Manufacturing Might Come Back to the US, but Robots will Get the Jobs: Apple CEO

Robots are the Great Equalizer.

Apple will invest in and promote “advanced manufacturing” in the US, CEO Tim Cook told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Wednesday after the somewhat uninspiring earnings report. It was one of the ways Apple would create jobs in America, he said. To do that, Apple would put $1 billion in a fund that would invest in “advanced manufacturing” companies.

Apple has already “created two million jobs in America,” he said in the interview. This includes 80,000 jobs at Apple in the US; plus jobs at US suppliers, such as Corning, which makes the glass for the iPhone and iPad, and 3M, which makes adhesives that Apple uses in its devices; plus the “developer community” of almost 1.5 million people who write apps that, as he said, “change the world.”

So to “get more people to do advanced manufacturing in the US,” he said, Apple is setting up a fund, “initially” putting in $1 billion. “We’re announcing it today,” he said. “We’ve talked to a company that we’re going to invest in already.”

This $1 billion would have to be “our US money which we have to borrow to get, which is another whole topic….” Most of Apple’s cash is registered overseas, the result of profits that have not been taxed in the US. Apple’s overseas cash can be and is already invested in the US, such as in Treasury securities, but it cannot be used for capital expenditures or share buybacks in the US without being “repatriated” under the US tax code and thus triggering an income-tax event.

That’s why “comprehensive tax reform is so important to this economy,” he said. Practically everyone agrees on that. Practically no one agrees on how to do it.

By promoting advanced manufacturing in the US, “we can be the ripple in the pond,” he said. “Because if we can create many manufacturing jobs, those manufacturing jobs create more jobs around them because you have a service industry that builds up around them.”

Apple has made mention of this before – that it would bring some manufacturing back to the US. Other companies have already been doing this. For now, it’s happening on a small scale, but it’s a great thing for the US economy. Every little bit helps. Every little bit is needed. And if President Trump can add some fuel to the fire, that much the better.

But the seven million manufacturing jobs that were lost since the manufacturing employment peak in 1979 won’t come back. They’ll stay in China or Mexico, and eventually, they’ll even disappear there. Automation or robots, or to use Cook’s term, “advanced manufacturing,” which all mean the same thing, will wipe them out.

This chart shows the impact over the past 30 years of “advanced manufacturing” in terms of manufacturing jobs (red line, left scale in millions of jobs) versus manufacturing output adjusted for inflation (black line, right scale, index):

This is the impact of automation: Since Q1 1989, the manufacturing industry has cut 5.7 million jobs, or 32%, yet “real” production (adjusted for inflation) soared by 71%.

The jobs Apple and other manufacturers are creating in their drives for “advanced manufacturing” are highly skilled jobs. They range from highly skilled blue-collar jobs to very specialized robotics and software engineering jobs. Most of these jobs will be well-paid and difficult to fill. And there will only be a relatively small number of them, not millions, and they will replace more and more of what remains of the classic blue-collar jobs.

Companies are not doing it to make America great again. They’re doing it because it makes business sense.

Once automation takes off in “cheap labor” countries like China, these countries lose their cost advantage: robots cost the same anywhere. China has been on the global forefront of investing in robots. Producing in China via “advanced manufacturing” isn’t a lot cheaper than in the US. But by manufacturing in the US, Apple will have a lot more control over its intellectual property. Transportation costs will be smaller. Lead times might shrink. And other risks can be mitigated more easily.

Automation is the great equalizer. China is aggressively converting its manufacturing base to robots. Other “cheap labor” countries are following. Robots will eventually rule manufacturing globally. The typical manufacturing jobs of yore will mostly disappear everywhere. But the fact that manufacturing in America, when robots do most of the work, is becoming competitive with “cheap labor” countries is the silver lining in the long-running tragedy of the disappearing American manufacturing jobs. That’s really what Tim Cook was saying.

But this isn’t the Industrial Revolution. Read…  How Many Jobs Do Robots Destroy? Answers Emerge

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  102 comments for “Manufacturing Might Come Back to the US, but Robots will Get the Jobs: Apple CEO

  1. Job says:

    I work in hi tech where are salaries are 150k plus per year
    I see first hand the obliteration of jobs bec of ai automation and outsourcing to cheaper geogrpahies

    • Frederick says:

      Hope some of those good paying jobs will come to Poland and other Eastern European countries They’ve suffered long enough and deserve a break

      • d says:


        They are going back to the US once you start to use robots why build where it can be copied when you can build at home for basically the same cost with cheaper energy.

        This story is actually old news repacked this has been active Apple policy using robotic assembly in the US for some time now. Started with the first trashcan mac tower assembly line build post 2010 (App).

        If the build a new 17″ macbook pro (I hope they do soon) it will also be built robotically in the US.

        The days of US companies exporting or starting new manufacturing outside the US are just about over. even Nast Nike is building with robots at home now.

  2. alex in san jose says:

    I was what’s called an “Apple loyalist” from the advent of the blue and white G3.

    There used to be a sort of agreement: You paid more for an Apple product but in return, they took care of you. You could go into any Apple Store and they’d help you out, w/o charging you any more than was absolutely necessary.

    When Jobs got sick, and was no longer able to preside over things, Apple went downhill fast.

    Now the Apple Stores are “profit centers”, and if you didn’t pay for Apple Care on top of the high price for the product, you’re screwed. And don’t expect a current-day Apple product to last even the 12 months of the warrenty. I personally think they’re leaving just a little bit of the acidic, water-based flux on the circuit boards. The stuff’s hygroscopic, it absorbs water from the air, eats away at those fine-pitch traces, and well, 8-9 months in expect flakiness and failures.

