Apple's outsourced Lightning cable plant in India goes up in flames

Local officials say fire suppression equipment wasn't operational

Apple supplier Foxlink has admitted a fire damaged its plant in Tirupati, India, and that disruptions to production are to be expected as a result.

Foxlink – or Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co., Ltd. as it is known in Taiwan – bills itself as "a total solution provider for fully-assembled accessories containing essential mechanical and electronic components."

In Tirupati that translates into operating a plant that employs around 400 staff and is believed to build Lightning cables for Apple.

Whatever goes on at the plant, Foxlink acknowledged the February 27 fire in a pair of regulatory filings.

One states: "we followed detailed protocols to evacuate everyone quickly and safely," adding "There were no serious injuries and all employees have returned to their accommodation."

The second filing reports four production lines have been affected, but that as Foxlink is insured for plant, equipment, and inventory the blaze won't impact its bottom line.

At least two months will reportedly be required before production returns to full capacity.

But trouble of another sort may not be far away for Foxlink. Local fire authorities told Reuters that smoke detectors, sprinklers and fire hydrants were faulty, and fire alarms did not go off. Foxlink will feel the regulatory lash if that assessment is verified.

Reuters reported that Foxlink shipped seven million USB-C to Lightning cables in 2022, plus another 1.6 million in January 2023 alone.

With Apple shipping around 250 million iPhones each year, plus close to 100 million iPads, losing part of the production from one Foxlink plant is likely to be an inconvenience rather than a worrying supply chain kink.

But flaming manufacturing plants are not what India wants – right now in particular. It's trying to convince the world that it represents a safe and sensible destination for electronics manufacturing. The 2020 riots at an Indian iPhone factory – sparked by an outsourced manufacturer not promptly paying wages – were not exactly a great advertisement for the nation's drive to make more electronics on home soil for both export and domestic consumption.

Nonetheless, Apple reportedly plans to assemble a quarter of its products in India. And it recently told investors it plans "a lot of emphasis" on local sales during 2023, with purchasing options designed to bring its products within reach of local pay packets. ®

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