Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

danwells

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 4, 2015
765
596
MacBook Pros aren't really "configure to order" - everything is soldered to the motherboard and there's a relatively limited number of configurations. It is inconceivable that Apple receives an order for one and tells Foxconn "build one of those". There are only 83 possible combinations of screen size, CPU, RAM and disk in current production (so not counting "old M2 Max sitting on a shelf). Each one comes in two colors, for a total of 166 "models".

I didn't count external parts like power adapters (or keyboards/mice on iMacs) separately, because it IS conceivable that Apple says "that 14" going out the door was ordered with a 96W adapter - make sure to change it out" and puts the 96W adapter in the box. I suspect that even the weirdest configuration (something like a 14/30 M3 Max with only 36 GB of RAM - but an 8 TB drive, in silver) sells in the hundreds or even thousands of machines annually, and anything more usual sells in the tens of thousands.

These aren't CTO machines, they're production models. Even if you wanted to build them CTO, it would be impossible, because of how integrated they are. It's simply impractical to stop a highly automated line and say "let's solder an 8 TB drive to the next one, in the midst of a run of 1 TB machines". The MOST they could do is make all 83 motherboards in batches, then slap them in a case when someone orders one (and why even do that for Space Black, which gets most of the demand - MAYBE for a few odd configurations in Silver)?

This raises the question of why a "CTO" takes more than a few days? They are all sitting in a warehouse. It would make sense that the warehouse serving the US is IN the US (if they warehouse them in China, they have to fly them here - the CTO lag is too short to get them here by sea). If they're sitting in a US warehouse after arriving by sea, why does changing anything trigger a 3 week lag? Sure, some models might be out of stock, with more expected in three weeks - but ANY change triggers the SAME delivery estimate. Maybe they're quoting a worst case and often ship faster?

This same situation is true of all current production Macs - there aren't many models, and the part that differentiates them is a highly integrated board. There are 166 possible MBPs, 168 possible MBAs (24 are M1 models, 96 are 13" M2s and 48 are 15" M2s), 120 iMacs (there are very few possible motherboards, but quite a few colors), 64 Mac minis, 44 Mac Studios and 48 Mac Pros. If I added right, that's a total of 502 Macs - too many for an Apple Store (no wonder you can't walk in and buy any configuration), but a perfectly reasonable number to be stored in a warehouse, so online orders SHOULD fulfill quickly.

Each one of those machines is simply a motherboard in a particular color case - there is not a single additional part involved - not even a laptop with two possible battery sizes. I don't think there is any place where two case SIZES even share a motherboard - it's just one board, one case (possibly in a number of colors).

The one exception to this is that storage is NOT soldered on the Mac Studio and Mac Pro. It would be possible to put the storage (but not the RAM) in those Macs at the last minute. There does seem to be a software pairing process, so they probably just put the storage in on the assembly line?

There DID used to be true Configure to Order Macs - not everything was soldered on, and there were a LOT of configurations - far too many to keep everything in stock at a warehouse. The last of them was the final Intel Mac Pro. I played around with the configurations listed on EveryMac and my count is that there are 13320 permutations. Even if my math is off, we can safely say "many thousands" - and a lot of that CAN be changed to order - RAM, video card(s) and even the CPU are just socketed standard parts, while the storage is replaceable, but paired in software. I suspect these really WERE finished up when an order came in, both because it was easy and because there were probably some permutations that they never sold ONE of.

Some Intel iMacs also had many hundreds of configurations, and there were modular parts (CPU, RAM, sometimes storage or GPU), so there was quite possibly a real CTO element that certain pieces were put in the Mac when it was ordered.The last 27" Intel iMac (2020) had 4 CPUs, 5 storage sizes, 5 RAM configurations, 4 GPUs (or was it 5) and optional 10 GB Ethernet and nano-textured screen. If everything is compatible (and some configurations probably don't work), that's 1600 possible models. That's a TON to warehouse, and some of them are probably rarely sold.
 

picpicmac

macrumors 6502a
Aug 10, 2023
906
1,177
They're probably just sitting in a warehouse

That's an assumption based on what, exactly?

everything is soldered to the motherboard
And THEREFORE configurations are made to the quantity needed.

If one does not exist in a warehouse, it has to be made.

Every manufacturer has raced to be as much Just-In-Time as possible. This is the holy grail of manufacturing - to not keep items in warehouses.
 

danwells

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 4, 2015
765
596
Interesting point, so they probably do pair motherboards to cases at the last minute (at least in places where there are a ton of keyboard possibilities). I just looked, and the online Apple Store has 16 keyboard layouts for US orders

You could cover 99% of North American needs with three keyboards (plus REAL custom orders for the Professor of Russian at the University), and French Canadian is a tiny fraction of US/Canadian English and Latin American Spanish. Even to get most of the Americas, you'd only need four (those three plus Brazilian Portuguese).