    I’m back to PC’s and boy am I glad. I’m typing this on a Dell that’s a few years old at least, has a better battery life than a new Macbook Air, and it just refuses to quit. It cost me $200 with a 30-day warrenty.

    Now Apple people call me a “hater”.

    So bring in all the robots you want, it’s not going to help you if you’re not selling product.

    • DH says:

      Sorry, but I own a business in TV that runs entirely on a Mac ecosystem, from routers to computers to tablets to phones to even watches, and we’ve seen no indication of a quality difference over the past dozen years.

      It sounds like you just got a dud.

      • alex in san jose says:

        As I wrote that, I thought about the “professional” level Apple stuff, that indeed is used in publishing and video. That’s a whole ‘nother animal. Regular consumers aren’t buying those high-end products, those are seen in the hands of some very serious people, like “running a business that runs on a Mac ecosystem”.

        But your iPods that don’t have head phone jacks, your MacBook Airs and “Pros” that are Meh at best compared to PC based stuff that you can run a lot of engineering stuff on – and games! – I’ll stick with PC. Apple’s lost its luster with me and I suspect, many.

      • cdr says:

        Sorry for you. I use a pfSense router (although others make fine router software like pfSense) and a common everyday router as a wireless access point. I built mine although you can buy fine ones for more money than if you build one.

        Running a business on a retail router is like asking to be infested from outside. My router supports IDS/IPS, which functions like an anti-virus but for routers. Normal antivirus programs won’t work with routers – even the entire concept is flawed – because they can’t read through everyday encryption. Normal HTTPS defeats the best antivirus if on a router. Retail routers only support NAT and SPI, which are useful and necessary, but basic.

        pfSense also supports OpenVPN with higher security than all retail routers. Separate user profiles with custom certificates and multiple passwords are a breeze to implement and use. It can also support multiple simultaneous OpenVPN implementations. For example one user set gets access to X, another gets access to X and Y. A 3rd is a site-to-site. Apple couldn’t dream at that level. pfSense is free to download and use.

        • Kent says:

          pfSense is a great product. And you can compile it on a Mac if you wanted to. Obviously you’d want a box that can handle multiple NICs.

        • DH says:

          I run the Apple router only internally. My source to the outside is a SonicWall.

      • Job says:

        I work in technology and one of my job is to compare apple vs other products..

        Apple overcharges you a lot … but it still has cult following

        • RD Blakeslee says:

          Fortunately older iMacs that have receptacles for enough RAM (late 2009 onward) can be upgraded to the current operating system: Sierra.

          These old iMacs are available for “pennies on the dollar”, so to speak, e.g. om eBay.

          Macintosh desktops (ever since Gil Ameleo was fired as CEO) have proven to be long-lived and reliable, for the most part.

          No evidence I know of “leaving just a little bit of the acidic, water-based flux on the circuit boards”.

          BTW, I am not an Apple junkie. Even though I had started out with an Apple Lisa, precursor to the Mac, I abandoned MacIntosh back when Amelio nearly ruined the company – those computers would NOT stay connected to the internet.

          I have a 2009 iMac I keep to back up my Windows hardware.

        • Kent says:


          My main computer is an early 2008 Mac. I don’t play games, so it works fine. I even run Office 2013 on it.

          I’ve been in IT since the early ’80’s. I was compiling SCO Unix kernels almost 30 years ago. I bought a Mac because I was getting tired of the lack of good Linux software.

          When this machine finally bites the dust, I will probably buy some cheap but good hardware and start running Linux again. I’ll have to retrain my wife, which will be a huge hassle.

    • cdr says:

      No, you are not a hater. You left a cult. The drones who remain hate you for it. Cults are good for business if you can wrap one around your business model.

      • DH says:

        That’s ridiculous. I used to build my own computers, use Linux, use Windows phones, etc. The business I started required a Mac setup, because I work in Mac-centric television. I eventually transitioned to an all Apple setup over time, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. Of course, my IT guys complain, because I don’t need them very often any more. Walled gardens just work.

        It seems like a bunch of haters saw an Apple commercial on TV a decade ago and think that Apple users fit some kind of stereotype. Hardly. Their shit just works without much fuss. Even my super conservative, 70+ year old relatives use Apple.

    • TJ Martin says:

      Sorry as well Alex in SJ . The wife and I have been Appleheads since the 2nd commercially available Mac and have never looked back as we watch our PC saddled friends and family negotiate thru the maze of ‘ so called ‘customer service from any and all of the PC manufactures with their computers becoming redundant in less that 24 months [ assuming they last that long ] To be honest .. yes Apple’s ‘ personalized ‘ service has diminished somewhat what with paid for AppleCare etc .. but in comparison they’re still Top o’ the Pops . As for durability … every Mac we’ve purchased over the last 15 years is still functioning and being used regularly for various projects . So yeah … you either got a dud .. in which case return it .. or you did something wrong

      As for Making America I-Robot again… well … sorry … but thats the way the whole world is turning … not just Apple .

      But what Apple could .. and should do is what BMW has already done here in the US . Create a Free Institute of Technology to create and train those highly skilled Blue Collar workers needed specifically focused on their particular product or needs with a mandatory five to ten year commitment to be admitted to the program

      Now that … is a model well worth repeating here in the currently not so Good Ole US of A . The problem is you would not believe how many out of work individuals balk at the idea of a long term commitment ( and training/education .. even when its free ) in order to garner better jobs

    • MaxDakota says:

      Yes! Alex, your comment totally makes sense to me! In my household we were late iPhone converts, my first iPhone was an iPhone 4. The 4 and 4s were, in my experience, indestructible, with or without case. Since the 5s, every single iPhone I’ve had has had major problems within one year – 5s screen was peeling off, 6 had major OS issues and kept shutting off, etc. And trying to get “service” at the Apple Store is a joke. They make you jump through 1000 hoops before they “honor” their one year warranty.

