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Apple’s Chinese iPhone partners shockingly uninterested in moving production to the US

Despite President-elect Donald Trump’s bold assertions that he’ll somehow convince Apple to move its manufacturing to the United States, many of Apple’s component suppliers aren’t even entertaining the idea.

Citing a report from qq, AppleInsider relays that Foxconn appears to be the only major Apple partner that has even taken the time to fully explore the logistical and economic ramifications of setting up shop in the U.S.

… Suppliers like Lens Technologies, an iPhone glass vendor, will not set up shop, in the U.S., even if Foxconn does. Lens cites high-wage workers, and reluctance amongst the U.S. workforce to accept variable schedules depending on surges and dips in product demands.

Other suppliers, meanwhile, have said that the existing supply-chain in China simply can’t be replicated in the U.S. without severely impacting efficiency. Consequently, many of these companies are opting to stay put.

Interestingly, Donald Trump’s election victory prompted Apple to ask major partners like Foxconn and Pegatron about the feasibility of bringing parts of the iPhone supply chain to the United States. As originally detailed by Nikkei, Foxconn agreed to consider the idea while Pegatron reportedly dismissed the request out of hand.

Trump’s motivation to bring Apple’s manufacturing to the U.S. may be well-intentioned, but his remarks completely ignore the complexity of Apple’s operations. The very notion of relocating specialized Chinese factories to the United States and then hiring thousands of skilled workers to run them is so far from practical that it’s downright laughable.

It’s worth noting that Apple even experienced problems manufacturing its Mac Pro — hardly a volume product — in the United States. To this point, Bloomberg reported the following not too long ago:

The Mac Pro’s glossy exterior and chrome beveled edges meant Apple had to make its own manufacturing tools and then train people to run those machines in an assembly plant. This slowed production and constrained Apple’s ability to make enough computers to meet demand.

Three years on, the Mac Pro is ripe for an upgrade with its chips and connector ports lagging rival products. Because of the earlier challenges, some Apple engineers have raised the possibility of moving production back to Asia, where it’s cheaper and manufacturers have the required skills for ambitious products, according to a person familiar with those internal discussions.

With a device like the iPhone, where more than 100 million units are shipped every single year, Apple at the end of the day can only rely upon a well-oiled Chinese supply chain that has been built from the ground up to manufacture consumer electronics in incredibly high volume.

In short, the flexibility provided by Apple’s current supply chain simply can’t be matched or replicated anywhere else on the planet. As The New York Times noted on the topic a few years ago:

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.

Trump may continue to make bold claims about what he expects tech companies like Apple to do, but he cannot, at the end of the day, actually prevent Apple from outsourcing its operations abroad.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.