Over the last few months, I have questioned why Apple couldn’t assemble iPhones and iPads in this country. Tim Worstall of Forbes.com wrote a piece on my iPad post saying the reason Apple wouldn’t move production back to this country is because it would cut Apple’s earnings on its iPads and this would make the market and investors very unhappy. Just this last weekend, the venerable New York Times published a piece on why Apple can’t move production back to this country. And apparently Tim Worstall of Forbes was all wet. Apple doesn’t assemble its products overseas so it can cash in on the wage differential between American and Chinese workers. No, the reason the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other Apple products sold last year are assembled overseas is that America’s companies and workers are not up to the task. According to the N.Y. Times piece, “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.” Wow, I wonder if that is really true?
Flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of Chinese workers
It seems that the reason Apple doesn’t manufacture jack in this country is because America’s lazy, spoiled manufacturing workers apparently lack sufficient commitment to the Apple cause. An example described in the article shows why. Apple’s Great Helmsman apparently decided that the iPhone’s screen needed to be revamped shortly before the phone’s release. Complete commitment to Apple’s customers they say, poor planning on Apple’s part I say. You make the call! Anyway, the new screens began arriving at a Chinese plant near midnight. Thankfully 8,000 flexible and diligent Chinese workers were sleeping together in the company’s dormitories, so it was a simple matter to herd them, I mean guide them, to their work stations to start a new 12 hour shift fitting glass screens into the beveled frames of iPhones. Apple got its iPhones assembled on time and the 8,000 flexible and diligent Chinese workers got a biscuit and a cup of tea and another 12 hour shift assembling iPhones; sounds like a win-win to me! An Apple executive commented, “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking, there’s no American plant that can match that.” You know, I think he might be right, at least as to American manufacturing plants in operation subsequent to the Guilded Age.
Not all of the Chinese workers making Apple’s products are able to maintain their flexible and diligent nature continually. To understand why, I would suggest you read one of the myriad of articles regarding the working conditions at some of Apple’s suppliers, a few of which appeared in the New York Times. The monthly turnover rate of Foxconn’s ground-level employees is 5 percent according to Foxconn. After a rash of suicides at Foxconn, Apple encourgaged Foxconn to address the problem. One of key actions Foxconn took involved “attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides.” Am I the only one who thinks that seems to be an attempt to treat the symptom rather than the cause?
Tomorrow I will address the argument presented in the Times piece by our Apple betters regarding our complete inability to competently assemble iPhones and iPads. Man, are we pathetic! Stay tuned.