Quake damaged paint plant comes back online in Japan

The March 11 earthquake and resultant tsunami in Japan rocked the country's automotive supply chain, leaving many suppliers with damaged factories and unreliable power. One nearly immediate impact was that automakers like Ford, Toyota and Chrysler could no longer offer colors like red or black.

That's because Merck's Onahama factory, which makes the Xirallic pigment used to add luster to colors, was damaged by the natural disaster. But while repairs were scheduled to take longer, The Detroit News reports that the facility was fixed ahead of schedule and production has resumed.

Peter Halas, who heads Pigments and Cosmetics at Merck, said in a statement that the timely repair of the factory was a major achievement, adding "I would like to thank our employees in Japan for their tremendous efforts."

Merck says that the Onahama facility, which is 36 miles south of the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, is outside of the evacuation area, and the company will adhere to public directives to ensure the safety of employees. The company is also testing products from the plant to comply with safety standards.

To help prevent future shortages of Xirallic, Merck says it plans to establish another production site in Germany for the popular pigment.

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