Europe uses about 20 layouts...

If I were Apple, I might still warehouse the North American variations in North America. English and probably Latin American Spanish. Brazil might be big enough to warehouse Portuguese models there (depending on Mac market penetration).

They probably can't warehouse everything they need for Europe in Europe (maybe French, German, UK) - a Finnish model with an unusual configuration could take a long time to sell... At least they could both speed up American deliveries and avoid flying machines for a large market across the Pacific.
 
  • Like
Reactions: splitpea

lcseds

macrumors 65816
Jun 20, 2006
1,174
1,017
NC, USA
Just in time manufacturing. It's likely Apple doesn't pay for parts until the components are ordered by a customer (aside from the initial order of certain configs). They won't pay to have inventory on hand getting dusty. When I toured Dell (yeah I know it's not Apple), they had tractor trailers backed up to the loading dock. Parts were purchased from the truck so to speak, then hit the build line. They bought only what was needed. When I toured Lenovo in the 90's, they had mountains and mountains of unsold PS/2 computers. A terrible waste of dollars.
 

G5isAlive

Contributor
Aug 28, 2003
2,376
4,076
MacBook Pros aren't really "configure to order" - everything is soldered to the motherboard and there's a relatively limited number of configurations. It is inconceivable that Apple receives an order for one and tells Foxconn "build one of those". There are only 83 possible combinations of screen size, CPU, RAM and disk in current production (so not counting "old M2 Max sitting on a shelf). Each one comes in two colors, for a total of 166 "models".

I didn't count external parts like power adapters (or keyboards/mice on iMacs) separately, because it IS conceivable that Apple says "that 14" going out the door was ordered with a 96W adapter - make sure to change it out" and puts the 96W adapter in the box. I suspect that even the weirdest configuration (something like a 14/30 M3 Max with only 36 GB of RAM - but an 8 TB drive, in silver) sells in the hundreds or even thousands of machines annually, and anything more usual sells in the tens of thousands.

These aren't CTO machines, they're production models. Even if you wanted to build them CTO, it would be impossible, because of how integrated they are. It's simply impractical to stop a highly automated line and say "let's solder an 8 TB drive to the next one, in the midst of a run of 1 TB machines". The MOST they could do is make all 83 motherboards in batches, then slap them in a case when someone orders one (and why even do that for Space Black, which gets most of the demand - MAYBE for a few odd configurations in Silver)?

This raises the question of why a "CTO" takes more than a few days? They are all sitting in a warehouse. It would make sense that the warehouse serving the US is IN the US (if they warehouse them in China, they have to fly them here - the CTO lag is too short to get them here by sea). If they're sitting in a US warehouse after arriving by sea, why does changing anything trigger a 3 week lag? Sure, some models might be out of stock, with more expected in three weeks - but ANY change triggers the SAME delivery estimate. Maybe they're quoting a worst case and often ship faster?

This same situation is true of all current production Macs - there aren't many models, and the part that differentiates them is a highly integrated board. There are 166 possible MBPs, 168 possible MBAs (24 are M1 models, 96 are 13" M2s and 48 are 15" M2s), 120 iMacs (there are very few possible motherboards, but quite a few colors), 64 Mac minis, 44 Mac Studios and 48 Mac Pros. If I added right, that's a total of 502 Macs - too many for an Apple Store (no wonder you can't walk in and buy any configuration), but a perfectly reasonable number to be stored in a warehouse, so online orders SHOULD fulfill quickly.

Each one of those machines is simply a motherboard in a particular color case - there is not a single additional part involved - not even a laptop with two possible battery sizes. I don't think there is any place where two case SIZES even share a motherboard - it's just one board, one case (possibly in a number of colors).

The one exception to this is that storage is NOT soldered on the Mac Studio and Mac Pro. It would be possible to put the storage (but not the RAM) in those Macs at the last minute. There does seem to be a software pairing process, so they probably just put the storage in on the assembly line?

There DID used to be true Configure to Order Macs - not everything was soldered on, and there were a LOT of configurations - far too many to keep everything in stock at a warehouse. The last of them was the final Intel Mac Pro. I played around with the configurations listed on EveryMac and my count is that there are 13320 permutations. Even if my math is off, we can safely say "many thousands" - and a lot of that CAN be changed to order - RAM, video card(s) and even the CPU are just socketed standard parts, while the storage is replaceable, but paired in software. I suspect these really WERE finished up when an order came in, both because it was easy and because there were probably some permutations that they never sold ONE of.

