Is the inability to source custom screws a reason why it is difficult to build iPhones in the USA ?

An article in the New York Times (January 28, 2019) titled “A Tiny Screw shows why iPhones won’t be “Assembled in the USA”” describes the difficulties that Flextronics, Apple’s assembler of the high end Macbook Pro in Austin, Texas, faced in sourcing custom screws. The article describes their search for a supplier who could deliver 28,000 screws, and their option being a single supplier who could make at most 1,000 screws a week and took 22 trips to deliver the required volume. The claim is that such supply chain gaps make assembly of electronic products, which often requires design changes and quick delivery given the lean nature of the supply chains, difficult in the USA. But it also claims that availability of tooling engineers in China, and labor costs in China of $2.10 per hour, as additional reasons. Does the story of the difficulty in sourcing screws reflect poor inventory planning for components i.e., why wouldn’t Apple buy a large quantity of the required low cost components and decouple procurement from usage or is the sourcing difficulty valid given design changes ? Would assembly be easier if designers were constrained to use standard parts for low end items, such as screws, so as to alleviate the assembly bottlenecks ? Does Apple find assembling in the USA difficult because the supply chain is managed by Flextronics, Apple’s supplier, rather than Apple itself ?

About aviyer2010

Professor
This entry was posted in Capacity, competitiveness, Cost, delivery, Global Contexts, logistics, Operations Management, ordering and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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