According to an article on Comcast.net, there was an explosion this past Friday at the Chengdu, China factory of Foxconn Technology Group – Apple’s contract manufacturer of the iPad. The blast killed three employees and injured another 15.

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Though the Chengdu factory is one of two Chinese plants that manufacture the iPad, the article notes that production was suspended both at that Foxconn facility as well as “in workshops that do similar work at its other factories in China.” At this point, the length or consequences of the shutdown are not clear, with industry analysts estimating the effect of the blast ranging “from minimal to up to 2.8 million units in lost output.”

Though the iPad is the leader in the newly mainstreamed tablet computer market, a significant supply chain disruption could help competitors such as Blackberry close the gap. Apple is already struggling through what it called “the mother of all backlogs” in trying to keep up with high demand for the iPads. It is not clear whether that backlog is due to delays of Apple suppliers or an inaccurate forecast from Apple, but it will be interesting to see if Apple’s leading brand cachet will overcome consumers’ love of instant gratification and immediate availability.

Though the article discusses the pros of a diversified supply base, I reject any notion that Apple wasn’t smart enough to know these. The benefits of single sourcing, such as leveraged volume for minimized cost plus “quality and consistency,” were likely considered worth the risk for supply continuity. It’s a gamble. So far, it is paid off handsomely for Apple.

Time will tell if last week’s explosion changes Apple’s philosophy. Stay tuned.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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