      Our blackberries used to crap out right at the two year mark, every single one. I was convinced they built little self destruct timers inside those. Pretty sure Apple has 1 year self destruct timers built into iPhones!

    • d says:

      Macbook Air is a plastic throw away.

      What you say does not apply to the all metal Macbook pro line.

      You get what you pay for, even with Apple.

  3. TheDanimal says:

    I just got done with an 8 hour shift manufacturing hundreds of circuit boards for audio equipment using a soldering robot which can do the work of around 4-5 of us employees. Sure the quality isn’t great, as the owners of our factory purchased the thing used off Ebay, but I was able to touchup the faulty joints and load the parts for the next board while the robot was working. This thing really only requires skill and knowledge to program. Once it’s programmed, all the operator is required to do is load the boards with parts and put them on the tray of the machine. Of course, since it’s an old P.O.S. it gave me error after error which I needed to clear/remedy, but most of what we do in our shop is automated, including inspection. The buttons I use most on this robot are, Emergency Stop, Stop/Clear, Manual Feed, and Start. Those iPhones mostly have SMT (Surface Mount Technology) parts, so their production is already mostly automated and can easily be performed with older machines. If anything, robots and automation will allow for even lower skill(and wage) employees for most production.

    • alex in san jose says:

      Danimal those robots that populate PC boards are fun to watch. There’s a PCB house just down the street from here, the guy can do everything from take an idea you have and make it into a product, to just do the SMT parts on boards you’ve done yourself, the full spectrum, and at their shop, watching the robot is just amazing.

      Frankly I’d not wish working on those teeny parts on anyone. I tried getting onto the SMT bandwagon and I feel like one of those old guys who couldn’t make the transition from tubes to transistors.

    • ru82 says:

      That is interesting. Thanks for sharing. I bought a PC motherboard at Microcenter two years ago to build my own PC. Keep in mind it was a cheap motherboard that cost about $70. It would not boot and thus dead on arrival.

      I asked the sale person what percentage of this brand of motherboards failed. He told me 50% were returned. I am guessing for these cheap components the quality check is actually the consumer.

      Now I could have bought a $210 Intel motherboard that probably has only a 5% or less fail rate but I was building a HTPC and was trying to make it inexpensive. It is still running after 2 years.

      • Jonathan says:

        Surprise, hardly anybody in China buying the same low-end PC motherboards on Taobao have issues with them.

        It only proves PEBKAC Americans aren’t as good as they think they are.

      • TheDanimal says:

        Ha, I actually did an “internship” at the Microcenter distribution facility when I was in high school. I worked at the RTV(Return to Vendor) testing department. I now hate MSI motherboards for that specific reason, at the time they had so many quirks, you couldn’t use certain video cards with them and expect everything to work properly. You never know how many of those returns were actually good boards, which were returned due to user error or strange quirks the general public isn’t aware of. That’s why I always look for the open-box deals when I go to Microcenter. The stuff was tested by technicians and passed, yet it’s a much lower cost since it’s technically not brand new anymore. Fun Fact: that RTV testing department exists because manufacturers will increase the per unit price of their products to retailers/resellers based on the rate of returns of defective product which isn’t actually defective. Not surprised about your experiences though, as I had a friend who bought a motherboard from Abit, seemingly a reputable manufacturer, which turned out to have those faulty Chinese knockoff electrolytic capacitors which leaked and would fail prematurely.

  4. Richard Hill says:

    History repeats itself. IBM made very similar promises when the first generation XT was replaced by the PS series in the 1980’s. The machines were specifically designed for robot assembly.(I think) But, of course things are different now.

    • cdr says:

      Steve Jobs was a visionary. He invented new products. The current Apple management are managers. Apple items will, over time become as common as laundry detergent without Jobs. There’s no reason to pay too much for something that locks you into their ecosystem.

      The PS/2 was IBM’s effort to differentiate themselves with a non-standard PC that they tried to make people think was better than regular PCs. They failed because they weren’t compatible with the industry in all ways and they were very overpriced and uderpowered. Afterward, the sold the division to Lenovo.

      IBM excelled in the 1980s – 1990s with the System/36, System/38, and AS/400. These were go-to machines. The best in class. Especially the AS/400. Then management decided to de-emphasize the GUI while the industry was embracing it. Then they decided to convince IT departments to use the AS/400 and train talented RPG programmers to also use JAVA – in other words make simple programs complicated beyond reason to build and raise costs for the average IT department by orders of magnitude. People abandoned the AS/400 for common technology and IBM became a mega consulting firm with a hardware division. In 20 more years it may barely exist except as just another consulting firm.

      To give an example, if IBM had emphasized AS/400 evolution to keep up with current practices and ignored JAVA, one or two developers could create a web system for business that could work nationwide with a secure and elaborate database in a couple of weeks or less. Using today’s tech, a team would take weeks or months to do the same thing.

  5. James Murray says:

    That all sounds great but who will buy the stuff? Without paying customers, it won’t work.

    There is a story that Henry Ford put in some automation and called over the union rep. “See those, they don’t pay union dues”, he said. The union rep replied “They don’t buy Fords either”.
    That in a nutshell is the problem.

