Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has revealed that he plans to bring production of one entire line of Macs to the U.S. next year.
I wrote the other day about GE and its efforts to bring jobs back. Now Apple.
As one of my Facebook friends – Mark Minie – commented:
Labor costs are relative…most high tech manufacturing work is shifing to a hybrid human/robot model and so a large pool of literate workers with excellent work habits who are already well addapted to rapidly learning new skills (ie, the US labor force) is a all of the sudden an attractive option…high tech equipment just can’t be reliably assembled by human hands, and you need people to work with and train/program the robots that can do the assembly…add to that that the social and political situations in China and India are problematic and the relative stability of the US (no bad PR over factories that look and feel like slave labor camps-China-and incredable poverty alongside increadable wealth and unreliable infrastructure-India) and things look good for the US once the dust settles…a worker making $40/hr with the ACA in place and a stable social safety net along with peaceful power transitions in the US will look and be “cheap” when corporations due true value calculations…something Mike Crichton pointed out long ago in his novel DISCLOSURE…
I think what we are seeing here is that truly low-cost assembly is becoming the realm of robotics. The tolerances for assembling an iPhone or iPad are so small that even cheap hand-assembly has high failure rates.
Just to make these devices will require new factories and lots of robots. So, it now becomes a different equation and other things enter the equation.
Now the humans that are involved need to be more highly educated and trained. But the cheap labor – robots – can be used over here or wherever distribution processes make sense.
Apple and others moved overseas to get cheap labor. But the cheap labor of robots works anywhere so why not have the assembly plants co located with the designers and other engineers?
The example of GE shows what happens when a wide range of expertise gets together in one room, especially when that expertise is not dealing with jet lag.
So the Chinese will be out of lots of jobs but we will see more here. That is until the exponential economy stats to hit even design enigneers and robots totally take over.