Lessons from the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery fire issue

As we have highlighted previously, lithium ion batteries are highly regulated when it comes to freight and distribution. However, the spate of fires associated with the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and the subsequent global recall, should act as a major wake up call across the smartphone supply chain.

According to Bloomberg, the heart of the issue lies in an allegedly flawed design. Industry reports suggest that Samsung’s own battery was slightly larger than the company specified. This created pressure on the flexible battery in the phone casing during use, causing the contacts to touch or creating another shorting issue.

The drama and scale of the issue should ensure that in future device hardware tolerances and specifications are more robustly checked and tested to rule out any potential for short circuiting and overheating. The Express has also mentioned that there are unconfirmed reports of current models of Apple iPhones catching fire, including the new iPhone 7. These issues further enforce calls for an independent body to undertake testing of new devices before launch.

One positive move that may come from this problem is a change in packaging. As part of the recall, Samsung is sending out fireproof kits for customers to return the products. These come with three boxes, a special antistatic bag, insulation layers and gloves for handling. The possibility exists that some, or all, of these layers of protection may form part of future consumer packaging if there is any loss of confidence in the market or changes in shipping or packaging regulations.

The issue highlights the need for producers to have adequate disaster PR management plans in place to handle any similar issue. Samsung has handled this problem as well as can be expected, but all companies can learn lessons. Brands should also have backup plans in place for new product lines, should a major disaster befall a key marque. It appears Samsung is looking to ditch the “Note” brand which has been permanently tainted by these fires. While it may have the resources for an easy marketing switch, others have replacement design, marketing and branding plans in place. We suspect that there will be call for independent regulations on testing for these issues and possibly how the batteries are ‘packaged’ within a handset.

Whatever the changes in market conditions, our Smart Phone and Device Packaging solutions and Reverse Logistics services will be able to cope with any legislation or market changes.


*sources for blog post