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Last week Printweek reported that an explosion at the Japanese Konica Minolta Tatsuno Factory on 12 August had resulted in an impending likely shortage of toner supply.
In a statement released today (27 September), the business said: “We sincerely apologise for the considerable inconvenience and concerns among local residents, relevant authorities, and customers who use our products.”
The manufacturer added both last month’s explosion and the prior fire at the same factory on 6 July occurred in the secondary drying process in the toner production process, and that following the explosion the company took time to collect and analyse data.
“As a result of in-house investigation including objective advice from a third-party organisation, we have decided it is highly likely that the static electricity generated in this drying process was the cause of the dust explosion.
“As a measure to resume production, we introduced a new production process that does not use the secondary drying process, with the aim of eliminating the risk of accidents and ensuring safety.”
The risk assessment by experts is currently underway at Konica Minolta Supplies Manufacturing’s Kofu Factory, located in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, which also produces toners for the group, albeit mainly for office products.
The company said that “with confirmation that the assessment ends with no problem”, it will resume production of toners with this new production process on 18 October.
It added the Tatsuno Factory, which mainly produces toners “for on-demand digital printing systems”, is also going through a similar risk assessment, and that the resumption of toner production at the site is planned on 8 November.
Shipments of products are scheduled to begin on 28 October at the Kofu Factory, and then on 20 November at the Tatsuno Factory.
The group’s statement today also specifically addressed domestic toner supply in Japan.
The company said: “Supply of toners for office products continues so that customers can continue to print.
“Regarding toners for on-demand digital printing systems, we are trying to recover at an early stage, including adoption of alternative toners.
“As for some colour toners, with our sincere apology, we have no choice but to halt new orders.”
It added that until supply for these toners begins again around 20 November “we will continue to provide support for the business continuity of our customers”.
“For monochrome machines, toner supply will keep running, while adjusting the shipment volume.
“The Konica Minolta Group takes the accidents seriously and will continue to strive to ensure the safety of the community. At the same time, we would like to express our sincere apologies for the accidents, which caused concerns and inconvenience to our customers due to a shortage in the supply of toners.
“We also ask for understanding and support as we work to resume production in the future.”
Printweek has contacted Konica Minolta to request a UK/Europe specific update.
One Konica Minolta customer told Printweek: “At least we’ve got a date. We are trying to do everything we can to conserve our toner stocks, and we’re outsourcing work where that is an option. We’re also looking at how quickly we can get alternative presses installed – every other KM user is doing the same thing.
“KM has set up an online portal for UK customers where they have partnered with somebody to get customers’ work printed at their expense. They’re obviously doing their best to sort it out, but it’s going to have huge ramifications for their business.”
The KM statement appeared to hint that a third-party toner option could be under consideration, although the customer was unsure if this would be a viable option.