Some Intel iMacs also had many hundreds of configurations, and there were modular parts (CPU, RAM, sometimes storage or GPU), so there was quite possibly a real CTO element that certain pieces were put in the Mac when it was ordered.The last 27" Intel iMac (2020) had 4 CPUs, 5 storage sizes, 5 RAM configurations, 4 GPUs (or was it 5) and optional 10 GB Ethernet and nano-textured screen. If everything is compatible (and some configurations probably don't work), that's 1600 possible models. That's a TON to warehouse, and some of them are probably rarely sold.

You’ve put a lot of thought into this, but seems you started with the conclusion and then justified it all the way through, 166 Mbps is a lot of configurations any way you slice it. No way do i see that sitting in an amazon style warehouse.

For its stores Apple makes a base configuration and a high end configuration, and thats what it has in inventory. Try the exercise in reverse, lets say all you said is true, they have all these units just waiting to go. Why is it in apple’s interest to not ship immeadiatetly?
 

danwells

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 4, 2015
765
596
The way modern super-automated motherboard manufacturing works, you have to make all 83 boards in batches (there are no drop-in pieces on a modern Mac). It would be completely impractical to tailor a day's motherboard manufacturing to the previous day's orders. On a machine where the RAM and/or SSD go in slots AFTER the boards come out of the wave solderer, it's a different story.

The keyboard question could explain why they do it as they do. If they have 20 keyboards, they would be stuck with 3220 configurations in inventory, which is way too many (and some combinations rarely sell).

I'm amazed it isn't more economical to build a bunch with English keyboards (and maybe a few other popular languages). What it would save them is air freight. To get a machine that's in China to the US in 3 weeks, it HAS to fly, and that's both expensive and carbon-wasteful. If they built the various configurations with common keyboards for several big markets outside of Asia, they could send those by sea. They'd still have to air-freight the Danish keyboards (etc.), but there are many fewer of those...
 

RSmith2023

macrumors 6502a
Sep 26, 2015
669
696
Atlanta, GA
MacBook Pros aren't really "configure to order" - everything is soldered to the motherboard and there's a relatively limited number of configurations. It is inconceivable that Apple receives an order for one and tells Foxconn "build one of those". There are only 83 possible combinations of screen size, CPU, RAM and disk in current production (so not counting "old M2 Max sitting on a shelf). Each one comes in two colors, for a total of 166 "models".

I didn't count external parts like power adapters (or keyboards/mice on iMacs) separately, because it IS conceivable that Apple says "that 14" going out the door was ordered with a 96W adapter - make sure to change it out" and puts the 96W adapter in the box. I suspect that even the weirdest configuration (something like a 14/30 M3 Max with only 36 GB of RAM - but an 8 TB drive, in silver) sells in the hundreds or even thousands of machines annually, and anything more usual sells in the tens of thousands.

These aren't CTO machines, they're production models. Even if you wanted to build them CTO, it would be impossible, because of how integrated they are. It's simply impractical to stop a highly automated line and say "let's solder an 8 TB drive to the next one, in the midst of a run of 1 TB machines". The MOST they could do is make all 83 motherboards in batches, then slap them in a case when someone orders one (and why even do that for Space Black, which gets most of the demand - MAYBE for a few odd configurations in Silver)?

This raises the question of why a "CTO" takes more than a few days? They are all sitting in a warehouse. It would make sense that the warehouse serving the US is IN the US (if they warehouse them in China, they have to fly them here - the CTO lag is too short to get them here by sea). If they're sitting in a US warehouse after arriving by sea, why does changing anything trigger a 3 week lag? Sure, some models might be out of stock, with more expected in three weeks - but ANY change triggers the SAME delivery estimate. Maybe they're quoting a worst case and often ship faster?

This same situation is true of all current production Macs - there aren't many models, and the part that differentiates them is a highly integrated board. There are 166 possible MBPs, 168 possible MBAs (24 are M1 models, 96 are 13" M2s and 48 are 15" M2s), 120 iMacs (there are very few possible motherboards, but quite a few colors), 64 Mac minis, 44 Mac Studios and 48 Mac Pros. If I added right, that's a total of 502 Macs - too many for an Apple Store (no wonder you can't walk in and buy any configuration), but a perfectly reasonable number to be stored in a warehouse, so online orders SHOULD fulfill quickly.

Each one of those machines is simply a motherboard in a particular color case - there is not a single additional part involved - not even a laptop with two possible battery sizes. I don't think there is any place where two case SIZES even share a motherboard - it's just one board, one case (possibly in a number of colors).

