Did Steve Jobs' Death Shine a Light on the Supply Chain?
When Tim Cook was chosen to succeed the iconic Steve Jobs in August of last year, the appointment was a not-so-subtle recognition of Apple’s strongest feature as a corporate entity: a supply chain that’s the most brilliantly devised of its kind in human history.
Even The New York Times piece that frankly acknowledges the operation’s human cost approaches breathlessness when describing its awe-inspiring fluidity, with new products passing magically quickly from the design phase to mass production – and keeping Apple ahead of the game.
It’s not just Cook. Once upon a time, those bean counters in the warehouse who kept saying we had to streamline operations didn’t end up with keys to the executive bathroom. But with the CEO of the world’s largest company a former supply chain manager – and the field itself on everybody’s lips – it’s clear that the influence of logistics officers in the highest levels of corporate power is on the rise.
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It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Apple’s recent supply chain woes came when they did. The suicides at Apple’s Chinese Foxconn factories that The Times discussed in February happened over a year before. But only now are we getting a real movement for change – and a spotlight on the global supply chain.
No doubt many factors are at play, but the timing is suspicious enough to give media watchers pause. When the leading architect of Apple’s peerless supply chain took over the company, there was suddenly a great deal of media interest – and poor Cook had to take questions no journalist would have ever bothered asking Jobs, whose charisma and personal history usually made for a better story.
Even the best of us have a soft spot for human interest stories, and with Cook as the new Apple plot, we may end up with a meatier tale than we did before. Real good could come of it, and that will mean something to people who need the help. But the media cycle can be cruel to the seventeen people who didn’t get it.
Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight
Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports.
A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers.
Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US.
The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two.
Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels
The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.
The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete.
Tesla’s supply chain woes
Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue.
Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely.
Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany