Why Apple's 'Made in America' Mac Pro was delayed

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,131   +154
Staff member
The big picture: Apple's struggle in 2013 to manufacture its Mac Pro in the US highlights the many reasons why it's no longer feasible for most tech companies to build their goods stateside.

Critics for years have called for Apple to move manufacturing of its various products to the US. Although its hardware is famously designed in California, products are largely constructed overseas in China – a region that offers unrivaled expertise, infrastructure, cost and scale.

Production issues with the Mac Pro, a rare “made in America” product, highlight the struggles of domestic manufacturing.

Apple’s second generation Mac Pro was first unveiled at WWDC 2013 in June and went on sale the following December. Assembled in Austin, Texas, the machine was delayed for months due to various issues – one of them being a screw shortage.

The unorthodox form factor called for custom screws. Apple’s supplier, a 20-employee machine shop, was only able to churn out about 1,000 screws a day. Considering a single system likely requires multiple screws, it’s easy to see how the low production rate led to delays.

Sources tell The New York Times that Apple ended up ordering additional screws from China.

It’s just one example, albeit a telling one, of why Apple isn’t likely to move manufacturing to the states anytime soon (or perhaps, ever). It’s understandable why some support the notion of “made in America” but from a business / manufacturing standpoint, it’s hardly feasible.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,752   +7,668
The REAL problem is not being in America it is that our American companies are no longer set up for this kind of work so those little bitty issues soon become major issues. Apple should have Project Managers that think this out in advance and plan accordingly. As far as skill is concerned, they could hire away some of those Chinese labors and bring them here under sponsorship programs to set up the new facilities, get them running, and if they are worth it, hire them!

This is all very basic Operations and anyone here in that field should know as much .... assuming there are any left!
 

TomSEA

Posts: 3,326   +2,087
Uncle Al beat me to it. "It's not feasible.." is not an accurate statement. It's entirely feasible. But regardless of industry, the U.S. is set up for the R&D portion and final assembly, not basic assembly which China - and other SE Asian nations - have completely built their economies around. And that includes non-union, cheap labor.

I live in Seattle and Boeing is huge here, with 5 massive plants. What they do is all the engineering development and R&D, and final assembly and testing of planes before they ship them off to buyers. Things like interiors, electronics - even wings - are built elsewhere and shipped here.

It's just the way manufacturing has evolved, especially in the last 50 years.
 

Thayios

Posts: 15   +4
"Apple’s supplier, a 20-employee machine shop, was only able to churn out about 1,000 screws a day."

So, the issue is that the supplier didn't scale up to match the required production therefor delaying the entire thing it seems. I would be willing to bet that their payments to said US company were the same as they were to an overseas MFG which would not be enough in the states.
 

IAMTHESTIG

Posts: 1,868   +901
From how this article was written, it sounds more like Apple just wanted to use some special screws to make it more difficult for their customers to get into the machine. I honestly can't imagine they couldn't have designed the computer to use some traditional screws that are readily available.

So I come to the conclusion this is just Apple screwing themselves, and the US economy, in the end...
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,469   +6,157
The REAL problem is not being in America it is that our American companies are no longer set up for this kind of work so those little bitty issues soon become major issues. Apple should have Project Managers that think this out in advance and plan accordingly. As far as skill is concerned, they could hire away some of those Chinese labors and bring them here under sponsorship programs to set up the new facilities, get them running, and if they are worth it, hire them!

This is all very basic Operations and anyone here in that field should know as much .... assuming there are any left!

Yep, it seems to me that whoever was managing this project screwed up big time. Starting from the time they received the final design they are given a good chunk of time to plan manufacturing. They could have been machining and ordering additional screws from china if needed within that time frame.
 

toooooot

Posts: 1,509   +753
Love the way they are designed, but would never wanna spend money on something so terribly lacking on upgrading possibilities.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,364   +5,589
Or did they have trouble sourcing screws because they couldnt use slave labor in the USA? Perhaps if they stopped using special snowflake screws and used normal screws like EVERYBODY ELSE they wouldnt have this issue.

Apple, the richest company on the planet, could easily pay some american workers to build a factory capable of building these screws, but that would require them to hire actual people instead of whipping slaves to make said screws. If they are not maximizing profit, Apple doesnt care.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,147   +5,774
Uncle Al beat me to it. "It's not feasible.." is not an accurate statement. It's entirely feasible. But regardless of industry, the U.S. is set up for the R&D portion and final assembly, not basic assembly which China - and other SE Asian nations - have completely built their economies around. And that includes non-union, cheap labor.

I live in Seattle and Boeing is huge here, with 5 massive plants. What they do is all the engineering development and R&D, and final assembly and testing of planes before they ship them off to buyers. Things like interiors, electronics - even wings - are built elsewhere and shipped here.

It's just the way manufacturing has evolved, especially in the last 50 years.

And it evolved this way because the US government and Wall Street are one and the same.
 

Kibaruk

Posts: 3,836   +1,186
And everyone is a general after the war... I can but assume that they did go through all the planning process and stages but as with any project, as much as you mitigate the risks it's still by definition, a risk.

Some outside information, I hope this is not against the rules (https://fee.org/articles/a-made-in-america-iphone-would-cost-2-000-studies-show/):
Rassweiler says making all of the iPhone’s parts in the U.S. would push the price of the iPhone’s components from $190 to around $600. “If the materials alone are costing $600,” says Rassweilier, “it stands to reason, that same iPhone could cost, perhaps, $2,000 at retail.”
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,697   +6,636
If you ask me, this is crApple dishing out a load of :poop: from their marketing department to justify their choice to have everything made in China. Instead of the designer designing something that needs custom screws, the designer may very well have been able to find off-the-shelf screws and then design the product with those in mind. The concept is not rocket science, but crApple will be crApple to stay on the edge of bling.

Sorry, but with $400bn+ in the fracken bank, crApple has a choice in the matter. $400bn. Come on! Yes, crApple needs even more money than they already have.
 

SRB

Posts: 26   +38
I read this same article somewhere else as well. Some points or questions to consider are: The only screw supplier in the entirety of the United States is a 20 man machine shop?? The other article stated the order for the screws was indeed a last minute order. And the elephant in the room was that they didn't have the same amount of round the clock labor available to run 24hr shifts cheaply in Texas. So yes, it does cost more to build in the US. But with some planning, long term sourcing agreements in advance of production, and planning of assembly and investment in some automation can reduce long term production costs with a larger investment up front. Achievable, but not with 50-60% production margins like they're used to.
 

SRB

Posts: 26   +38
And everyone is a general after the war... I can but assume that they did go through all the planning process and stages but as with any project, as much as you mitigate the risks it's still by definition, a risk.

Some outside information, I hope this is not against the rules (https://fee.org/articles/a-made-in-america-iphone-would-cost-2-000-studies-show/):

The problem with many of these studies is that while they are technically accurate, the numbers are misleading. Many of the costs are assessments based on obtaining or manufacturing similar parts currently produced. Does anyone realize the economies of scale if the order went from a few hundred to a few million? Tooling, machines, etc become much smaller cost per unit if factored that way. Labor would go up, and yes, margins would be lower, but not to that extreme.