    Suppose that Apple does create a factory that makes “widgits” at a very low cost. If no one has a job and can afford to buy the “widgits”, what good does that do?

    Ethiopia has one of the lowest labor rates in the world and a lot of sneakers were made there because sneakers are labor intensive. Now, 3D printers are starting to be used to replace that labor.

    When you have the lowest labor rate in the world and automation is killing your jobs, what does that tell you about higher labor rate areas?

    • Frederick says:

      Just give everybody a “Trumpphone” or is it a Kushnerphone and all will be well right?

    • No Debt says:

      Goods produced by robots will mostly be bought by people who have jobs in other sectors. This is true for any good and is what constitutes the division of labor. The idea that workers in a factory need to have enough wages to “buy back their own product” is an ancient fallacy. Apparently, it is applied as well to replacing workers by robots. It singles out one group of workers, without looking at the broader economic consequences. Automation means lower costs, as (1) production becomes cheaper, (2) available workers drive down wages elsewhere, thus costs, and (3) they can produce goods in those other sectors, increasing the supply and lowering their costs even further. Hence, they can even “buy back their former product”. Automation and robots increase productivity, which should not be looked at in isolation, as union populists usually do. Earning enough to buy back your own product could also mean your product becomes too expensive and outcompeted, so you may even lose your job. Full productivity is what makes economic sense, not some arbitrary wage setting. See on this Henry Hazlitt “Economics in One Lesson” (free pdf online), chapter 20.

      • mvojy says:

        Let us know when the latest iPhone is CHEAPER than the previous $800 version. Carriers won’t want to end subscribers paying them $25 per month to rent their phone to trade in later for the newest model.

      • Kent says:

        @No Debt,

        Where I would differ with your argument is that you don’t realize that manufacturing is special. The massive aggregation of capital and labor and the ability to produce in giant quantities provides by far the highest potential for productivity increases.

        And productivity increases provide a society with the opportunity for wage and standard of living increases. Other sectors have not been able to provide those opportunities at scale. Wage increases in almost all sectors are a result of primarily manufacturing’s productivity increases.

        Hence as the USA manufacturing sector has become a reduced employer in the USA, wages have stagnated. My only real thought here is that poo-pooing the manufacturing sector is leaving a big chunk of knowledge out of any significant discussion of economics in the USA.

        • No Debt says:


          Manufacturing is not special in that it is exempt from the laws of economics and would require arbitrary “enough to buy back your own product” wages, which is nothing more than a union blackmailing trick that ignores productivity. Products differ in price and manufacturers mostly produce more than one type of product, with workers switching between assembly lines, so which product(s) should be the benchmark? And in the service industries, this is all the more impossible. If robots and automation would not be economically beneficial, to be judged by the business owners, they would not be deployed. Moreover, they re-increase the significance of manufacturing.

    • alex in san jose says:

      James Murray – I’m sure not paying $1000 or more for a new computer every few years. More like, paying a couple hundred, and if this one goes on the blink in the near future I’ll just hit my boss up for one, since I need it to get work done for him. I’m just not spending like I used to, and actually plan to ratchet my spending down another big notch because I want to start saving (what for me is) some serious money.

    • d says:

      “Suppose that Apple does create a factory that makes “widgits” at a very low cost. If no one has a job and can afford to buy the “widgits”, what good does that do?”

      They started over 7 years ago.

      The issues as you have correctly noted is who apart from robot maintainers and financial engineers will have the money to buy Apple products, The Govt buys them for congress .

  6. Nicko2 says:

    Universal Basic Income is the only solution. Unfortunately, the US will most likely be the last place for something like that to be widely instituted. Friendlier climes such as Canada and most of Western Europe will perfect it it first.

    • mvojy says:

      Well those countries will do it before we do because they don’t welcome as many immigrants as the U.S. does so they know they would be paying their native citizens rather than outsiders seeking the benefit

  7. MC says:

    Apple’s whole logistic tail lays in Eastern Asia: for all of Mr Cook’s spin on the matter I doubt Japan Display, which manufactures iPhone displays in Japan (more on which in a minute or two), bothers to buy glass for them in the US when they have AGC at home.

    Apple has been trying to make their main (and soon to be only) cash cow, the iPhone, have as much content designed in-house as possible to keep their margins from being eroded by the inevitable smartphone commodization. But Apple didn’t set up the production facilities to manufacture the hardware: for example the A9 and A10 processors, despite being proprietary Apple designs, are manufactured under contract by Samsung in Korea and TSMC in Taiwan respectively.
    In short Apple may design parts for their products at Cupertino, but outsources manufactures… again, where are all those thousands of well paid jobs? And I am not speaking about the young and very bright Caltech and MIT graduates toiling away for a wage which may sound great in Nebraska but is barely enough to cover living expenses within commuting distance of Cupertino.

    I suspect here Tim Cook is doing what he knows to do best: throw Apple’s enormous financial weight around to get the best deal as to help keep those high margins a little bit longer.
    Apple may design stuff but doesn’t manufacture a thing: everything is made by hi-tech contactors in Japan, South Korea and Nationalist China. Final assembly is made in Mainland China… but in factories run by Taiwanese contractors.
    In short it would be relatively easy and straightforward for Apple to have final assembly moved to the US. And that’s the whole point.

    Mr Cook’s message is aimed as much to US authorities (“give us a good tax deal and we’ll bring final assembly back”) as to their Asian contractors: Apple is trying to get them, especially the final assemblers, to cut whatever meat they have left on the bone. “Cut costs or we are finding somebody else to do the job” is their threat, a threat they are seemingly backing with that billion dollars which would presumably go towards supporting anyone brave or crazy enough to become an Apple contractor in the US.

