Thursday 12 May 2011

Two Months On

It's two months since the quake, aftershocks have become infrequent, and I'm happy again in this 7th floor apartment which I hated that first uneasy month. Time does heal.

I wish I could say the same about the company. April sales were 30% down on last April which is a huge drop and as an independent company would have put us in an extremely dangerous position. Again, I am so relieved that the sale to Rengo went through. It's still hard to make sales forecasts. The Shinetsu Chemical factory in Shirakawa which suffered heavy damage to its furnace making silicon wafers we had understood to be a candidate for closure but it has opened and will reach full production in July. On the other hand, a company making plastic trays for food which was supposed to open soon will not re-open until December. The situation is still very uncertain and it will take a while to get back to anything like normal trading conditions.

Rengo wanted to know what our peak electricity usage is. All companies in the group with a peak of 500 kilowatts are, on the CEO's instructions, to devise plans for cutting electricity by 25% or at the least avoiding peak times. This instruction was in place for the Tokyo area but with the decision to close the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka the instruction has been made nationwide. Turning off the lights is not going to result in a 25% reduction. Some things they were talking about were producing cases ahead of the August peak and keeping them in storage (incurring warehouse costs) or working overnight shifts (paying time and a half). To our great relief our peak usage is 437 kilowatts so we don't have to participate, or at least not to that extent. 

To add insult to injury it seems there are to be fines for those companies that don't cooperate. So, Tokyo Electric has a nuclear accident, reducing the electicity supply, as a result of which we all have to save electricity and if we don't we're fined! Faulty logic there.

But necessity is the mother of invention so perhaps Japan will become a leader in alternative energy.

On TV we've been watching residents in the 20 km evacuation area bussed in to visit their homes for the first time since the earthquake. They look like they're going to the moon rather than to an ordinary house in an ordinary town. They're dresed head to toe in white outfits, with thick rubber gloves, a geiger counter round their necks. They're only allowed in their houses (still in post-earthquake mess) for two hours and only allowed to bring out a bin liner of stuff. Poor people. It's incredible.

I'm off to Osaka tomorrow with our Number 2. There's a big meeting of Rengo subsidiaries and we're to be introduced to the clan. Back on Friday.
Take care.

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