Macs Were Already Being Assembled in the USA

by Ben Bajarin   |   December 6th, 2012

News about Apple looking to have more of their Mac line of products assembled in the USA made for interesting headlines today. What is interesting is that some amount of Macs were already being assembled here in the USA. iFixit, with its tear down of the latest iMac, noted this picture and wording on the back.

Credit: iFixit

The news that grabbed headlines today was that Apple intended to invest in more assembly of USA assembled products in their Mac line. This means a larger ramp and scale up of US made assembly of those products starting in 2013. This is of course pertinent and a big deal that volume US manufacturing of Macs will ramp in 2013. I find it interesting that Apple has already been assembling, in low volume, some products in the Mac line for some time. In fact you can find in forum threads going back to at least 2006, people mentioning that their Mac Pros had the Assembled in the USA wording. And obviously for the new iMac to have the wording iFixit found stating it was assembled in the USA, we are talking about some level of assembly of Macs which has been in place for some time. Perhaps everyone already knew this, but I hadn’t seen it get much attention. Of course, as Apple begins to ramp US based manufacturing, thing become very interesting.

I’ve heard the argument from some pundits that this initial investment and step to build more products in the USA is a PR stunt from Apple, to which I wholeheartedly disagree. Apple is one of few companies for whom it makes sense to diversify assembly and manufacturing for certain products. Note that this doesn’t apply to all product lines but I believe it certainly does for some. I have to believe that for Apple to have made this move it makes sound business sense from a long-term strategic standpoint, as well as from a capital expenditures standpoint.

Elements of glass (pabels), semiconductors, cables, and other raw materials for many electronics are actually made in the US. So it is not like everything that goes into electronics is made in China. Apple also has a streamlined process, with their Mac line in particular, due to the uni-body designs of much of their hardware.

There is also some speculation as to which Macs will be made in the US. My understanding is not that it is limited to one line but can and may very well include some degree of all Macs.

Tech manufacturing has never really been in the US. In the early days of the PC many things were assembled here but it very low volume. High-tech electronics manufacturing in high volume has never been in the USA. What Apple is doing is a huge step in the right direction to help foster and develop the necessary expertise to support some level of high-tech US manufacturing.

The key point is not that Apple is bringing high-tech manufacturing jobs back to the US. Many of those jobs never existed in the first place. This is a baby step move in the right direction to actually create new types of jobs. Ones that may extend to many other industries and segments as 3D printing and nano-technology help to create the hardware renaissance I believe we are on the forefront of.

I have been watching, and hoping that a move like this would happen for a while and I seriously hope it is a trend not isolated to one high-tech giant.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • W. van Dam

    Yeah, it is rather doubtful that this is a PR stunt. Creating jobs is no doubt a popular move, but Apple is already popular. And just consider the negative PR if they decide to close the factory a few years from now. Their popularity would likely survive that without a problem, but when you look at the net PR gain from starting local production you got to wonder why they’d bother. Of course, they could keep the factory going, but for a one time PR stunt they do not actually need that would be rather costly. In short, there is no need for it in the short term, and in the long term it might hurt their PR or otherwise get expensive.

    At the other end there are all sorts of reasons why this is more than a PR stunt.
    - Apple has always excelled at managing manufacturing and logistics.
    - The man responsible for that performance is now CEO of Apple.
    - All the points you raised.
    - Labor costs are probably declining or stagnating in (parts of) the US.
    - The cost of overseas transportation of goods are likely to rise.

    - There is instability in various parts of the world – due to social and environmental causes.
    - Etc.

    I’m sure Apple won’t mind the positive PR effect, but I very highly doubt that PR is their key motivation for going local.

    • AdamChew

      I doubt very much it would hurt their image if the manufacturing facility is not viable it will only drive home the point that it is just not viable to make some products in the US.

      Even if it lose money they will keep it going and imagine the publicity this will generate.

      • W. van Dam

        Perhaps, but personally I cannot see Apple maintaining a production facility if the only gain is PR. And I do not see how they’d gain any PR after the launch.

        Considering the long list of aspects, other than PR, where Apple could perceive a gain, I think it unlikely this is a PR stunt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573495479 Rene Stein

      Just a quick correction to your post. Apple, Inc., the new Apple, has always excelled at managing manufacturing and logistics. Apple Computers, the Apple before Steve Jobs returned was absolutely horrible at managing manufacturing and logistics, often having months worth of inventory sitting around.

      It is almost easy to believe that this Apple and that old Apple were not the same company. But they were. This Apple was forged on correcting the mistakes the old Apple made.

      • W. van Dam

        You are right of course. And indeed, I do often consider the current and old Apple as distinctive companies. Fortunately I’m not likely to forget that the Apple of today is the result of lessons learned yesterday.

  • Rich

    “…the hardware renaissance I believe we are on the forefront of.”

    I have seen several things lately that give me the same impression. I think it’s great.

  • Andrew

    If I recall correctly, Apple doesn’t manufacture any of its own products, it contracts with third parties to assemble Apple’s products. Thus, there is no downside for Apple to have products assembled in the U.S. by a third party. If the manufacturing effort succeeds, Apple will get the credit. If it fails, they weren’t Apple’s employees to begin with.