On Apple’s Efforts to Improve Supply Chain Conditions

The New York Times published an extensive 7-page report last night detailing Apple’s failure to effectively pursue safer working conditions in its overseas manufacturing plants.

We knew that conditions were bad for workers inside the factories of companies like Foxconn and Wintek, but we thought they were getting better. But citing both past and current Apple executives, the NYT paints a bleak picture of Apple’s efforts to improve the awful conditions of its supply chain workers…

What it all seems to boil down to is that Apple’s requests for high profit margins and quick-turn around times puts a major strain on manufacturers.

Imagine Apple has just finished work on a product and is ready to start building it in mass quantities. It goes to a manufacturer and says, “We need 10 million units of this product built in 26 days. And it better not cost us more than $50 million dollars.”

Apple asks the seemingly impossible of its supply partners and as a result, the manufacturers cut corners. They force their workers to put in consecutive 60+ hour workweeks and skimp on safety procedures and protocols. This has resulted in two major explosions in factories over the last year, causing a handful of employee deaths and countless injuries.

To be fair, Apple did just recently join the FLA (Fair Labor Association), and it seems to be really committed to making things better. But some would argue that it’s just not happening fast enough.

“We’re trying really hard to make things better,” said one former Apple executive. “But most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”

If you haven’t read the NYT article, you should check it out. It’s definitely worth reading.