Apple doubles U.S. manufacturing

Apple's latest supplier list, Apple's manufacturing operations in the United States doubled between 2020 and 2021, but most of them were small-scale trial production for testing purposes. The number of factories in the United States set up by Apple suppliers has increased from 25 to 48 in one year. As of September 2021, 48 of Apple's more than 180 suppliers have factories in the United States, up from 25 a year ago, according to a list of suppliers released by Apple. Among them, California has more than 30 factories, compared with less than 10 a year ago.

Most of Apple's products are manufactured and assembled in Chinese factories, and its only product assembled in the United States is the Mac Pro. Apple emphasizes that the components used in the Mac Pro come from 12 suppliers in eight states.

Apple's latest supplier list shows that many of Apple's major suppliers, including chipmakers Qualcomm and TSMC, product assembler Foxconn, and image sensor supplier Sony, added factories in the United States last year.

It should be emphasized that small-scale trial production is also covered in Apple's so-called "manufacturing business." While Apple has been tight-lipped about the exact process by which products are made, most U.S. factories are likely to complete small-scale pilot production. The main stages are as follows:

Prototype manufacturing stage

Prototypes are early models used to test different aspects of a new product and are usually divided into design prototypes and functional prototypes.

A design prototype is a non-functional mockup that primarily helps product developers understand how a particular design will look and feel. Functional prototypes are mainly used to implement various technical functions of the product but may look completely different from the final product.

Apple primarily builds prototypes in its own design studio, which includes computer-controlled aluminum milling and 3D printing.

Engineering Verification Test (EVT)

During the engineering verification testing phase, Apple combines design and functional prototypes to produce a device using the intended materials that look and works much the same as the final product.

The purpose of engineering verification testing is to ensure that it is practicable to produce the product in its intended form and to address any production challenges that may exist therein.

Apple typically produces between 100 and 1,000 devices during engineering validation testing, some of which are likely to be made in U.S. factories.

Design Verification Test (DVT)

The products produced in the design verification testing stage are all using the precise process on the final production line, and each model will be involved. Apple generally produces several thousand products in the design verification and testing phase, and this work may be done by a Chinese factory and a US factory.

Production Verification Test (PVT)

Production Validation Testing is the final stage of testing performed on the actual production line to ensure that product quality, yield, time and cost are as expected. Apple's production verification tests are all done at the product's manufacturing facility.

Usually, Apple will send its own engineers to supervise the trial production of products. In the last two years, Apple has developed new remote work processes that employ technologies, including live streaming, to help employees at Apple headquarters remotely track production at product factories, according to people familiar with the matter. It is reported that Apple will use iPads to communicate and augmented reality tools to help technical experts at the company's headquarters check for problems in factory production. Factory managers will be given more decision-making power, but the final decision is still at Apple headquarters.

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