Apple: How the US lost out on iPhone work?

In de NY Times verscheen een uitgebreide analyse van de Apple supply chain naar aanleiding van vragen van president Obama aan Steve Jobs tijdens een diner eerder in 2011: What would it take to make iPhones in the United States? Why can’t that work come home? Steve Jobs antwoordde direct: ‘Those jobs aren’t coming back…’

De NY Times maakte een uitgebreide analyse van de of shoring van productie van Apple naar met name China en de betekenis voor de industrie in de Verenigde Staten op basis van interviews met medewerkers van Apple en leveranciers. De analyse bevat zeker ook leerzaam lessen voor producenten in Europa.

Enkele ‘quotes’ uit het artikel van NY Times:

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

Speed and flexibility

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Cheaper and smarter

In part, Asia was attractive because the semiskilled workers there were cheaper. But that wasn’t driving Apple. For technology companies, the cost of labor is minimal compared with the expense of buying parts and managing supply chains that bring together components and services from hundreds of companies.

For Apple, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” The result is that “we can’t compete at this point,” the executive said.

Engineering

Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States. In China, it took 15 days.

Bron: NY Times

Inmiddels reageren ook veel Chinese lezers op de berichtgeving over Apple en Foxconn in China.

 

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