One of the more peculiar — and yet wholly unsurprising — aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency is his ongoing insistence that Apple manufacture the iPhone in the United States.
“Don’t forget, Apple makes their products in China,” Trump said at a press conference a few weeks ago. “I told Tim Cook, a friend of mine, make your product in the US. Build those big, beautiful plants that go on for miles. Build those plants in the US. I like that even better…”
While the idea of Apple manufacturing its iconic smartphone in the US certainly sounds nice, it ignores a whole host of logistical considerations and economic realities that make it nothing short of a pipe dream. Not only would US-based manufacturing increase production costs significantly, the parts needed for assembly can’t often be found in sufficient quantities outside of China.
Speaking to this point, a new piece from The New York Times reveals how supply chain issues impacted Apple’s ability to manufacture its somewhat controversial trash-can Mac Pro in the US.
According to the report, the Mac Pro manufacturing process was stunted because Apple couldn’t source enough custom screws from local suppliers.
Tests of new versions of the computer were hamstrung because a 20-employee machine shop that Apple’s manufacturing contractor was relying on could produce at most 1,000 screws a day.
The screw shortage was one of several problems that postponed sales of the computer for months, the people who worked on the project said. By the time the computer was ready for mass production, Apple had ordered screws from China.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise and echoes the sentiment from an anonymous Apple executive who relayed the following a few years ago:
The entire supply chain is in China now. You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.
Tim Cook himself even addressed the issue during a 60 Minutes interview a few years back.
“China put an enormous focus on manufacturing,” Cook said. “The US, over time, began to stop having as many vocational kind of skills. I mean, you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.”
Put simply, Apple has no plans to manufacture the iPhone in the US, Donald Trump’s demands notwithstanding.