A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’

A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’

Low cost is no longer the only reason why US companies outsource manufacturing to China.

Despite Apple’s commitment to make a Mac computer in Austin, Texas, the inability of a US supplier to mass produce screws led the tech giant to order the items from China.

This situation exemplifies the challenges facing US manufacturing. Not only is it impossible to beat Chinese labor costs, but it is also difficult to compete in terms of scale, skills, and infrastructure.


Video Spotlight: Why the iPhone can’t be made in the US


This post is based on the New York Times article, A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’, by J. Nicas, January 28, 2019; and the YouTube video, Why the iPhone can’t be made in the US, by Bloomberg, June 29, 2017. Image source: (c) Ingram Publishing / SuperStock.

Discussion Questions:

1. In general, why does Apple rely on China for a large portion of its manufacturing?

Guidance: Lower labor costs and ability to produce huge quantities fast enough to meet demand. This ability stems from an abundance of skilled workers, huge infrastructure (building and equipment), and loose labor protections laws.

2. Why was the Continue reading

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3M: Scrubbing Waste, One Product At A Time

3M: Scrubbing Waste, One Product At A Time

January 14, 2019

3M announces plans to incorporate sustainability goals for each of the roughly 1,000 new products it introduces each year.

Expanding on the success of the more general sustainability initiatives it launched in 2015 as part of a ten year program, 3M takes its goals a step beyond what most companies are doing by looking at the individual products rather than just system-wide goals.

R & D will look carefully to see how each product might reduce materials or use recycled materials, such as its plan for all Scotch-Brite scrub sponges to be made with recycled plastics by 2019.  Other alternatives include reducing waste, energy, or water usage in factories or helping customers use the products in a more sustainable way.

This post is based on the Star Tribune article, 3M: Every new product must meet a sustainability goal, by Dee DePass, December 5, 2018. Image source: Nattika/Shutterstock.

Discussion Questions:

1. How does 3M’s approach differ from some companies’ approaches to sustainability?

Guidance: Whereas many companies take a big picture approach to sustainability, looking at how to reduce waste or energy in their factories overall, 3M wants each product to incorporate sustainable solutions.  This can include techniques Continue reading

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GM: Tough Maneuvering in a Fast-Moving Market

GM: Tough Maneuvering in a Fast-Moving Market

GM’s announcement to close five plants has sparked a lot of criticism. How can a company bolstered by a taxpayer-funded bailout and generous tax cuts lay off 14,000 people? Is it betrayal or foresight?

CEO Mary T. Barra has justified the job cuts, citing slowing sales and changing markets. GM’s actions are easy to criticize, but compassionate solutions are difficult to come by.


Video Spotlight: GM’s planned layoffs


This post is based on the New York Times article, GM to Idle Plants and Cut Thousands of Jobs as Sales Slow, by N.E. Boudette, November 26, 2018; and the Time.com video on GM’s planned layoffs, by A. Abrams, November 29, 2018. Image source: Glow Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. Identify the specific elements in a SWOT analysis that may have triggered Ms. Barra’s decision to close several plants.

Guidance:

Threats

  • economy (higher interest rates, tariffs)
  • legal environment (push for higher minimum wages gaining momentum in several states)
  • competition (competitors’ investments in self-driving and electric cars)
  • markets (shifts in vehicle sales)

Opportunities

  • economy (low unemployment rates potentially easing employees’ reintegration into the workforce; financial boost with new of capital)
  • new technologies to facilitate the development of self-driving and electric cars Continue reading
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