In a recent article from FastCompany (http://bit.ly/nnYNwX), author Greg Lindsay talks about innovators losing their ability to innovate as they outsource manufacturing. Almost every technology leader out there send their manufacturing responsibilities overseas. This has had a negative impact on everyone from GM to Apple. These mammoth companies lack the ability to create what they design. Perhaps this is the real reason behind Google’s acquisition of Motorola; to gain control of the entire ecosystem. As Steve Jobs begins to cement his legacy by building the enormous and eco-friendly spaceship headquarters, he made an interesting statement to the Cupertino zoning commission:
“We’ve used our experience making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use. And, we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curve all the way around the building… It’s pretty cool.”
This is a rarity in America, where this kind of innovation is beginning to disappear. Unfortunately, Apple may now how to make the biggest piece of glass in the world, but can they make it? If Steve Jobs really wants to create a legacy that will see him mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, he needs to rethink Apple’s manufacturing policy. The company has purchased a massive piece of land and is building an enormous building on it, but it will only take up 25% of the space. This building will house some of Apple’s staff, but some will remain in Apple’s original office down the street. What Apple needs to do is take real control of their device ecosystem and bring manufacturing home to the US. Fill that new office space or the old one with the most innovative iPlant the world has seen. Supremely efficient, incredibly safe, amazingly advanced and… there’s one more thing: the largest american-employing manufacturing plant to be created since the early 70s.
Bringing the manufacture of Apple’s products to Cupertino will do more than allow the iPhone 5 I’m destined to stand in line for to have a single line of white text (rather than 2): Designed and Made by Apple in California:
Ultimate control over the entire life of Apple products. This has been a goal since the earliest days of the company (http://bit.ly/1b76kn). Apple has already seen companies like Foxconn pushing knockoffs of the iPhone and iPad. The more hands you have on your CAD drawings, the more likely you’ll find one looking to make a side profit.
New areas of innovation. Imagine what Apple will invent or reinvent to build a Apple-quality manufacturing plant. Imagine being able to sell this technology to other US and global manufacturers, the US government, etc.
An excuse to really leverage alternate energy. Currently Apple’s new office will be powered by internal natural gas generators. Imagine the power requirements of a factory. Solar, wind, thermal, etc. will all need to come into play.
New customer base. The new type of manufacturing plant will no doubt pique the interest of other companies who had been outsourcing. In order to compete more patriotically, but still keep costs efficient, they’ll need new ways to manufacture locally. Much like LucasArts took on other film effects jobs between Star Wars movies, Apple could begin manufacturing for Ford, GE, Boeing, IBM.
Giving back. Apple wouldn’t be giving the country a fish, it would be teaching it to fish all over again. This move could kickstart a rebirth in US manufacturing, reinvigorating the US economy, bringing blue-collar jobs back to the middle class. More people with more money means they could buy more Apple products right?
Good will. America needs a hero. Jobs are outsourced, social services are being slashed, salaries are shrinking while workloads increase, there are 5 applicants for every 2 jobs. Politicians have been selling out the American dream since the mid-70s. We need someone who will give us back our pride in American ingenuity and the opportunity to earn a fair wage for a fare days work.
Halo industries would blossom. Their is already an enormous ecosystem of manufacturers, wholesalers, technologists, etc. around Apple products. Now imagine the impact an Apple manufacturing plant would have on machine parts manufacturers, robot designers, and the myriad of businesses that support factories. Now imagine that the only companies chosen to support Apple’s US manufacturing initiative were US companies.
Steve Jobs, if you really want to Think Different an establish a legacy that will be taught on iPad Xs in grade schools across the country, it’s time to start getting the iAssemblyLine rolling once again: http://bit.ly/nWiFSb.
Image courtesy joshcUK.
UPDATE: Since this post was written, and more than a few people laughed at the prospect of Apple moving it’s manufacturing back to the US, a funny thing began to happen, big news organizations started talking about Apple bringing some of their manufacturing back home. But, I’ll let the scoffers tell you more about it: