Why iPads are built in China: it’s not the cheap labor

Compared to the cost of buying chips or making sure that you have a plant that can turn out thousands of these things a day or being able to get strengthened glass cut exactly right within, you know, two days of this thing being due, that’s what’s important. Labor is almost insignificant. What is really important are supply chains and flexibility of factories. You want to be able to be located right next to the plant that makes the screws so that when you need a small change to that screw factory, you can go next door and say, “Give it to me in six hours,” and they can say, “Here you go.” Because if that factory was in another state or on another continent, it would take two weeks. It’s the flexibility within the Chinese manufacturing system, that’s what you can do in Asia that you can’t do in the United States.

Charles Duhigg, NYT reporter speaking on This American Life