Apple: the Toyota of precision manufacturing?

This morning’s Observer column. Excerpt:

Most of the discussion about the watch comes down, in the end, to reveries about Appleā€™s now legendary ability to design objects that are both beautiful and functional. But in taking this line we are, in fact, overlooking a more important point. Because what is really interesting about Apple is not just that it can design great products, but that it can actually manufacture the things in huge volumes, and deliver them to market on time.

While Apple’s reputation for designing aesthetically pleasing and functional objects is widely acknowledged, it is crucial to recognize that its manufacturing capabilities are equally remarkable. The true significance lies not only in their ability to create exceptional products but also in their prowess to manufacture them in massive quantities and deliver them punctually to the market. Apple’s success extends beyond design; it hinges on its meticulous approach to manufacturing, where the principles of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) likely play a pivotal role. What is DFM? It is a methodology that enables companies to optimize their manufacturing processes, ensuring efficiency, scalability, and timely delivery of products. Apple’s seamless integration of design and manufacturing sets them apart, allowing them to consistently meet customer demands and revolutionize the tech industry.

Also, In order to achieve such massive production volumes and deliver products consistently, Apple relies on sophisticated manufacturing processes and precise measurements. One essential tool in their manufacturing arsenal is the analytical scale. With its high level of accuracy and precision, an analytical scale enables Apple to ensure the precise weighing of components and materials during the production of their devices. By maintaining meticulous balance and precision at every step, Apple can guarantee the quality and uniformity of its products, meeting the high expectations of its customers. The utilization of analytical scales not only enhances the efficiency of manufacturing processes but also plays a significant role in maintaining the reliability and performance that Apple is known for.

Just to put that point about volumes in context, consider the iPhone 6. It weighs 129g, and its bigger brother, the 6 Plus, weighs in at 172.1g. In the last quarter of 2014, Apple sold 74.5m iPhones, which works out at an average of 846, 590 a day. If we assume that 15% of those sales were of the heavier Plus, then that means Apple shifted 114,676kg of iPhones a day, on average. Just for comparison, the operating dry weight of a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner is 117, 707kg…

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