Apple and Foxconn, a history [Cook book outtakes]

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Foxconn workers spell company's name
Workers spell out the company's name at one of Foxconn's giant plants.
Photo: Foxconn

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

Foxconn was founded around the same time as Apple, although 6,000 miles away on the other side of the world. In 1974, when 19-year-old Steve Jobs was working at Atari, 24-year-old Terry Gou borrowed $7,500 ($37,000 in today’s money) from his mother to start up a business.

How Ops operates back at Apple HQ [Cook book outtakes]

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Video tour dives deep inside Apple Park
Video tour dives deep inside Apple Park
Photo: Duncan Sinfield

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

As iPhone growth exploded, Apple struggled to keep up with demand. Every year, the number of iPhones sold would double, which meant that Apple kept adding new suppliers and assembly operations to keep up. It was a monumental struggle.

Inside Apple’s factories [Cook book outtakes]

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Apple factory workers in China
Workers examine a camera module in one of Apple's factories in China.
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

A good measure of the size of Apple’s manufacturing operations is its capital expenditure, the amount of money spends on things like buildings and equipment.

Apple’s capital expenditure, or CapEx, is mindboggling. To get an idea of how big it is, take Apple’s new spaceship campus in Cupertino – which is the fourth most expensive building in the world. It cost the company an estimated $5 billion to construct.

Apple spends a similar amount every six months on manufacturing equipment.

How Apple’s Operations department works [Cook book outtakes]

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Two Apple operations workers in a factory
Apple's operations, which Tim Cook headed up, is one of the company's secret weapons.
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

Apple is famous for design and marketing, but a large part of the company’s success is due to the incredibly complex and efficient manufacturing organization Tim Cook masterminded with Steve Jobs.

No matter how beautiful its products are, the company would go nowhere without a world-class manufacturing and distribution operation that can make millions of devices in the utmost secrecy, to the highest possible standards, and deliver them efficiently all over the globe.

It’s an operation unprecedented in the history of industry. When Jobs and Cook started in 1998, Apple was doing $6 billion in business annually. It now does that every 10 days.

A brief history of Steve Jobs’ automated factory at NeXT [Cook book leftovers]

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Inside Next Factory in Fremont
In 1990, Steve Jobs built another highly-automated factory, where robots did almost all of the assembly of NeXT computers.
Photo: Terrence McCarthy, used with permission.

Tim Cook book outtakes

This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on Apple’s manufacturing operations.

This is Part 2 of a two-part section on Apple’s misadventures in manufacturing. Part I is here.

Steve Jobs carried his dream of end-to-end control over manufacturing to NeXT, the company that Jobs founded after being booted out of Apple in 1985. It was here that he learned a tough lesson about manufacturing: that sometimes it’s more trouble than it is worth. Or, perhaps more kindly, that great manufacturing capabilities mean nothing if you don’t have a product people want to buy.

A brief history of Apple’s misadventures in manufacturing: Part 1 [Cook book outtakes]

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Apple Macintosh Factory of the future in Fremont
Steve Jobs built a highly automated Macintosh plant grandly called the "factory of the future."
Photo: Apple Maps

Tim Cook book outtakes This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on Apple’s manufacturing operations.

Steve Jobs always had a deep fascination with automated factories. He was first exposed to them during a trip to Japan in 1983. At the time, Apple had just created a new floppy disk drive called Twiggy. During a visit to Apple’s factory in San Jose, however, Jobs became irate when he discovered the high failure rate of Twiggy drives Apple was producing. More than half of them were rejected. Jobs threatened to fire everyone who worked at the factory

Former Apple product design engineer reveals how Apple runs its factories

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Instrumental CEO Anna-Katrina Shedletsky
Anna Katrina Shedletsky is a former Apple product design engineer who is using her experience to build AI that helps companies streamline manufacturing.
Photo: Instrumental

On this week’s Apple Chat (the podcast formerly known as Kahney’s Korner): I talk with former Apple product design engineer Anna-Katrina Shedletsky about her take on modern manufacturing and how AI will revolutionize factories. She introduces us to her new company, Instrumental, which is using machine learning to help manufacturers identify and fix problems on their assembly lines.

Using her hard-earned experience at Apple overseeing the production of the first Apple Watch and several generations of the iPod, Shedletsky says machine learning is coming fast to manufacturing. Amazingly, almost all consumer electronics products are still assembled by hand — including hundreds of millions of iPhones.

But that’s changing. Manufacturing is undergoing a huge sea change with the advance of robotics and AI.

Inside Apple’s secretive iMac plant in Ireland

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Apple's Hollyhill, Cork factory is the only Apple-run manufacturing facility in the world.
Apple's Hollyhill, Cork factory is the only directly Apple-run manufacturing facility in the world.
Photo: Irish Examiner

When people talk about Apple’s Irish operations, it’s normally negatively, regarding questionable tax practices. But the company operates a 4,000-person factory in Cork, Ireland, that builds iMacs — and it’s the only Apple-owned manufacturing facility in the world.

The Irish Examiner recently got a peek inside the secretive Apple manufacturing plant in Cork. Check out some photos below.