With so much at stake, Thomson's aggressive response to the threat of SARS at its Asian facilities is typical of the preventative actions taken by vendors throughout the CE industry.
Thomson operates four factories in southern China (three audio plants and one components facility) and has offices in Hong Kong. To date, no cases of SARS have been reported at its plants, and production at these factories and at those from which other products come has continued without interruption.
"We have not felt any significant effect," said a senior spokesman for the company.
"Each plant has a specific policy to control materials and employees," he said. At one audio plant in Dongguan in Guang Dong province, all employees must have their temperature taken before entering the building, and if it's above 38 degrees Centigrade, they're taken to an isolation room for six hours. If their temperature doesn't drop below 38 by then, the government requires that they be sent to a hospital. "To date, we've had a few cases of people with temperatures above 38 degrees, but they all went below 38 in six hours," the spokesman said.
Also at the Dongguan plant, shipments of materials are dropped off outside, then taken to an isolation room for six hours. The time frame is based on the World Health Organization's current knowledge that the virus can survive for six hours outside the body, he said.
"We have also increased the cleaning processes in the factories and canteens," he noted.
As for travel, Thomson has "restricted all travel to and from the Hong Kong, Singapore and China region unless it is very necessary for business — and then you need authorization from an executive committee member," he said. Travel plans "have to be justified and authorized." Upon returning to Europe or the U.S., employees are required to spend 10 days at home or in a hotel before returning to their offices.
Because of the travel restrictions, Thomson has increased its use of videoconferencing and conference calls between Hong Kong and other parts of the world "to ensure the continuity of business." So far, the restrictions "have not affected operations significantly, including product management," the spokesman said.