Back in 2012, it was a Big Deal when Apple decided to assemble the Mac Pro in Austin, Texas. Fast forward seven years, and now it seems Apple will manufacture the new Mac Pro in China, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Citing sources close to the matter, the Journal reports Apple has partnered with Quanta Computer Inc, a Taiwanese contractor, to build the computer at a factory near Shanghai. One reason is that it’ll be much cheaper for the Cupertino giant to source components, as many of its suppliers are located near Shanghai.
While it’s true that few are likely to buy the extremely pricey Mac Pro, the decision does have some significance as far as Apple’s history and the current trade war with China goes.
Back in 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook touted plans to partially manufacture and assemble the desktop computer in the US in a Bloomberg interview, citing it as evidence Apple was willing to invest $US100 million ($142 million) in American manufacturing.
For many years, “Designed by Apple in California” has been the closest most Apple products can come to claiming the “Made In U.S.A.” label. But in 2012, the company decided to assemble the Mac Pro in Texas. According to a new report, that plan got off to a rocky start because of a single tiny screw.
That venture didn’t go so well. Turns out, manufacturing in America came with some hiccups.
First, the US machine shop Apple contracted to build a custom screw was only able to deliver a limited capacity of 1000 screws per day.
Staffing was also an issue. The Texas factory only had one person in charge of securing materials, whereas in China there are plenty of skilled workers to fill that need as there’s a higher demand for similar positions.
Also, the Journal reports Apple was unprepared for the fact that 80 per cent of workers at the Austin plant were contract workers being paid minimum wage for eight-hour workdays. That meant they’d go home when their time was up, leaving production lines stalled until the next shift.
That isn't an issue in China, where some manufacturers have zero reservations about continually working their staff under exhaustive conditions.
Apple did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Apple’s reported decision to move Mac Pro production back to China comes at a moment when trade tensions when between the country and the United States are close to boiling over. Apple is reportedly looking to shift 15 to 30 per cent of its production capacity outside to southeast Asia in light of the Trump administration’s current trade crusade against China and potential tariffs.
In the past, President Trump has needled Apple to bring more manufacturing jobs to the US, and at one point he erroneously boasted that he’d gotten Cook to promise to build “three big plants, beautiful plants” on American soil. The news isn’t likely to make Trump happy.
That said, workers at the Texas factory are expected to continue with their employment. Apple hired Flex Ltd, a contractor, to assemble the Mac Pros. Demand has long since tapered off for the older Mac Pro models, and the Journal reports workers in Texas have moved onto refurbishing computers — on top of jobs for other companies, including HP.