Written by Jonny Williamson
A fatal explosion at Evonik Industries AG Plant at the end of March has led to a global shortage of the obscure resin Nylon-12, an essential material for the manufacturing of automobiles. Located in the German town of Marl, the Evonik plant makes 25 percent of the world’s Nylon-12, as well as providing the chemical building block to another company which produces almost the same amount.
Evonik describes itself as “the only integrated maker of the resin”, which is used throughout the world by car manufacturers to make fuel and brake lines, as well as flexible hoses, due to its ability to resist reaction to gasoline and brake fluids.
Now, almost three weeks since the explosion, many company’s own stocks are beginning to run dry as the industry as a whole searches for an alternative supply to avoid slowing down, or even stopping production altogether.
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Other materials have been put forward as a possible substitute for Nylon-12; however the testing and large-scale production necessary to fulfil demand means none are overnight solutions.
Earlier this week more than 200 auto-executives came together in Detroit to discuss the impending crisis and consider the long-term ramifications if shortages continue and an appropriate alternative isn’t found.
This time last year, the devastating tsunami halted Japanese production of Merck KGaA’s Xirallic, a shiny pigment used in certain colours of automotive paints. As the industry’s main supplier of the pigment many manufacturers felt the impact, forced to deal with the overall effects which lasted for more than six months.
To date, no auto-manufacturer has suggested production will be detrimentally affected, with Mike Goss, a Toyota spokesman, stating a typical standpoint:
“Until we complete an assessment with our suppliers, the impact is unknown. At this time, there is no need to adjust production, and we will continue to work closely with our suppliers to ensure ongoing production.”
Evonik have predicted that repairing the damage caused by the explosion, the cause of which is still under investigation, is likely to take until the end of the summer at the earliest.