Earthquake's impact on global NAND Flash bit supply to result in less than 4% shrink in 2Q11

March 18, 2011 // By Julien Happich
The devastating earthquake that hit Tohoku Japan on March 11th, on top of its terrible victim toll, has brought changes to the NAND Flash market. However, information on the power and transportation infrastructures damaged by the Earthquake remain incomplete, DRAMeXchange has made some comprehensive assessments based on the available information as following.

Buyers who expected a potential shortage of NAND Flash initiated a speculative buying. Consequently, led to a panic surge in spot prices and an approximately 5% to 15% increase in 1H’March NAND Flash contract average selling price. Two major uncertainties in the supply chain are first the raw material from IC upstream vendors and the condition of Toshiba Yokkaichi NAND Flash plants.

1.) Some IC raw material and equipment vendors were located in the Tohoku and Kanto area of Japan, a limited power supply and damages on the major highways brought uncertainty to the production of NAND Flash. Especially the Shin-Etsu Chemical plants located in Fukushima and Shirakawa were shut down for safety inspection. Another global major supplier of silicon wafer, Sumco, its Yonezawa plant was also shut down. Moreover, the crash of Fukushima nuclear power plant continued to cause major problem in the local power supply.

Japan is part of the Circum-Pacific Seismic Zone, for that reason Japanese semiconductor equipments and facilities were designed to withstand some magnitude of earthquake. As a result there were no severe damages on most local IC-related manufacturers. On the other hand, the limited power supply became a major concern among affected manufacturers. It is common for NAND Flash makers to diversify their source of silicon wafer and usually they sustained a 6 to 8 weeks of inventory.

If Shin-Etsu Chemical, one of the major silicon wafer supplier in the world, Shirakawa plant can be back on track within a month. The production of NAND Flash is unlikely to be affected. Based on the help from many countries and Japanese attitude of calm, co-operation & perseverance, Japan demonstrated its ability in recovering soon after disaster; the limited power supply is expected to be solved shortly. Furthermore, NAND Flash makers tend to adopt lithography equipments from non-Japan vendors for most of the 2ynm and 1xnm process technologies, thus it will have little effect on the future