    • Meme Imfurst says:

      They happen to be one of the largest money lobby in DC….per ZH.

      The left loves them for what they do for America.

      • MC says:

        Right, Zero Hedge.
        Also known as the home of the Perma-Bears and of the Daily Stormer commentators.

        • Meme Imfurst says:

          Perma bears? Stomers…wait, what? Wolf reads ZH and HZ reads Wolf. In open mind is like a parachute that lets you see in all directions as you glide to safety.

          Here ya go…Apple is a hedge Fund and working it’s way to becoming a bank. They know this toy has an expiration date, but banking does not. All who ask why Apple is not investing in new products are wrong…the products are financial not physical. Who knows, maybe Apple will become the foreclosure king. Just an opinion, don’t kill me.

          In its 10-Q filed on Wednesday, the iPhone-maker reported that $148 billion of its record $257 billion cash pile is invested in corporate debt, with an additional $53.1 billion in Treasury and another $21 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

      • Smingles says:

        “The left loves them for what they do for America.”

        You can not help yourself from posting inane, partisan attacks at every opportunity. It’s almost like a mental disease; it’s certainly a compulsion. Sad.

        Top 5 Companies Loved by Liberals According to Forbes
        (1) Amazon
        (2) Google
        (3) Apple
        (4) Disney
        (5) Microsoft

        Top 5 Companies Loved by Conservatives According to Forbes
        (1) Disney
        (2) Amazon
        (3) Apple
        (4) Microsoft
        (5) Wal-Mart

        Why do conservatives love Apple so much, Meme Imfurst? Or are you only the expert on what liberals love?

        • Meme Imfurst says:

          For the record I have been registered as a ‘liberal’ ( and often demonstrating in the streets at my peril)Democrat for 50 years. I call what I see, and general observation and PR b.s. is tuned as fine as I have ever seen. Brainwashing has been automated, on both sides, the disappointment beyond measure. Next election, I may go fishing instead of standing in line for nothing.

          I do appreciate the personal attack for what it is, but this is not fight club. My comments are not personal, the are general. Kitten Lopez made a very good point regarding this the other day.

          As for all the companies you list, I am puzzled where that ‘documentation’ came from, unless it was from the respective PR departments, because there is something wrong with the tally and what they own and their political and economic call outs. “Forbes” well, what can one say, they are a balance information source.

          Just saying. Remember opinion is free speech until you silence it. Is that your wish?

        • DH says:

          He saw an Apple commercial ten years ago making fun of PC users and apparently isn’t over it. Much of my family, both conservative and liberal, use Apple products.

  8. Ethan in Northern VA says:

    Humans can’t really solder the chips on an iPhone or MacBook motherboard. It has to be done by pick and place machines, and then reflow soldered.

    There are hobbyists with pick and place machines at home, and services that will do your project on one. So it’s not something that is totally untouchable to the small guy.

    • alex in san jose says:

      Ethan – in the ham radio hobby there are people who will build with SMTs, they get a “rework” microscope and there are all sorts of recipes for soldering, one of the more popular being to lay down the paste solder then put the chips on, and put the whole thing in a toaster oven.

      The PCB house I know of will have their techs hand-make small runs, 3-4 boards or so, and the amount they charge …. well …. those poor techs must be making barely over $10 an hour.

  9. Boo Randy says:

    If the US gets into a war with China over the South China Sea, what’s to stop the PRC from expropriating all US manufacturing facilities in their country?
    Can you say “geopolitical risk” boys and girls? I knew you could….

  10. Meme Imfurst says:

    I would rather sit my butt down and write a letter in long hand, put a stamp on it and walk to the post office, that let one penny of my money in to this company’s coffer..

    I can think of no other company to represent what is wrong with multinational so called “American” companies than the king.

    • MC says:

      You may find this delightful.

      Since the last update (released 23rd March), millions of iTunes users around the world cannot access the online store and have a laundry list of other issues as well.
      If you call technical assistance the moment you describe this problem your case will be “escalated” and you’ll be put in contact with engineering which will ask for technical data and tell you they are working on the issue and the problem is caused by “a glitch” on their side. Very strange behavior, as in these cases it’s always the customer’s fault. But no connection to the shop means no sales and more people migrating to Google Play and other services.

      Honestly I really really like iPhone’s. My 5S has taken tons of abuse which would have killed all the phones I had before and still works well and my 4S still works like a treat after a few repairs which cost me pocket change.
      But this fiasco reminded me why I stopped using Mac’s years ago. Apple software and I do not go well together.

      • Jon says:

        My iphone 5s broke screen after a minor fall just after few months

        • alex in san jose says:

          I was *given* an iPhone 5s and it interferes with the FM broadcast spectrum so badly that after figuring out it was the damn iPhone, I took it to the local “fix laptop” place and got $20 for it.

          I’m pretty certain that kind of interference is illegal. Flat-out, illegal.

          I won’t have any Apple product in my house.

