But that’s not the point. Seven thousand miles on trucks, trains and
ships is — by the judgment of the MBA wizards at Bain Capital — way more
businesslike and cost-effective than 45 miles in a Dodge van on Route
This is apparently how the supply chain works nowadays. It’s not for dilettantes like me to plumb its mysteries.
then, I read about Apple’s plans to “reshore” to America a tiny share
of its computer manufacturing in China. Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested
that he’d like to do more, but he’s hobbled by a supply chain that’s
hard to lift up and move around. This reminded me of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where the ghost of Jacob Marley describes Ebeneezer
Scrooge’s burden of penance — for a lifetime of greed and selfishness —
as "a ponderous chain."
Still, I couldn’t help noticing a
paradox. On one hand, Apple can’t make stuff in, say, Freeport, because
putting together a new supply chain would cost a fortune and displace a
network of established links.
On the other hand, Bain Capital
and Sensata, for the sake of trimming the wages, benefits and pensions
of a mere 100 hourly workers, find it easy, thrifty and strangely
gratifying to cast aside a comparatively short and completely intact
supply chain — some of whose links are less than an hour away by Dodge
van — in favor of one that stretches some 7,000 miles over two
continents, requiring interaction among people who speak at least three
distinct languages. And in the process, they ship a whole factory —
lock, stock and heavy machinery — across the Great Plains, the
Continental Divide and the Pacific Ocean.
Far, again, out!
there’s a lot about supply chains that I don’t understand, especially
the rules for outsourcing. But it does occur to me that if shipping jobs
overseas were more like sending Christmas packages to my kids — the
heavier the box and the farther it goes, the more I have to pay —
companies like Bain might be less eager to back up the moving van.
--David Benjamin writes occasionally on technology issues from Brooklyn, usually from the Luddite point of view.
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