Quote of the Day, May 26 2011 — dust explosions & management in a supply chain

‘an explosion on Friday ripped through a workroom at one of Foxconn’s several plants, in Chengdu. The blast killed three workers. . . . 

Who knew dust could cause such headaches? Yes, dust. The company that epitomizes high tech appears to have fallen victim to a phenomenon long known to wheat farmers and coal miners: dust explosion. Herein lies an unexpected cautionary tale for managers both dusty and dustless.

The science of dust explosions is reasonably well understood. . . .

. . .

To understand what this means for supply-chain risks, consider that no great mystery surrounds how to prevent dust explosions. Managers first need to determine the combustibility of the various dusts their factories create. Preventing a dust explosion is then chiefly a matter of ensuring sufficient ventilation and general plant cleanliness, reducing potential ignition sources, and educating employees on necessary safety measures.

One implication of this is that dust explosions are in large part a management problem. Accidents will happen in even the best-run factories. Such may well turn out to be what happened at Foxconn. But it is telling that many cases of dust explosions even in the industrialized world involve management lapses of some sort.’

– Joseph Sternberg, “Leaving Apple in the Dust”, The Wall Street Journal, Business Asia column, article dated May 26 2011, site accessed May 26 2011 (article requires subscription to view in full)

Not going to add much here, since the quote pretty much says all I wanted to say. And it may turn out that Foxconn’s safety regulations & training were spot-on and absolutely up to par, meaning this was just an unfortunate accident.

But as the author of article points out, when an accident occurs which is a type that is not new, has a fairly well-understood cause & is usually avoided through employee training and adherence to established safety standards — well, when such an accident occurs it brings up the question of where else is the company not paying attention to details?

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