    • TJ Martin says:

      Do you think for a minute anyone else is any better ? Take a look at where 80% of that Chevy Silverado that just drove by is sourced from ( China & Mexico ) The H-D rumbling down the road with the Bikers for Trump decal on the fender ? Depending on the model most if not all from India and China . A Jeep Grand Cherokee ? A now decades old Mercedes platform / drivetrain with JEEP now owned lock stock and barrel by the Italians . That cute little Buick CUV your wife is considering ? 100% S Korea . So don’t give us the well worn ‘ Bad Apple ‘ routine .. everybody else has been doing the same if not worse since King Ronnie’s reign . The only difference being Apple … has been a heck of a lot more successful ( and wealthy ) at it . Bringing to mind the ole adage of being the lead dog on a dogsled team . Yeah … the view is better .. problem is your posterior is always being bloodied by those envious of your position

      • Smingles says:

        It’s political. He affiliates Apple with liberals, and hates liberals. Apple = liberals, liberals = bad, Apple = bad. As you said, every company under the sun is doing, or trying to do, what Apple is. It’s hypocrisy and ignorance at its finest.

  11. nick kelly says:

    Cook’s announcement is 99% political, a bone thrown to Trump in the hope that at 3 AM he won’t decide to make Apple that day’s target.
    What is Apple supposed to know about industrial automation that the companies in the field don’t?

  12. Duane Snyder says:

    As someone who worked in manufacturing designing plastic injection molds for over 20 years, I have to say there is something very elitist about articles like this. It, as usual, ignores things like the trade deficit. It also supposes CEO’s like Cook don’t have an agenda they wish to advance. It also gives you the impression that if you are an American working in manufacturing while you are disposable don’t you know! (Unfortunately the economic policies of this country have been mirroring those sentiments. One thing is for sure, the reason China and South Korea and Japan and Germany grew their economies so quickly wasn’t robots. It was trade policy.

  13. Petunia says:

    Apple built an empire on design and the designer is dead. They are only hanging on now. Whether they automate manufacturing or not is irrelevant, they don’t innovate anymore. Tim Cook is nothing more than a bureaucrat protecting the stash of cash and that is a losing battle. I have a $14 android smartphone which is probably just as good as an iphone.

    While Elon Musk gets thrashed for being a govt welfare queen, he is at least trying to come up with the next new thing. Long term I would bet on Musk still being around long after Apple is gone.

    Other than that, by all means bring back any and all manufacturing in all its forms. We need control over the quality of products and the supply chains.

    • TJ Martin says:

      Hmmm … Musk … the next new thing . Interesting in light of his propagating a century + old technology in a 21st century party dress built on a decades old BMW platform ( EV’s ) along with remanufactured missiles posing as new space vehicles .. the same old same old Solar under a new brand and a battery technology yet to of seen the light of even so much as a test … never mind a production day … all on the tax payers dime I might add .

      • Kent says:

        SpaceX brought one interesting idea to the table. Inside a SpaceX rocket is a whole bunch of engines, not just one big one. That does a couple of cool things that can’t otherwise be done:

        1. You can work on the rocket horizontally instead of vertically, because the mass of the engines won’t cause the whole thing to deform.

        2. If one engine is showing something wrong, you can shut it down and keep up the mission.

        Yes they do have to carry much more fuel than older styles, but part of that allows it to land and be reused. None of these things were Musks ideas however, he just talked to the right guys and got the feds to fund it.

        A SpaceX factory on Cape Canaveral is a couple of miles from my house and I got to tour it.

    • JB says:

      well put and welcome back . it has been postulated that if we allow companies to repatriate their oversees earnings it would be tantamount to QE4. As WR stated robotics levels the global playing field and could swing manufacturing back to the US. Although automation displaces the “hands on” employee on the assembly line many other ancillary jobs could be created servicing/designing/programming these systems. The tide will definitely turn when a part for a mission critical system needs to be ordered/shipped from china to repair the fault. I am not sure we realize how dependent we have become on the strategic import port of Long Beach,CA.

    • DH says:

      To be fair, the designer himself, Jony Ive, is still around.

      Your $14 Android is no closer to an iPhone than a Dell laptop was to a Macbook, a Creative Zen was to an iPod, etc.

      The question is, like you say, what will they innovate next? I’m not sure automated cars is the right direction, but I think TV may still be ripe for the picking.

  14. Willy2 says:

    – Did Apple include strippers, hookers, hamburger flippers, bar tenders as well when they’re talking about “we created 2 million jobs” ??

  15. R Davis says:

    Goody, goody, gum drops.
    It all sounds like a tough talking, fast running, other peoples money, greed is good, trading room, razors edge, kill or be killed financial fairy story.
    Tough talking business hacks .. hashing their shit.
    I’m all for it.
    Robots break down regularly .. you either repair or replace .. they are not durable & it costs you.
    Their workmanship leaves a lot to be desired .. & they have no eye for detail.
    The Western world is totally bankrupt as a result of the entrepreneurial ideas of the fast talking Mavericks & we have lot’s & lot’s of junk to buy .. because that is to the quality that they manufacture.
    Fast talking Hot Shots as far as the eye can see …
    & I love robotics.

  16. Iapetus says:

    I hope automation will produce new jobs for workers overseeing the machines.

    As an interesting side note to Apples tax situation, Bloomberg reported today that Apple holds $148 billion ( or 58% ) of its unrepatiated overseas profits in corporate bonds:

    That makes Apple’s Braeburn Capital one of the largest corporate bond investment managers in the world. It’s also an extremely unusual diversification strategy for $257 billion in unrepatiated overseas profits. Apple currently has about $87 billion outstanding in short and long term corporate debt on their balance sheet. Is it possible they are using this overseas money to buy their own corporate debt as a backdoor way to repatriate overseas profits, while avoiding corporate tax? If Braeburn Capital ( the subsidiary which invests their unrepatiated profits ) was to buy Apple bonds ( loan Apple money ), would Apple have to pay them back? Just thinking out loud.

    Is this possible?

    • TheDona says:

      Iapetus, “repatriate overseas profits, while avoiding corporate tax”

      This was the first thing that crossed my mind.

