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Apple board worried about ‘pace of innovation,’ says Fox Business

Sometimes (nay more often than not), you’re treated to such deep and profound stupidity that it can only be located from the collective machinations of the board of directors. Apple board worried about ‘pace of innovation’. No kidding.

Gasparino, citing unnamed sources, said there is pressure on Chief Executive Tim Cook “to innovate, do something fast.”

“What have they had lately? They had the iPad. They had a few other things,” he said on a Fox Business broadcast on Friday. “But they don’t have anything innovating from what came from Steve Jobs.”

Set aside the fact that Steve Jobs had a knack for feeling the pulse of the intangible, to make visible what was only hinted at by the people at large – there’s simply no way to reproduce or latch on to what is ineffable. However that will never dissuade a bunch of board bound fools from demanding that it be done.

All around me and you,

Are those in chains.

Trapped from the last revolution

Set them free, sets them free…

So it is with the work of man – we use chains to break chains. And this is also how one differentiates the Vertical from the Horizontal.

Apple’s new Foxconn inspections could start chain reaction

According to this news report: Apple’s new Foxconn inspections could start chain reaction, Apple has asked for inspections of Foxconn’s operation from an independent team of labor rights experts. Good for them.

According to Apple, a team of labor rights experts started inspections Monday at Foxconn City. Foxconn makes the iPad and iPhone for Apple. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) described itself this way: "Incorporated in 1999, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a collaborative effort of socially responsible companies, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations to improve working conditions in factories around the world. The FLA has developed a Workplace Code of Conduct, based on ILO standards, and created a practical monitoring, remediation and verification process to achieve those standards."

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said in a statement: "We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers.

Cook has bristled at the argument that Apple doesn’t monitor its supply chain conditions. As noted before, Apple isn’t the only company that relies on China manufacturers for its wares.

In the relationship between Apple and Foxconn, I think it’s obvious where the leverage lies. For now. But tomorrow, who knows?

I wonder if this will not turn out into a shot from Rick’s café:  I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Why Apple makes iPhones in China and Why the US is screwed?

Two recent articles, one being the retelling of another, delve into some of the reasons why Apple makes iPhones in China and by implication not in the USA. The original article was from the New York Times, How the US lost out on iPhone Work and the retelling was recounted in This Article Explains why Apple makes iPhones in China and why the US is screwed.

There is no article about China which doesn’t recount some of the following snippets:

When one reads about these working conditions — 12-16 hour shifts, pay of ~$1 per hour or less, dormitories with 15 beds in 12×12 rooms

For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.”

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “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.”

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “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.”

That’s because nothing like Foxconn City exists in the United States.

The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day.

And lastly,

The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

Summarizing, Chinese firms can scale up and down rapidly i.e. they have flexibility that the Chinese government and populace are willing to allow. Something that cannot be obtained stateside in whatever shape or form. The key takeaway is that it is not only scale but the willingness and ability to go either way with it. In the US, one finds that scale is directed one way towards growth but scaling down is an arduous, acrimonious and drawn out affair if it ever happens.

So here’s the first key to Smarter Manufacturing – Flexibility and Scalability.

The Apple test…

Steve Jobs has passed on. Now the vagaries of time lay siege to those he pulled together. Now cometh the Apple test. To me, he has been an immense source of inspiration (and his pithy quotes only fuel the fire). My response to such inspiration is to be an entrepreneur and it is coming…

Apple supply chain sees smooth sailing ahead

Apple’s succession story has been in the news lately – or rather a story made necessary by Steve Job’s health situation. In this article on CNET : Apply supply chain sees smooth sailing ahead, the new head of Apple – Tim Cook, is reputedly a supply chain pro. In one sense, that’s a great thing but then I take a step back and ask myself : Is that what Apple really is?

I don’t think of Apple as a supply chain company with great products but a company with great products that has honed its supply chain quite well.

There is one quote from a Jeffries Analyst that speaks to the supply chain management voodoo at Apple:

"Even with the unfortunate events in Japan around the time of the iPad 2 release, Tim Cook was able to double or sometimes triple source component suppliers. To date, no competitor has been able to gain meaningful share in the tablet market; and, in our view, Cook’s leadership during the introduction was critical to this."

Perhaps, we will see Tim Cook elevate the next avatar of Steve Jobs from within Apple’s ranks that puts the key competitive advantage of Apple front and center. That would be “Giving people what they didn’t even know that they needed”.

Not easy but necessary.

About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

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