Motorola Says It Pays Closer Attention to Work Conditions
But I was able to find a manufacturer that not only was willing to talk, but is proud of its track record when it comes to proper treatment of its workers. Motorola, maker of the Xoom, the Droid Razr and now the Droid Razr Maxx, makes a big deal of corporate responsibility. Unlike most companies, Motorola exerts direct responsibility over everything from proper mineral extraction to environmentally safe materials handling. The company also enforces rules about working conditions and supplier conduct.The difference between Apple and Motorola is that Apple does its manufacturing through contractors. Motorola owns its own factories, and the people building Motorola products are company employees. Motorola does use some contract manufacturing, but according to Christa Smith, Motorola's director of Corporate Communications, audits are frequent and ongoing. What's more, Motorola discloses the results of those audits to the public. The reports make interesting reading, and they highlight the complexity of managing a global workforce with a wide range of practices that are considered acceptable.And therein lies the difference between Apple and another major manufacturer. Motorola could probably increase its margins slightly by using only contract manufacturing, but by owning its own factories it retains control over the process. This means that the company can ensure that proper procedures and practices are followed, and it has the leverage to enforce its policies when they're not. But perhaps what's more important is that Motorola is willing to open the process to public scrutiny. The results of the company's inspections are there to see, warts and all. What's also interesting to see is the level of detail in the audits. Who knew that proper placement of exit signs would be an important finding? Or that one problem with managing work hours is the desire of the workers to work more hours so they can earn more money? Clearly, it's easy to look at Apple and throw stones. But it's more useful to point out another company that might be doing it right and show examples that demonstrate that there are other ways to manufacture mobile devices than the way it's done by Foxconn for Apple. While I haven't spoken with every device maker (although I'm trying to), I suspect that at the very least this issue is now very much in the consciousness of all U.S. device makers. That alone can help improve things.