries. Gorman declined to discuss specific numbers.