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.
Its interesting that you posted this – especially considering the fact that Wired covered just this type of thing in this months magazine:
They actually note that it is becoming very cost-effective to bring manufacturing back to America for smaller shops. Big shops like Apple are able to control the process and quality to a much higher degree, because of their purchasing power.
I would be willing to bet it would double or triple the cost of an iPhone, especially if you are referring to more than just assembly…I wounder how many people would forgo an iPhone at $1500?
It would be seriously cool though…even if it was just made in our hemisphere.
The decision to move manufacturing overseas was a business decision fueled by business objectives and obligations to shareholders. To reverse course would require a similar argument. While I agree with your sentiment, the only business-based point in your argument is to exercise more control over the process. That point alone just wouldn’t offset the additional costs.
I agree that there are certain advantages to bringing manufacturing to the US, being able to control the process more tightly is a good example. I also understand that a lot of Americans desperately need jobs.
That said, one must understand, however, that Apple is a publicly traded company. It is owned by people from all over the world. It is company’s responsibility to do what’s best for the shareholders. Why should an non-American shareholder lose money to help the average Americans? An iPhone that is made in America may appeal to American consumers, but to the rest of the world, it will only show that Apple is unable to separate business from emotions.
Who would like to work for 10 bucks a day?
Who would like to pay $1500 or more for an iPhone?
Who would accept to not own a car and walk to work?
Who would tolerate to build a lot of electronic devices they can’t buy?
Who would even eat three times less food than now?
And it’s even more complicated than that. There are hundreds of thousands people that work in China for Apple products. Steve Jobs said it requires 30,000 supervisors… not engineers or very high skilled qualified worker… just “Supervisor Worker”.
There’s not any US City that could have this number of people…. and even less that would work in the same conditions than Foxconn workers.
PS: And in the other hand, US market for Apple is probably not the primary market they target anymore… Having “Made in China” when you want to sell in China might also help Apple… and China is a way bigger market now with 1.3 Billion people.