A few years ago, I read a beyond amazing article about how Foxconn won the contract to make the first iPhone, and how this was a pivotal moment in the move to outsource production outside of N.A. For the life of me, due to Google algorithms pushing newer articles first in search results, I cannot find the link to the original but it was from a legitimate source and I remember it well enough so here goes. The first iPhone was the device that revolutionized smartphones and paved the way for their proliferation outside the nerd, enthusiast and business circles. In case you did not know, it was supposed to be Made in USA. Steve Jobs legitimately wanted this. However, not too long before manufacturing was supposed to start, Steve decided that the phone should have a tempered glass screen instead of plastic. Up until then, many smartphone screens were plastic and people used styluses with them. However, Steve was always obsessed with design, quality, and he also wanted to move away from styluses and have consumers use fingers on their smartphone screens. Therefore, this choice made all the sense in the world to him. He was advised against it by his engineers due to multiple reasons, but Steve being Steve, he yelled at them and told them to get it done. After a detailed survey of US manufacturing, material sourcing etc, it turned out that no factory in USA can source, develop and manufacture the glass screen well enough, fast enough and on time for Apple's planned release date. While one could blame Steve for this due to his basically last minute decision, in the end it did not matter one bit. Foxconn jumped in and, to the best of my recollection, invited him and a few other Apple key people to have a look at what they got ready. Even though Foxconn did not know if Apple would make a manufacturing deal with them for the iPhone, they already had everything ready in their factories, including all the right materials and in stock, good supply chain in place, and also possibly product samples already prepared. All of this was ready JUST IN CASE APPLE SAYS YES! Well played, Foxconn. The company won the contract, and North America lost out to the extent we have yet to recover from this.
That's some scary stuff, isn't it?
What have we lost out on? We lost out on advanced manufacturing factories, jobs for skilled labour, engineers, HR, accountants, managers and more. We lost out on supply chain growth, more trucks, more ships and more. We lost out on town and city growth boosts any time a new factory or supply chain hub opens up. We lost out on support companies that do maintenance, sourcing and more, as well as more restaurants, coffee places, fast food joints... You think it is totally amazing for a city when Amazon opens a warehouse there? What Amazon did for us is nothing compared to what growth we would have had if we had American and Canadian Foxconns, yep plural. Oh, and with better human rights standards, better pay and so much more.
Now, you might say that this is all well and good, but then our smartphones would be more expensive. To that I say, who cares? Flagship smartphones are becoming more expensive anyways. Every major carrier offers payment plans anyways. What did we get from advanced smartphone tech? Better camera sensors? Can't beat DSLR's. AI co-processors? Useless. iPhone animoji and face unlock with the depth sensing camera? Who cares, really? High resolution screen? Many people are switching to podcasts and they mostly listen to YouTube versus watch. Oh, and as for other things like computers, used Thinkpad market with powerful 10 years old laptops built like tanks and for serious business actually happens to be thriving. Got an affordable TV that is super thin but cannot afford to buy a house? Ok, I will stop now haha but you get what I mean, right? Oh, and have these bleeding edge increasingly faster overseas made devices helped us become smarter? It doe not seems to be the case. Basic survival and success skills, as well as thinking outside the box in real life scenarios are becoming worse. Fighting for toilet paper? Install a cheap bidet on your toilet. Overpaying for hand sanitizer? Mix rubbing alcohol and glycerin in the 70/30 ratio. No more rubbing alcohol? Buy 70% grain alcohol at the liquor store. No strong alcohol anywhere in stores? Get hydrogen peroxide. Still forgetting to buy or do something? Start making lists on your phone, regardless of the quality of your long and short term memory. The list goes on, and the point is that all these outsourced electronics are making us better, smarter or better equipped to succeed in life. We might as well have had smartphones made in North America, we pay a bit more for them, and keep them a year or two longer. We would be just as well off, and by keeping phones longer we could save more money in the long run even if they were more expensive.
There you go, dearest readers- my two cents on the supply chain situation today. Hope you find my rant valuable.