By October 10, 2008 4 Comments Read More →

Apple’s Newly Discovered Manufacturing Prowess?

The ‘Brick’ is… | 9 to 5 Mac

There’s news that Apple is going to announce new laptops. I love my MacBook that I just bought earlier this year, but I’m not an Apple “Fanboy” (this was my first Mac ever).

What caught my eye about these new products are the rumors about manufacturing process. Huh? Normally, we talk about “speeds and feeds” (a term borrowed from manufacturing, strangely enough) — how fast is the processor, what are the features, etc? Nobody talks about how computers are built anymore since it doesn’t seem to matter, especially if Dell is going to sell its factories.

The MacBook manufacturing process up to this point has been outsourced to Chinese or Taiwanese manufacturers like Foxconn. Now Apple is in charge. The company has spent the last few years building an entirely new manufacturing process that uses lasers and jets of water to carve the MacBooks out of a brick of aluminum.

Wow, that’s pretty cool, if it’s true. Laser and water jet cutting isn’t a brand new technology, by any means, but it would be new for laptop manufacturing.

I’ve always thought Apple (and Steve Jobs — well, they’re one and the same) didn’t care about manufacturing. But the article I’ve linked to claims otherwise:

This isn’t entirely new. Steve Jobs has always had a fondness for having his own plant to produce computers. In 1990, he built a totally automated plant in Fremont California (thanks PED) that could build NeXT machines with only 100 workers. It was a “plant with just about everything: lasers, robots, speed, and remarkably few defects.” Unfortunately, the demand wasn’t very high at the time. However, Jobs remarked, “I’m as proud of the factory as I am of the computer.”

Here’s another post that speculates that Apple might even build a factory in the U.S. That would be pretty unbelievable. A Mac “made in America”?? That post quotes a 1990 FORTUNE article that claimed:

Until recently the 40-person manufacturing staff had more Ph.D.s than the group designing the NeXT machine.

Stay tuned….

Update: Here’s a picture of the rumored single-piece case.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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4 Comments on "Apple’s Newly Discovered Manufacturing Prowess?"

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Too bad they won’t invest in more modern technologies and systems for their supply chain. They’re in the stone age.

  2. Mark Graban says:

    Anon — in which ways are they in the stone age? What should they do?

  3. Neutron Jerk says:

    Funny use the the word “brick” since a dead iPhone (or similar deviced) is said to be “bricked.” Not a positive connotation. Probably more an internal code word than any real marketing name.

  4. Mark Graban says:

    The new “unibody” MacBooks have been announced today.

    http://www.apple.com/macbook/design.html

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