Amid all the hoopla surrounding Apple’s iPhone event yesterday Motorola had some news of its own to share: it is now churning out 100,000 new Moto X phones per week from its assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas. The announcement was made during the facility’s official launch, with the company noting it's possible to scale to tens of millions of units as more than half of the 455,000 square foot factory floor sits unused right now.
To celebrate the occasion, the Google-owned phone maker invited a few members of the press for a tour, and posted Google Maps Street View imagery of the assembly action for everyone else to see.
The Fort Worth factory actually became operational by August 6th of this year. It’s run by Flextronics and currently employs around 2,500 people in a space used to build Nokia phones several years ago.
Motorola says it’s pretty optimistic about the future of manufacturing in the US, claiming that it's not economics preventing consumer electronics companies from making things locally, but rather lack of imagination and vision. CEO Dennis Woodside notes the economics have changed and nowadays it’s not that much more expensive to make a phone in the US than in Asia. But while he admits that there is a premium, which might not make sense for budget devices, the cost differential isn’t as significant for a high-tier phone like the Moto X.
In the end, the advantages of making things locally should outweigh the costs -- which themselves should go down over time. Aside from bringing jobs back home, it gives Motorola the ability to sell custom-ordered smartphones without lengthy delays, and lets its engineers and designers iterate faster on the device.
For now, the Texas factory is only used for final assembly, and most Moto X components are still shipped from Asia. But bringing back manufacturing is a process that can’t realistically happen overnight. The next step in sight is to move the fabrication of the external components like the back casing and buttons to the US.
Motorola is certainly proud to trot out the "Made In USA" phrase but it’s not the only one looking at local assembly for select products. Apple has already promised to do the same for the revamped Mac Pro line, while Lenovo opened a production facility in North Carolina earlier this year for some of its Think-branded devices. Whether others jump on the trend being spearheaded by these companies remains to be seen.