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Hi-Tech Manufacturing Collaboration Spans the Globe, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Outsourcing has truly globalized the manufacturing of a wide spectrum of items, from laptop computers to jumbo jets.  As varying countries hone their expertise and cut costs, it has become commonplace for parts of high-tech machines to be manufactured thousands of miles apart and then shipped to a central location for assembly.

Take, for example, the manufacturing of laptop computers.  Taiwanese computer manufacturer Quanta Computer, Inc. is one of the largest builders of laptops because of its system of collecting parts from many nations and assembling them at low cost in Taiwan.  There are certain countries that specialize in certain components.  Need a hard disk drive?  Look to Japan, China, Singapore and the U.S.  Memory chips?  Try South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or China. 

The trend is even more vividly illustrated by the manufacturing process for Boeing’s new 787 aircraft.  The much anticipated jet made its first (and long delayed) deliveries in early 2012 and has made headlines for its revolutionary design that boosts fuel efficiency.  Obviously, constructing an airplane is far more complex than putting together a laptop computer, and Boeing hired a logistics company to design a system for tracking parts as they are manufactured around the world and then getting them to Boeing’s facilities in Washington State for assembly.  Each part is tagged with a radio frequency ID (RFID) chip to facilitate the process.

Japanese firms are also supplying wings for the planes, which must be shipped in a modified 747 cargo jet.  The nose cone is made by a firm in Wichita, Kansas.  Passenger doors are manufactured by the French firm Latecoere, and engines are coming from GE in the U.S. and Rolls-Royce in the U.K.  Cargo and access doors are supplied by Saab in Sweden.  Movable trailing edges for the wings are shipped from Hawker de Havilland in Australia.  Outsourcing on this scale and complexity is both unusual and challenging.  Many problems, such as shortages of needed parts, and repeated delays have occurred during the process.  For example, Boeing eventually purchased a Vought Aircraft plant in South Carolina that is responsible for the manufacture of vital fuselage components for the 787 in order to bring the plant under Boeing’s direct control.



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