What you need to know
- Apple engineers are struggling to meet with suppliers in China.
- The lack of face-to-face collaboration is causing delays in production.
- Coronavirus and travel restrictions because of the outbreak are to blame.
Apple's production schedule for the iPhone 12 is further being called into question as travel restrictions to China increase. Reported by Reuters, the company has grounded engineers who would normally be traveling to China this time of year to meet with suppliers and manufacturers to finalize production. Only trips that are deemed "business-critical" would be approved.
One source, who asked not to be named, said that if Apple and Foxconn engineers are prevented from working together in person, it could cause further issues and delays.
"They probably have one assembly line they're trying things out on ... are Apple's engineers with the Foxconn engineers? If they are, they're probably making progress. But if they're not, if they're quarantined, that could be bad."
Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, a former Apple engineer, explained that close collaboration is crucial in order to get things right and that trying to accomplish this level of manufacturing with remote teams will be extremely difficult.
"You can fly those engineers somewhere else but there's knowledge about how you make a product in that environment. It's not that it can't be taught but it's a hard thing to move."
An executive at a semiconductor firm, speaking generally about the current state of smartphone production, says that the lack of face-to-face work being done is going to cause huge time losses if it continues.
"There is no face-to-face work being done ... And the word is, that's probably not going to change for another month at best. You're really talking about two lost months, which in the consumer electronics cycle is huge."
Experts say that Apple can still keep its usual timeframe of production and release at this point, but these complications prevent some unique challenges that the company and its partners will have to overcome to do so.