Now We Know Why Apple Had Trouble Mass Producing the Mac Pro in the U.S.
If Apple ever had ambitions of moving its iPhone or more Mac assembly to the United States, the tale of a tiny screw might have derailed that.
In a report on Monday, The New York Times cited sources who said Apple’s attempts at assembling the Mac Pro in Texas in 2012 were delayed when the company failed to source enough screws from the U.S. According to the report, Apple needed easy access to thousands of screws to put the Mac Pro together. But when supply became scarce, the company was delayed by a single machine shop that could produce just 1,000 screws a day. It ultimately forced Apple to delay Mac Pro sales for several months, according to the report.
Apple CEO Tim Cook made a splash when he said in 2012 that his company would bring Mac Pro assembly to Texas. Many had hoped that it would be the beginning of expanded efforts by Apple to assemble more of its products in the U.S. instead of China, where it’s historically relied on third-parties to manufacture computers, iPhones, and iPads.
Of course, not being able to source tiny screws might not be enough to derail that expansion, but the Times‘ sources suggested it was part of a broader issue Apple faces in moving manufacturing from China.
Apple (AAPL) benefits greatly from producing its products in China. The country has far more workers that assemble products at cheap rates. According to the Times, Apple’s starting pay for assembling products in China is $3.15 an hour—far less than the company would pay for the same labor in the United States. China also benefits from having better manufacturing infrastructure and access to more workers.
Even in the case of tiny screws, Apple was forced to order parts from China, where they’re more readily available. In the U.S., the owner of the company supplying screws was forced to put them in the back of his car and deliver them to Apple just to try and keep pace with its orders.
Looking ahead, then, the U.S. might not be in Apple’s future for assembling products. In fact, Times sources said that Apple, which is trying to reduce its reliance on China in light of the country’s strained relations with the U.S., is now evaluating India and Vietnam as future homes of device assembly.
Apple did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on the report.