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Western Digital starts shipping drives from Thailand

While Western Digital’s hard drive production facility at Navanakorn remains too wet to use, the restarting of a line at Bang Pa-in has been welcomed the world over. Just how bad the damage to buildings will proves to be in the long run – and how long it takes WD to get back to full production is another question entirely. KitGuru scans the reports and, well, reports.

If you spend too long in the bath, your skin gets all wrinkly. Western Digital’s hard drive production plat at Bang Pa-in went under water on 15th October and only surfaced for air in the second half of November. IT was a further 9 days before it was deemed safe enough to turn the lights back on.

Overall, the hit to the channel and – ultimately – end users has been immense. Even if things go really well with the recovery plan, WD is unlikely to ship more than 120 million drives this quarter. But at least the company’s executives are upbeat about the recovery.

“The passion, perseverance, ingenuity and execution exhibited by the WD team has been extraordinary and enabled us to make substantial progress in partially restoring our operations in Thailand, well in advance of our earliest expectations when the floods hit,” said John Coyne, president and chief executive officer of WD. “Much work remains to be done but we couldn’t be more pleased with the effort and results thus far, including tremendous support from our supply partners and strategic customers”.

More good news follows for WD stakeholders. Just as the existing plants come back to full production around March 2012, a new FAB in Penang, Malaysia will also open its doors. We’re going to take a wild guess and say that the Penang facility is WELL above any flood planes in the area.

Once the Navanakorn plat in Thailand has been completely emptied of water and dried off with a thick towel, work will begin to remove contamination, ahead of a complete refurbishment.

Having suffered the biggest set-back that a hard drive manufacturer can suffer, Western Digital was happy to push out some good news – but did not feel up to an investor conference call to discuss these announcements. Maybe Q1 2012, once everything has settled.

Western Digital will also complete the purchase of Hitachi’s disk drive operation in March 2012. Which has to give them more options in the future. For example, with the Hitachi had drive plants that have been built INSIDE the PC production plants in China – to reduce the distance that shipments need to travel. Nice.

John Coyne from Western Digital says that his company is ready to bounce back in 2012. Everyone wishes WD well.

KitGuru says: It’s good that the plants are coming back, but a pity that they ever left. On the plus side, this natural disaster has proven fantastic for two groups. First, manufacturers of SSD products – all of whom have seen a big bump in sales. Second, the channel selling hard drives breathed a collective sigh of relief when the floods hit. Instead of wholesale sackings at companies like CMS, bonuses have been paid because the sales teams are targeted on gross profit. Instead of shifting drives around and making ‘pence’, Francesco Salmoni’s crew have been making proper bucks on the drives that have surfaced. Work less, make more?  Sounds like a winning strategy.

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