published Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Tsunami may slow production at Chattanooga Komatsu plant

A Komatsu America employee parks a new piece heavy equipment on the yard Monday at the Chattanooga manufacturing plant. Komatsu employs more than 200 people at the Signal Mountain Road facility.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
A Komatsu America employee parks a new piece heavy equipment on the yard Monday at the Chattanooga manufacturing plant. Komatsu employs more than 200 people at the Signal Mountain Road facility. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Komatsu’s local plant chief said Monday it will take “a miracle” for unfolding events not to create problems for the heavy equipment maker.

The Chattanooga assembly plant receives about 20 percent of its components from Japan, said Dennis Riddell, the factory’s general manager. One Japanese parts plant that supplies the Chattanooga facility is near a city severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, he said.

“You can’t finish [a piece of equipment] without all the parts,” Riddell said. “We do have a Komatsu facility near Sendai that makes hydraulic components that does supply stuff to us.”

But, the plant official said issues related to components should be at least a month off because the plant usually has that amount of goods in the facility or en route.

“It will be four to six weeks before any impact,” he said. Much depends on how much damage there is in component factories, other suppliers and Japanese ports, the Komatsu official said.

Riddell said the Signal Mountain Road plant employs nearly 300 people.

Meanwhile, Japanese automaker Nissan’s Tennessee plants in nearby Decherd and Smyrna were operating Monday on a normal schedule in the wake of the devastating tsunami.

But the company said some Infiniti models along with the Nissan GTR and 370Z may experience delays in shipment to the United States because of damage in the port of Hitachi and in Tagajo City.

Also, a shipment of more than 600 Nissan Leafs destined for the U.S. left port in Japan on March 10 just before the earthquake, and will arrive as scheduled.

Future impact, if any, on Nissan Leaf supply continues to being assessed, the company said.

In a prepared statement, Nissan said all employees and family members of Nissan America are safe and accounted for, including those on assignment in Japan and traveling in the country on business.

ABOUT KOMATSU

Komatsu was one of the first major Japanese investments in the city when it acquired the former Koehring-Lorain plant on Signal Mountain Road in the mid-1980s.

Other Japanese-owned companies in East Tennessee reported few problems Monday from the tsunami and earthquake.

“We procure our raw materials domestically,” said Derrick Watson, plant manager for the 100-employee NA Industries, a Japanese-owned plant in the Centre South Riverport.

The company makes absorbent polymers, water soluble polymers and polymers for concrete admixture and is a subsidiary of Nippon Shokubai Co. Ltd.

The Denso manufacturing plant in Athens, Tenn., doesn’t expect an impact from recent events in Japan, company spokeswoman Brandy Cooper said.

The company reported no major damage at its Japanese plants.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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