August 2010’s loser of the month: Apple

apple-logo1-124x150Apple may be at the top of AMR Research’s annual Supply Chain Top 25, but its supply chain is not (see the online discussion by trade journal Logistiek on LinkedIn). This summer, one of Apple’s supply chain managers was arrested for corruption and is alleged to have taken a total of more than one million Euros in hush money. Then, in one of Foxconn’s Chinese factories where iPads and iPhones are manufactured, an employee working on the conveyor belts committed suicide; the tenth in five months. Two other employees tried the same, but failed.

According to lobbyists, the employees were driven to desperation by the awful working conditions. They work long hours, at least ten hours a day, and then work overtime to boot. It’s monotonous work, it requires a lot of concentration and the conveyor belts run at ridiculous speeds. Foxconn reports to be doing everything they possibly can: hiring therapists, hanging up safety netting, opening a library and a swimming pool and even inviting Buddhist monks in to help. The last resort: doubling their salaries. Other figures that are currently doing the rounds put Foxconn’s suicide statistics into perspective. Relatively speaking, more people commit suicide in the city of Utrecht in The Netherlands than they do at Foxconn.

Whatever the truth of the story is, the hype that Apple has created surrounding its new products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad – and the resulting shortage of them – has left a particularly bad taste in the mouths of many consumers: the taste of blood.