Apple still depends on traditional American engineers, and is slowly losing them

Apple and all tech companies are outsourcing their work around the world, but it’s critical that they keep their core skills in America – and no one is training the next generation.

Apple's most modern design depended on the traditional skills we lose
Apple’s most modern design depended on the traditional skills we lose

Apple products say “Designed in California,” but you know that even this design work draws on talent from around the world. Then there’s manufacturing, which is also a global business, even for the Texas-built Mac Pro that needs components from around the world. It’s a big machine on a global scale, but as we seek solutions outside the United States, we lose skills that no country is trying to save.

Jony Ive talked about it regularly during his visit to Apple. He often talked about the difficulty of hiring good young designers.

“Many of the designers we interview don’t know how to do things, because design school workshops are expensive and computers are cheaper,” Ive told the Design Museum in 2014. “It’s just tragic that you can spend four years of your life studying the design of three-dimensional objects, not making one. “

It’s sometimes the same with less visible physical products like teamwork. In 2012, former Apple executive Bob Mansfield announced his retirement.

“Bob was instrumental in our management team, leading the hardware engineering organization and overseeing the team that has delivered dozens of breakthrough products over the years,” said Tim Cook at the time. “We are very sad to see him leave and hope he will enjoy each day of his retirement.”

It was June 2012, and it was not until August of the same year that Cook found a replacement – in the guise of Bob Mansfield. He had practically no retirement days to devote before being rehired and taking charge of what Apple would only call “new products”.

Apparently, it was really a new, unique product, and according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s the Apple Car. Appleiphonestop described it as Apple’s most ambitious project, and Mansfield landed it after his retirement.

For an industry that seems obsessed with young people, technology companies find that experience is difficult to find and should be kept when it exists. IMovie software engineer and creator Glenn Reid first made his mark at Adobe and then in Steve Jobs’ NeXT in the late 1980s, before leaving and being rehired by Jobs at Apple.

He was rehired twice. Reid explained to the Appleiphonestop podcast how and why Steve Jobs just wouldn’t let him go.

According to The Information, Apple has also repeatedly recruited an engineer, Mike Janicek, because they simply cannot find new recruits who can do what they need.

“This is an industry-wide problem, not just for Apple,” Janicek told The Information. “There aren’t many really experienced manufacturing engineers in the United States.”

“Children no longer grow up working on cars or fixing things,” he said. “Instead, if they need an answer, they will search for it on Google.”

Janicek, now 61, was originally an entrepreneur working in an Apple keyboard and mouse factory in 1984. He was then brought back from 2002 to 2009 to supervise the manufacturing of connectors and cases.

And then he was hired again in 2014 due to problems with the Apple, which was then in development. This was delayed and although Janicek has expertise in the disappearing metalworking and machine tool arts, he was also used to getting things done.

In 2009, tired of constantly traveling between Cupertino and its Chinese manufacturers, Janicek resigned. “I needed a break from Apple.”

Although we can assume that all companies are trying this, The Information says that Apple has decided to recruit far from its usual technological fields. For example, he hired automotive paint expert John Payne in 2006.

“If you asked me 10 years before joining Apple if I wanted to work for an IT company, I would have laughed and said:” No, why would they need me? “”, He told The Information. But his expertise in the color coating of metals and other materials meant it was necessary for the Apple tooling team.

“What I loved about Apple was that you didn’t have to use the known manufacturing solution,” he said. “You could prove something new, and if you haven’t tried 200 different things, you’ve been looked at as if you’re not doing your job.”

“Suppliers don’t want to spend a lot of money rethinking products for you,” he said. “They choose the hardware and the processes and often choose the known solution or equipment. Apple wanted perfection, not just enough quality.”

Apple found the expertise it needed by speaking to an automotive expert, and now Microsoft has hired Payne to work for them. It is a small talent pool and it is not renewed, even if it is crucial.

In 2017, Tim Cook approached the public question as much as ever. “In the United States,” he said, “you could have a meeting of tool engineers, and I’m not sure you can fill the room. In China, you can fill several football fields. “

He meant it as praise for China, and rightly so, but it is also a true summary of what we have lost in the United States.

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