Foxconn reopens polishing facilities, other than Chengdu

The polishing workshop at Chengdu where Foxconn makes iPads is still shut

Foxconn has reopened all its polishing workshops, other than the one at Chengdu in China, which was shut down after a blast there on May 20 killed three persons, the company said.

After the explosion traced to the polishing workshop at the Chengdu factory, Foxconn shut down its polishing workshops at other factories for a review of all safety policies and procedures at the workshops.

The investigation into the explosion at the facility in Chengdu is ongoing, Foxconn Technology Group said in a statement on Thursday. It did not give a date for the reopening of this facility which makes Apple's iPad 2.

Foxconn has another facility in Shenzhen that makes most of the iPads, but some analysts have raised doubts whether the factory at Shenzhen can make up for the disruption of production at Chengdu.

Research firm IHS iSuppli said in May that if production at the Chengdu factory is disrupted until the end of June, it could result in a production loss of about 500,000 units of the iPad 2 in the second quarter.

Foxconn said on Thursday that while the investigation into the Chengdu blast continues, it has addressed the preliminary finding that the accident was likely due to an explosion of aluminum dust in a ventilation duct. The company said it had put in place improvements in workshop ventilation, revamped its policies and practices relating to the disposal of the dust, and applied new technologies that will further enhance the safety in these workshops.

Should the investigation identify any additional areas where improvements could be made, Foxconn will not hesitate to immediately implement those measures, it added.

While most iPad 2 production takes place at the Foxconn facility in Shenzhen, that plant may not be able to compensate for all the lost output in the second quarter at the Chengdu site, iSuppli said.

The research firm has forecast that 7.4 million iPad 2 units will be shipped into the channel during this period. The Shenzhen factory, with a production capacity of 7.5 million units, may not be able to meet all the production requirements, as it will have to produce 7.8 to 8.1 million units to meet the gap between factory production and the shipment of products into the channel, Rhoda Alexander, an iSuppli analyst said. Not all manufactured units make it through the final inspection, for example, Alexander added.

Gartner analyst Amy Teng however said she did not anticipate a significant impact from the Chengdu blast on iPad shipments. The Chengdu factory had just started making the iPads, and most of the production of iPads is still done in other factories in China, she added.

[With inputs from Michael Kan in Beijing]

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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