      Too much geopolitical turmoil in general and high beam spotlight on companies parking their money in low tax rate countries without paying their fair share…to the EU for example. I think Apple sees the handwriting on the wall.

    • JB says:

      good point, the way i see it the 87 billion of domestic debt on their balance sheet would have to “paid off” with repatriated/taxed profits if they decided to do so. They could be using the Braeburn Capital resources to influence corporate bond prices to keep their domestic bond issuances proffered at a low coupon rate.

  17. Bobber says:

    Apple is so generous. If America agrees to eliminate taxes on Apple’s $150B of overseas profit, thereby saving Apple $40B or more, Apple will invest $1B in U.S. automation.

    Other people are sacrificing their life for this country, no questions asked. Gees.

    People need to wise up about corporate greed. Corporations have zero allegiance to any country. It’s not corporations that give us freedom, voting rights, laws, equality, etc. Country comes before Company, but in many peoples’ minds its the other way around.

    • IdahoPotato says:

      This is where the rest of the money is going.

      If Apple Inc. were a bond fund, it would dwarf the competition.

      “The iPhone-maker has $148 billion of its record $257 billion cash pile invested in corporate debt alone, according to a company filing from Wednesday. That’s enough to buy all the assets in the world’s largest fixed-income mutual fund, the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, which has about $145 billion of assets including company, government and mortgage bonds.”

      • r cohn says:

        Here is an interesting stat
        Apple adds to this cash pile at a rate ~$1,000 per second.

    • Smingles says:

      “People need to wise up about corporate greed. Corporations have zero allegiance to any country. It’s not corporations that give us freedom, voting rights, laws, equality, etc. Country comes before Company, but in many peoples’ minds its the other way around.”

      Well, corporations are people, according to the conservative Supreme Court Justices– you know, the bench that just got even more pro-business recently? So expect it to get worse before it gets better.

  18. ft says:

    Apple has built an expensive new “spaceship” headquarters in Cupertino. It is their own monument to their own greatness. I suspect it also marks the beginning of the end.

    • Mike G says:

      “Fancy new HQ” has been the start of a decline for many corporations. Too much attention and resources distracted by office configuration, internal politics and egos means less attention paid to the business.

    • alex in san jose says:

      ft- there are videos on YouTube where someone’s taken a drone and flown it around the new HQ, in the process of being built. It’s gonna be massive. It’s going to be some kind of self-enclosed enviro-utopia, come work here and you’ll never have to leeeeeeeeeave…..!

      And yeah, it’s probably the beginning of the end.

    • Dave Kunkel says:

      It’s the “Edifice Complex” first detailed in Parkinson’s Law.

      Examples here in Silicon Valley abound. Borland, SGI, Sun Microsystems, and a host of others have bitten the dust after creating an imposing vanity headquarters.

    • Graham says:

      Agreed, the new HQ is great, but their laptops are too impractical to buy, their iPhones have no headphone socket and the Mac Mini can no longer be upgraded.
      Oh and they have a ridiculous toy watch of interest to no one.

      At least Steve Jobs knew which way to look, Cook is running Apple into an irrelevance with products that people no longer require.

  19. Tom Kauser says:

    I do the job of a half a dozen robots!

    – Lucy in the sky with coal particulates-

    • nick kelly says:

      You DO do the job of half a dozen robots, and most of those jobs can’t be done by a robot in the forseeable future, e.g., change a tap washer, or go to the fridge take out two eggs fry them over-easy, place on toast, etc. etc.
      The largest users of industrial robots are the car makers. We’ve all seen the video of robot welders joining the body panels. The rest of the car is assembled by humans, using various mechanical aids.
      If there are two words that set off the punditry, it’s ‘robot’ and the 35 year old term ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

  20. Tom Kauser says:

    Apple has amassed 247 billion in hoarded assets

    Apple owns more bonds then vanguard? The last time we were in this position Bill Gates tanked the NASDAQ (2000)

    247 b.

  21. r cohn says:

    Assuming the underlying concept of this article is correct , important geopolitical and social problems will inevitably follow.
    If manufacturing can return to the US with little job creation due to robots ,then the EXACT same problem will face China .
    What is China going to do in regard to the vast number of low skilled workers who will then be unemployed .And that does not include the huge number of people moving to the cities from more rural areas.
    China currently faces unrest in in Hong Kong because of its crackdown on democratic self rule.There have also been separatist movements in various provinces,which have been supressed by strong arm methods.
    If millions of jobs are eliminated by robots,more fuel is added to a potential fire ,which could consume China.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, automation will continue fuel all kinds of commercial, economic, and social upheavals around the world, and particularly in China. The key for a society is to somehow stay on top of it and not get run over by it. I have not yet seen anything that would truly accomplish that. So a lot more thinking needs to be done in that department, and rather quickly.

      • AnotherJB says:

        Not to mention AI -if you can believe the “50% of all jobs are going to be replaced in the nest decade” meme.

      • d says:

        The return of the 1 child policy staring in, india, Africa, and Brazil, would be step one.

        The global population has more than tripled since 1945 and in 1945 there were probably already to many people on the planet.

        Our globe is simply 1 huge agricultural environment.

        When you over stock a livestock farm, catastrophe ensues as there are not enough resources to go round.

        The planet is no different.

        We have human accelerated global warming, as we have 3 times more humans on the planet, than we should have.

