Back in 2012, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, announced on prime-time television that the company would manufacture a Mac computer in the U.S. -- the inaugural product to be made by American workers which would also proudly bear the label, "Assembled in the USA".
However, when the time came for the company to assemble that computer in Texas, Apple had a hard time finding enough of the right kind of screws. The company had counted on suppliers in China to provide custom screws within a short period of time but couldn't manage to do the same thing when assembling items in the Lone Star state.
As a result, tests of the new Mac were delayed because the contractor Apple used for its screws could churn out only 1,000 every day. When it came time to mass-produce the machines, Apple wound up procuring the needed screws from...where else? China.
Apple would likely face similar problems were the company to try to shift major portions of manufacturing from China to the U.S. No other country, reports the New York Times, can out-do China when it comes to skills, scale, cost, and infrastructure.
China is more than a supplier for Apple, though. It is also one of the company's more important consumer markets.
Apple continues to explore ways to change up its supply chain. Cook, though, says that making the company's products requires advanced machines as well as many workers with the capability of operating them.
“In the U.S., you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room,” he told the Times. “In China, you could fill multiple football fields.”
With needed screws, too, probably.