Monday, January 23, 2012

Thirteenth Amendment not "flexible" enough, says Apple

America just can't be competitive, it seems, so long as we rely on our outmoded free workforce:
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.

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.”
Not since some decades ago, anyway.

Some other points in the article bear thought: America needs more engineers, and the Chinese government subsidizes costs for many industries. But the bottom line seems to be that with armies of indentured laborers, China makes it possible for Apple to make last-minute decisions (having insufficiently thought out its product) and still get its product out on time.

Read the whole article; it's also discussed at TNR (which latched onto the same quote I found so remarkable).


  1. I read the article Sunday in The Times, but I didn't see anything that indicated that the Chinese workers were "indentured servants." The entire focus of the article (I thought) was the flexibility of the Chinese engineers and entrepreneurs, in complete contrast to the US model.

  2. I dunno, Bill: you live in a "dormitory" annexed to the factory, where the bosses can and do wake you up in the middle of the night and tell you to get started on a 12-hour shift ... even barring what else we've heard about Foxconn City, what does that sound like to you?

  3. Is the Foxconn plant the one profiled recently on NPR with safety nets installed around the perimeter of the building to cut down on the number of workers committing suicide by jumping off the roof?

  4. Think that's it. No early retirement allowed!

  5. WantedToBeALawyerTuesday, January 24, 2012

    I knew there was a good business reason for us not to ratify the 13th amendment 17 years ago.