深度评论:苹果迁产线回国,可不是为了爱国

上网时间: 2012年12月17日? 作者:Junko Yoshida? 我来评论 【字号: ? ?小】

关键字:苹果?

Yoshida in China: Probing Apple's U.S. manufacturing gambit

Junko Yoshida

NEW YORK – At the beginning of this year, we launched a series called "Rebuilding America" in which we attempted to explore the prospects for reviving U.S. manufacturing. We acknowledged at that time that we could be accused of beating a dead horse since many in the electronics industry favor the outsourcing of manufacturing to Asia as a way to reduce costs.

Beyond that is the reality of globalization and what has been called the global "fragmentation of production." Still, we argued, the engineering importance of "making stuff" as a way of understanding the product design process can't be underestimated.

With that in mind, you have no doubt heard about Apple’s plan to spend more than $100 million to bring back “some production of Mac” to the U.S. from China. If you’re like me, you probably rolled your eyes and said, “Yeah, right!”

A healthy dose of skepticism is in order here.

First, what’s Apple’s business case? Setting aside the goodwill Apple has already gained from media coverage, we need to ask whether it actually makes sense to manufacture Macs at home.

We need to see a cost analysis. What’s the labor cost? What’s the shipping cost for finished products? Do we still have a supply-chain infrastructure capable of bringing all the components necessary to make Macs here and deliver them on time? What’s Apple's operating margin for this product line? How much will it cost to operate a U.S. factory?

We need to know the cost structure for moving in-shoring "some" production. Corporations frequently use cost as the alibi to ship jobs overseas. If some manufacturing jobs are returning, we must understand the business case for such a move.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in interviews with Businessweek and NBC's Brian Williams disclosed none of these details. Cook never revealed the actual products Apple will be making in the U.S. or how many Apple expects to make.

Cook vaguely suggested producing some Mac computers here "beyond the assembly work" it already does stateside. Cook’s statements implied that Apple will have "partners.". For instance, he told Businessweek that the plan “doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people, and we’ll be investing our money.”

Again, what “people”?

So far, all we’re looking at is a symbolic gesture by Apple -- just in time for the holidays.

'Sandwich trap'

China’s largest PC vendor, Lenovo Group, has already announced it will establish assembly lines to produce desktops and notebooks in "small volume” in North Carolina in anticipation of enterprise and government orders.The move appears to be in line with Lenovo’s strategy to increase the proportion of in-house production, from about 20 percent in 2012 to 50 percent in 2013, according to Taiwan sources, Digitimes has reported.

If Apple's motivation — like Lenovo's — is “to be closer to the market,” Apple’s plan to move “some production" back to the U.S. does make sense. (After all, that’s why automakers build cars close to local markets where they’re sold.) Making stuff where it’s consumed is not just common sense, it makes economic sense.

A second data point worth examining is the changing labor market in China. The Washington Post, reporting from Donggun, China, found that "the city on China’s Pearl River Delta, once known as ‘the world’s factory,’ is now losing jobs and eyeing the United States with some envy."

While it’s hard to believe that there’s anyplace in China where factories are closing, it should be noted that lower cost regions like Vietnam and Indonesia are taking manufacturing jobs from China.

The Post article quoted Zhang Monan of the State Information Center, a government think tank, describing the phenomenon he called "a sandwich trap," as in, China being squeezed between cheaper labor in neighboring countries and competition from developed nations such as Germany and the U.S. Zhang stressed, “China’s manufacturers are in an extremely hard situation.”

Before hailing Apple’s decision as “the right thing to do,” we might consider a more pragmatic interpretation: Maybe there is a business case for manufacturing Apple products right here in America.


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