Saturday, January 28, 2012

Corporations Are People, Or Maybe Animals [Roast Pork Sliced From A Rusty Cleaver] (飲水思源)

As Mitt Romney would say, Corporations are people [albeit, overseas people.].

NYTimes: How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work
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.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
A production line in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China. The iPhone is assembled in this vast facility, which has 230,000 employees, many at the plant up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.
The piece uses Apple and its recent history to look at why the success of some U.S. firms hasn't led to more U.S. jobs--and to examine issues regarding the relationship between corporate America and Americans (as well as people overseas). One of the questions it asks is: Why isn't more manufacturing taking place in the U.S.? And Apple's answer--and the answer one might get from many U.S. companies--appears to be that it's simply no longer possible to compete by relying on domestic factories and the ecosystem that surrounds them.

Foxconn Clarifies, Apologizes for CEO's Comparison of Workers to 'Animals'

Dear Apple: Do Something About Chinese Working Conditions (CNet)
Bloomberg: Apple Won’t Turn ‘Blind Eye’ to Supply-Chain Problems, Cook Says

NYTimes: In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

  • Apple typically asks suppliers to specify how much every part costs, how many workers are needed and the size of their salaries. Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits.
  • “The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,” said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. “And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.”
  • “You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”
NYTimes: Chinese Readers On The 'IEconomy'
The New York Times partnered with Caixin, a Chinese business magazine, to publish the article in Chinese. The goal was twofold: to share the content of the article with readers in China, and to solicit Chinese comments for translation into English that might prove illuminating for readers of the English-language article on

Voices of Chinese Workers in the ‘iEconomy’
In much of the debate surrounding these issues, one group’s voice is notably quiet: the factory workers themselves. Many of them are young migrants, attracted by the prospect of steady work and chances for advancement.

Chengdu has developed faster than other cities in Sichuan. In recent years it has become home to the regional headquarters of international high-tech companies such as Dell, Lenovo, Foxconn and TCL.

Some 50 percent of all laptop computer chips in the world are tested in Chengdu and 20 percent of all computers worldwide -- including 70 percent of Apple's iPads -- will soon be made in the city. (ChinaWatch)


Walter said...

I keep reading posts on-line about "buying American" and "bring the jobs back to the US". Do these sheeple who write that realize that there's not a single computer that is 100% built (components and all) in the US? Same with cellphones and other most electronic goods. How are they going to buy any of those goods "made in America"?.

Also, if the manufacturing jobs were to come back to the US, the prices would skyrocket. People are always pointing out that the wages in those Chinese factories are low, do they not know that's low cost is passed onto the consumer? Those Chinese factories do not allow for unions either. People do shop on price - why else would Walmart still be in business?

That's one thing I admire about the Japanese. They know quality comes at a cost, don't "cut corners", and they aren't afraid to pay for it. One of my Hong Kong fish breeder friends says, "only in America, do they want the top quality product at the low quality price and that doesn't make sense". :)

dleedlee said...

American-made TVs:
Coming to a Walmart soon?
Production starts at the end of March or early April.

ewaffle said...

Terrific summary of the ongoing and probably worsening high tech manufacturing human rights and labor vs. capital issues in the PRC. Worth following all the links to get the best sense of things.

The U.S. financial press has been full of what it considers the very bright prospects that Apple has in selling iPhones, iPads and other products in China. With the apparently unshakable commitment to economic inequality as industrial policy in China, one of the class markers may be Apple products--whether one makes them or buys them.

One development (or unintended consequence) of China's high tech assembly dominance is that they are offshoring lower margin business--cotton T-shirts and socks to Chinese owned plants in Central America is just one example.