Tech blogs have been in a tizzy the past few days as word has spread that some of the new 2012 iMacs are bearing an "Assembled in USA" marking where "Assembled in China" is usually found. Not all of the new iMacs are featuring this designation, but enough have popped up to make everyone wonder, is Apple moving more assembly operations back to America?
Apple does do some assembly here, but mostly of refurbished or highly-customized computers. A facility in Elk Grove, CA used to regularly make iMacs, but although the complex is still operating, it stopped making the computers in 2004. That could have changed recently though as the Sacramento Business Journal noticed in September that the facility's workforce grew 50 percent in the previous year. Maybe to start assembling iMacs again?
Apple hasn't responded to the findings, but that's not completely surprising with their history of secrecy.
"Assembled in USA" is, of course, different than "Made in USA." The computer's parts are still made overseas in this case. What is notable though is that to bear the "Assembled in USA" marking, significant assembly must occur here, not just screwing a few things together.
From the Federal Trade Commission:
A product that includes foreign components may be called "Assembled in USA" without qualification when its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial. For the "assembly" claim to be valid, the product’s last "substantial transformation" also should have occurred in the U.S. That’s why a "screwdriver" assembly in the U.S. of foreign components into a final product at the end of the manufacturing process doesn’t usually qualify for the "Assembled in USA" claim.
Apple Insider notes that, "As for Apple's future plans with domestic assembly, Cook said at the D10: All Things Digital conference in May that he wanted more American-made Apple products, but noted workforce limitations when compared to China."
"We will do as many of these things [in America] as we can do," Cook said, "and you can bet that we'll use the whole of our influence to do this."
These are all good signs that at least some assembly operations are moving back here and there's reason to get excited about that. With the constant reports of poor working environments and wages for assembly line workers overseas, moving assembly to the U.S. means that our computers are put together by workers that are protected by stricter laws here at home.
And since the U.S. is still the largest market for Apple products, having computers assembled here means a shorter trip when it's time to ship to customers, not to mention the additional American jobs it creates.
Obviously the components of our computers and gadgets are still being made overseas and the vast majority of the assembly is still happening elsewhere, but any steps toward bringing some of the manufacturing back to the U.S. is a good move.