January 25, 2012 09:24
Ninety percent of the parts of 70 million iPhones sold last year were made not in the U.S., but in China, Japan and Korea. Apple in other words depends on a foreign workforce for most of production.
The New York Times on Sunday cited current and former Apple employees and contractors, staff at suppliers, competitors and corporate partners, economists and many others as saying going overseas is Apple's only option.
"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," the daily said.
"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."
The advantage of overseas production was particularly apparent in a crisis. "In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores," Steve Jobs demanded a glass screen for the smartphone, saying, "I want it perfect in six weeks."
American glass makers opposed the idea because of technical difficulties and high cost. But a Chinese factory made a sample even before it had signed a contract with Apple, and set up on-site dormitories for workers so it could work 24 hours a day. Apple signed the contract. "A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company's dormitories... 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 daily added.
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