Making the rounds last year was an article reporting on the delay of Apple’s previous Mac Pro model due to a shortage of screws. It was in some ways parabolic, a cautionary tale of electronics manufacturing coming home from China. It seemed as though this manufacturing stint would have been a lark, and that future manufacturing would be pushed abroad with the rest of Apple’s products, but Apple has doubled down on its American manufacturing plans, and is again making its latest model of the Mac Pro in Texas.
Building the Mac Pro, Apple’s most powerful device ever, in Austin is both a point of pride and a testament to the enduring power of American ingenuity,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With the construction of our new campus in Austin now underway, Apple is deepening our close bond with the city and the talented and diverse workforce that calls it home. Responsible for 2.4 million American jobs and counting, Apple is eager to write our next chapter here and to keep contributing to America’s innovation story.
Before we profess the return of a prodigal Apple, it’s important to remember that this device is different from their other products. For starters, its price tag starts at a whopping $6,000 and you could reasonably configure one for $10,000. I was able to max one out for the low price of $53,799. In short, this is not really a consumer product — it’s a top-of-the-line computer meant more for the staff of Pixar rather than a kid heading off to college.
Apple’s Shenzhen partners make a lot of fancy electronics, but this is a particularly complicated and expensive machine. It is likely that Apple can kill two birds with one stone here. The first is that they can devote specialized resources to a high end product, and reliably get it built. The second is that they can highlight this effort to gain public and private support. The vast majority of Apples products continue to come from the Pearl River Delta, but Apple can hold up the Austin plant when facing criticism. Indeed, Tim Cook took Donald Trump on a tour of the Mac Pro facility, possibly in an attempt to get him to wind down the trade war, or at least soften the blows on Apple. Recently the Office of U.S. Trade granted Apple an exemption on 10 of its components.
Electronics companies are feeling the heat from tariffs and looking to diversify their operations. While companies explore places like Vietnam and the Philippines, there is also an increase in attention on manufacturing domestically. Apple reported that:
[The] Mac Pro contains hundreds of components from companies in 19 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and Washington. This includes computer processors from Arizona and Oregon and graphics processors from New York, as well as electrical components from Maine, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Worth noting is that a company can do all their manufacturing in the U.S. but still source an entire material list from manufacturers in China (and likely do). It’s not clear where these parts are made even if the companies are based in the U.S.
The world wont change over night, but it will be important to pay attention to the change in landscape as manufacturing locations diversify over the next few years. This is just one piece in a larger story. Read more in the announcement from Apple here.