Apple Tightens Grip on Worldwide Supply Chain With Asia Hiring Spree

Apple looks to expand its presence abroad to streamline its ability to develop products.

Mar 5, 2014 at 7:00PM

This article was written by Wired.com -- the leading provider of technology and innovation news.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is seeking even more control over the global supply chain that feeds the development and manufacturing of the iPhone and the iPad.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company is on a hiring binge in Asia, adding several hundred engineers and supply chain managers to its staff in Shanghai and Taipei as it seeks to accelerate the release of new products. The iPhone and the iPad are manufactured by companies in Asia, as are many of the components that go into these devices, and Apple wants to grease the wheels on this arrangement.

The hiring spree underlines how important the global supply chain has become to Apple, Google, Facebook, and other top tech companies. As Apple seeks to more efficiently deliver iPhones and iPads, companies like Google and Facebook are developing tighter relationships with Asian hardware companies that build the computer servers and other data center hardware that underpins their enormously popular web services. In both cases, these tech giants can improve the bottom line by more tightly controlling the design and manufacturing of hardware, right down to the processor at the heart of all these machines.

For years, Apple was an outlier because it made both hardware and software, but over the past ten years, the company seized even more control of its computing stack, developing its own Internet services, designing its own mobile microprocessors, and using huge advance orders to lock up early supplies of certain components like batteries and advanced touchscreens. The new hires in China and Taiwan, according to the Journal, will help Apple more deeply influence the design of such components. For example, by helping suppliers develop larger touch screens, Apple's Asia engineers could speed the delivery of a larger iPhone.

Apparently, Apple has accumulated a force of 600 engineers and operations employees in China and even more in Taiwan, where it has poached from rival smartphone maker HTC. That's a small group when you consider that Apple has roughly 43,000 employees in total, not counting those in retail stores. But their location gives the Asia staff disproportionate influence over how quickly products are developed.

Apple is also moving to handle more manufacturing in the U.S., building a Mac factory in Austin, Texas and a component plant in Mesa, Arizona. But the recent hires in Asia show that its overseas operation will only continue to grow. The aim is added efficiency, and Apple will grab it where it can.

Written by Ryan Tate at Wired.com.

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