/// Seven Questions for Seagate CEO Steve Luczo About the Effects of the Thailand Floods
Name an executive of any company that makes any kind of computing hardware that contains a hard drive, and you can bet they’re worried about Thailand. The country is now beginning the arduous job of cleaning up from the floods that killed upwards of 600 people and dealt a body blow to its industrial and manufacturing base. One industry hit especially hard is the computer business. The world relies on factories in Thailand to turn out critical components used to build hard drives, and factories there are out of commission for now. This is not a trivial problem — the factories in question are not easy to replace, retool and restart once they dry out. Nor is the answer simply for the hard drive manufacturers to build new factories somewhere outside the flood zone. This is the kind of supply chain disruption that the computer industry hasn’t seen in many years. I had a chance to talk with Steve Luczo, the CEO of Seagate Technology, for his view of the situation. Seagate has been relatively lucky in that its factories haven’t been directly impacted like those of Western Digital and Toshiba. But many companies that supply Seagate with necessary components have been hit, and it will be some time before they’re back on their feet. Luczo told me that the computer industry as a whole — including companies who make PCs, servers, workstations and any other device that contains a hard drive, whether a set-top box or an enterprise storage device — can expect acute supply-chain disruptions to last well into 2012, and that it will take until the end of 2013 for the industry to return to its pre-flood operating posture. You read that right: It will be two years before the supply of hard drives is anywhere near “back to normal,” and there are simply no easy solutions for getting it fixed. An estimate by the market research firm IHS iSuppli pegs the available supply at 125 million units, which is about 29 percent short of demand of 175 million units. By its reckoning, more than one-quarter of the world’s hard drive manufacturing capacity has been disrupted in one way or another, including 45 percent of the capacity devoted to making hard drives for personal computers. I spoke with Luczo by phone yesterday, and tossed in an extra eighth question because of the importance of the subject.