Rechargeables Strong Despite Lithium Cell Meltdown
Topic Developing and Managing Products (New Product Development and Product Life Cycle)
Key Words Commercialization, quality, TQM, product safety, test marketing
InfoTrac Reference A160863198
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News Story 

The mobile computing industry experienced a lithium-ion battery meltdown in 2006 when power packs linked to Japanese electronics maker Sony Corp. overheated in laptops by Dell, Apple, Fujitsu, and Toshiba. Apple Computer alone recalled 1.8 million notebook battery packs after discovering that cells inside the computers were overheating. Dell announced a similar recall around the same time, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the recalls were among the two largest in consumer electronics history.

Initial investigations revealed that Sony's battery defects were manufacturing-related. In some instances, batteries contained impurities such as small metal shards introduced during the manufacturing process. When shards made contact with other parts of the battery they produced a short circuit, causing excessive heat.

The massive battery recalls cast a pall over manufacturing at Sony and cost the company millions of dollars. During the first half of the fiscal year, Sony recalled 9.6 million faulty lithium-ion battery packs at a cost of 51.2 billion yen (nearly $433 million USD). Sony's President, Ryoji Chubachi, stated that the problem of overheating battery packs was attributable to the company's lack of technological risk management.

Despite this temporary setback, the overall demand for lithium-based batteries is strong. Global demand for lithium-based secondary batteries will reach $12.95 billion in 2010, up from $6.67 billion in 2005.


Briefly outline the new-product development process and explain its role in preventing the manufacture of defective goods.


What can manufacturers do to help prevent faulty products from being introduced into the market?

Source James Carbone, "Demand remains strong for lithium cells," Purchasing, March 15, 2007 v136 i4 p19
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