Glenn Reynolds makes a good point about the far-reaching disruption to the modern supply chain that a single disaster across the globe can have. From his article:
Japan’s earthquake was in some ways a triumph of preparedness: Thanks to strict building codes, not a single building in Tokyo collapsed. But the earthquake, and the tsunami it produced, have had impacts that go well beyond the immediate.
In particular, the damage is exposing the extent to which modern supply-chain management has produced a system that is so lean it lacks the reserve capacity needed to cope with disasters.
In manufacturing, plants have been idled around the world because Japanese factories — or often, a single Japanese factory — serve as the sole source for a vital component. With the factories sidelined by damage or power outages, the components are unavailable, and production has to stop.