    • Jon says:

      100s of millions of jobs would be eliminated all over the world because of robotics, AI and automation.
      As I said before, I work in Hi-tech and my base salary is upward of $150K/year. My kinds of jobs are getting eliminated in US because of AI, Automation, Outsourcing. My main job is to design system to do automation and these system once designed can take away jobs which are highly paid..
      Because of automation, in front of my eyes hundreds of jobs have been killed. New ones are created but the ratio is 100:5. For each 100 jibs lost, 5 new ones are created needing different skill set.
      I can tell you for sure… these AI, automation jobs are much more efficient and less error prone if humans are doing them..
      Not only low paid job but even the high paid jobs are threatened big time.
      USA is a consumer driven economy where 70% of the GDP comes form consumer spending. It’d be interesting to see how the wildly appreciated asset can survive in the next few decades.

      I see first hand the obliteration of jobs as well as suppression of wages.

      On the other note: I work extensively on PCs and CellPhones, and do comparison as well. Apple products are over rated and only fools buy their products per me..

      • nick kelly says:

        Could you give some examples of systems you’ve designed and if possible, generally, the customers who purchased them.

  22. Tom Kauser says:

    I guess in the end the “sales forecast” was just a forecast?

    The asset mis-match between homeless people and homeless cars is starting to show bubble signs here below pikes peak!

  23. B Fast says:

    Yea know, we’ve got to become modern about “jobs”. We must extrapolate the end game. At some point all necessary work will be done, or be able to be done, by automation. When that happens, work will inherently be voluntary.

    Work has traditionally been our tool for equitable product distribution. This tool is becoming malfunctional in light of new technology. We need a new way of distributing the “stuff”. Without it, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. This is what has been happening. Somehow it must change.

    • Kent says:

      Consider the rich kid who lives off of his parent’s trust fund. He does no useful work in terms of producing things that others can purchase. In his world, a combination of machines and hairless apes make things that he can buy if he wants them. So, to him, regular people are just like robots.

      Now suppose all humans had a trust fund they lived off. And all things were produced by robots. As long as the robots could continue to produce enough things to satisfy the desires of humans, everyone would be a rich kid.

      But where would the money come from? Well, to the rich kid, it was produced out of thin air. He did nothing for it other than give his parents some level of pleasure. And the government could do the same for everyone else.

      But that assumes enough resources are available to meet everyone’s desires. That might be where the discussion has to be.

      • ft says:

        The world you describe strikes me as a meaningless, miserable one in which drugs are all that’s left.

      • Jon says:

        so basically, people wont have jobs but still have govt entitlements to live off.
        If the elites want to live in peace, it’d be necessary for them to make sure the poor are taken care of..

      • B Fast says:

        I remember this topic being discussed on Star Trek TNG a couple of times. Everybody had a meaningful role, but salary and necessity was off the table. After all, just go to the food replicator and ask for what you want to eat today.

        How to compose a meaningful society that doesn’t have to scramble to make ends meet is a bit of a challenge. But as automation progresses, the challenge will have to be met. We can be proactive or reactive.

        • alex in san jose says:

          B Fast – my employer is one of these supersmart guys (think Woz before the auto accident) and he thinks about these things … he says he’s done the math and for the Star Trek replicator to make a cup of coffee would take the energy of a small nuclear bomb.

          He’s also worked out how Mrs. Kent could have made Superman’s clothing with a normal Earth sewing machine, scissors, etc. She had to have taken his baby blanket apart thread by thread and *woven* it.

      • micromacroman says:

        Sounds like the “Clockwork Orange”. Dystopia just around the corner, or already here ?

  24. Ken Shoufer says:

    The key in the future is not to be a wage slave, and take control of your future by investing in productive assets.

    • d says:

      The key in the future is not to be a wage slave

      should read:

      The key in the future is not to be a, tax, or interest paying, slave.

  25. Maximus Minimus says:

    There is one line that is missing from that chart: the personal consumption of stuff. Manufacturing jobs could be down, output up, but so is consumption – by a magnitude.

  26. Jonathan says:

    I always chuckle at the countries wanting to be the next “export-oriented low-end manufacturing hub” and how they are better than China because of “much lower wages” and “demographic dividend” when they don’t know just how much they are already getting screwed over yet thanks to robots.

  27. michael Engel says:

    What’s the different between 100 robots or 1000 robot factory ?
    What’s the different between 100 robot / no people, in China or US ?
    What’s the different between $100B in Cook hands or Buffett hand ?
    Buffett will use it to become a a whale, when the opportunity rise.
    Tim Cook $100B will be gone, it’s in jail.
    His $100B in China. China is need the $USD. PBOC will say :
    “what’s in China stays in China”, until it will be confiscated, leaving
    a cooked, boiling debt.

  28. KFritz says:

    This is a new feudal lord giving notice to the new serfs. It’s the first salvo in a very one-sided sort of ‘negotiation.’ He’s very nearly dictating the terms of a new ‘social contract.’ This last happened in Western European civilization 1500 years ago. Today we have a larger, and more helpless, percentage of economically superfluous citizens who will be the new serfs. The outcome of this process may be very ‘interesting,’ to borrow from the (ostensible) Chinese proverb.

  29. Allen says:

    Having ‘automated’ several manufacturing facilities, and built a couple ground up, what you really get is a ‘trade shift’. You may not have as much brown collar task which tend to cost a lot in human pain and suffering anyway, Caraparal Tunnel Syndrome, Rotator cup degeneration, back issue, etc., but more blue and white collar jobs in IT and maintenance. Automated environments tend to rely more on ‘outside contractors’ for support, so if ‘they build it’ the small business will developed around it. As one supplier I often lunched with admitted, our facility represented 85% of his business.

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