Why Apple should reinvent manufacturing

The tech juggernaut isn't the only company to use factories with poor working conditions, says Farhad Manjoo at Slate. But it's the only one that can change things

Apple factories
(Image credit: Qilai Shen/In Pictures/Corbis)

Last week, Apple cheered its jaw-dropping quarterly profits — double what the company earned in the same period in 2010. The high spirits were punctured just one day later when The New York Times published a story on the "punishing" conditions at the Chinese factories that assemble Apple's iPhones and iPads. The scathing report, detailing grueling seven-day-a-week shifts and worker suicides, was a blow both to Apple's loyal customers and to the company's brand, sending a clear message to the tech juggernaut. Apple has reinvented so many industries it's almost hard to keep track: Music, phones, PCs, photography, says Farhad Manjoo at Slate. "Now it should reinvent how gadgets are manufactured." Here, he explains why it's not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing:

Apple is in a unique position to change how the world’s gadgets are made. It alone can risk reducing earnings over the short run in exchange for a long-term improvement in the conditions at its plants. Apple has almost $100 billion in cash, and it has frequently used its holdings on strategic investments that pay off over time (for instance, buying up the world's supply of touch-screen panels). Apple’s brand image is core to its success. Millions of people around the world believe that no other company is smarter about improving our gadgets. If that perception keeps getting challenged by reports from Apple’s dark underbelly, many of its customers might rightly wonder whether the iPhone is really worthy of their continued affection. Not to mention their money.

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