It can’t be, and that’s been reality for years.
Donald Trump recently stated that he wanted Apple manufacturing back to the U.S.:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he will push for companies including Apple Inc. to bring manufacturing back to the United States.
“Make America great again,” Trump said in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia. “We’re going to get things coming. We’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”
Some are interpreting his words as saying he would use the power of government to force Apple back, others put a more benign spin on it, that he would develop policies to encourage Apple.
Regardless, it is an empty promise.
When I heard about the statement, I recalled an article from a few years ago making the case that the scale of what is needed is so enormous, that the U.S. does not have the engineering or manufacturing capacity, much less the labor force willing to work under conditions necessary.
I don’t know if this NY Times article is the one I recalled, but it made the point back in 2012, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work:
When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.
But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
The story explains why:
It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products…..
Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. 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.”
The Foxconn City is an example of something that could not exist in the U.S. in 2016:
An eight-hour drive from that glass factory is a complex, known informally as Foxconn City, where the iPhone is assembled. To Apple executives, Foxconn City was further evidence that China could deliver workers — and diligence — that outpaced their American counterparts.
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….
Foxconn Technology has dozens of facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe, and in Mexico and Brazil, and it assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.
“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?” ….
Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.
In China, it took 15 days.
Apple CEO Tim Cook made a similar point on 60 Minutes recently.
I don’t discount that some relatively small amount of manufacturing could return, and perhaps some engineering, but the idea that the U.S. would become the home of iPhone or other major Apple manufacturing doesn’t hold up to even a quick Google search.