Here’s some free advice for Apple and other technology companies: start moving some of your manufacturing to the US. Buy up some plants and factories in places like Detroit, and start using them to manufacture things like iPhones, iPads, touch screens, memory chips, CPUs, and laptops.
I know it would be expensive, and I know they would lose money — at least initially. But here are the advantages:
- First and foremost, Americans need jobs. Although we are technically largely out of the latest recession, the economic reality is that there are still way too many unemployed Americans (and things are likely to get worse with so much uncertainty in the Middle East and Japan). On the one hand, devices like the Kinect are setting world records for sales and there are huge lines for the iPad 2, but on the other hand, the unemployment rate is still far higher than it should be. Why not put Americans to work building the same devices we stand in line for?
- Manufacturing needs to return to the US at some point — why not now? I’m convinced that the day will come when the US will be forced to start doing more manufacturing on its own soil. Yes, the economy has become truly global, but that doesn’t mean competition between countries goes away. I believe there are advantages to a nation being able to manufacture the products its citizens rely on.
- Imagine the goodwill. We all know that Apple makes great devices, but imagine the goodwill and press that Apple could get from selling great devices that are not only responsibly manufactured and responsibly recycled, but were also partially or entirely manufactured in the US. In addition to just "Designed by Apple in California," Apple could also boast "Made in America."
- Apple could exert even more control over their products. Apple already controls a great deal of the life cycle of their products from the design all the way through the retail experience, but they don’t control the manufacturing process very well. Products are frequently leaked, and I know for a fact that components are sold on the black market (I’ve bought them in order to do at-home iPhone repairs). I suspect there is also a fair amount of IP that gets leaked when products and product designs are so far out of Apple’s control. By moving manufacturing to their own factories in the US, Apple could do a much better job of containing and controlling information, intellectual property, and even the hardware itself.
I’m not naive enough to think that this is a serious possibility since the return is probably too uncertain and too far off for a public company to take seriously. However, if Apple and other technology companies really want to change the world, there are more profound ways of doing it than just slick devices and marketing hype.