The one exception to this is that storage is NOT soldered on the Mac Studio and Mac Pro. It would be possible to put the storage (but not the RAM) in those Macs at the last minute. There does seem to be a software pairing process, so they probably just put the storage in on the assembly line?

There DID used to be true Configure to Order Macs - not everything was soldered on, and there were a LOT of configurations - far too many to keep everything in stock at a warehouse. The last of them was the final Intel Mac Pro. I played around with the configurations listed on EveryMac and my count is that there are 13320 permutations. Even if my math is off, we can safely say "many thousands" - and a lot of that CAN be changed to order - RAM, video card(s) and even the CPU are just socketed standard parts, while the storage is replaceable, but paired in software. I suspect these really WERE finished up when an order came in, both because it was easy and because there were probably some permutations that they never sold ONE of.

Some Intel iMacs also had many hundreds of configurations, and there were modular parts (CPU, RAM, sometimes storage or GPU), so there was quite possibly a real CTO element that certain pieces were put in the Mac when it was ordered.The last 27" Intel iMac (2020) had 4 CPUs, 5 storage sizes, 5 RAM configurations, 4 GPUs (or was it 5) and optional 10 GB Ethernet and nano-textured screen. If everything is compatible (and some configurations probably don't work), that's 1600 possible models. That's a TON to warehouse, and some of them are probably rarely sold.
You’re out on a limb here with some fairly large assumptions. Just the limited number of variations that you list makes it extremely wasteful to have them built and sitting on the hope that someone might want that combination. Plus you seem to be basing your numbers on one region with one language and 1 keyboard type.

And there is nothing out of the ordinary to have a CTO line (or 2) set aside to process those orders, especially after the initial rush of launch day orders.
 
  • Like
Reactions: rb2112

smirking

macrumors 68040
Aug 31, 2003
3,709
3,683
Silicon Valley
At least they could both speed up American deliveries and avoid flying machines for a large market across the Pacific.

Some 3rd party retailers are known to have BTO configurations in stock. B&H often has them in all kinds of configurations, but that also means that they routinely get stuck with inventory of stuff like 16" M1 Max 4TB machines that end up being discounted very aggressively after they've sat in a back room for 22 months.

Because they've been put in storage for so long, they're old stock by then and have higher rates of battery issues. There have been cases where many units in their inventory were delivered DOA with completely dud batteries. That happened to me and at least one other MacRumors member a few years ago on a fantastic deal on 16GB 2 year old Intel Airs.

I'd be surprised if Apple didn't have at least some reserves of all configs, but I can see why they wouldn't keep BTOs stocked up.
 

AlmightyKang

macrumors regular
Nov 20, 2023
246
688
Just a heads up on this. If your BTO configuration craps out, you will have to wait 3 weeks for them to build another one that they can replace it with, assuming they actually have parts. A colleague of mine was shot with this and was down for 6 weeks and had to buy an off the shelf config as a backup. I religiously by off the shelf configs these days - can get them fixed same day (not that I've needed to)
 
  • Like
Reactions: picpicmac

MacDaddyPanda

macrumors 6502a
Dec 28, 2018
896
996
Murica
I would imagine they use data from initial sales and projected anticipated sales of each configuration and build in batches per week or month. That's why there's a lead time to order a custom configuration.
 

Lee_Bo

macrumors 6502a
Mar 26, 2017
605
876
Greenville, SC
It is inconceivable that Apple receives an order for one and tells Foxconn "build one of those".

As a former Foxconn employee, I can say yes, that’s probably exactly what happens. And it’s not just Apple. It’s every other corporation Foxconn owns.

Back in “the day”, all major manufacturers kept items in stock because they all sold fairly quickly. Unfortunately today, manufacturers aren’t doing that anymore because they don’t want stock lying around, not moving. Then when you place your 2024 order and receive your device, the manufacturers date may be a year earlier.

Thanks to Covid, most of your HVAC equipment manufacturers no longer carry commercial equipment in stock and has to be made to order, for the same reason. They don’t want these units sitting around, collecting dust. You think 3 weeks is a long time? Try waiting 6-8 months for a new air conditioning unit or heat pump.

And IMHO, those days are gone and we’ll probably never see them again.
 

Paul Deemer

macrumors member
Dec 17, 2023
36
21
Greenville, SC
Base Units are going to sell fast so they keep them in stock to sell same day at Apple stores. For example first I decided to get a 16" inch MacBook M3 Pro with 36gb ram and 2tb SSD from the apple website. The estimate was 10-14 days for delivery because it was a custom configuration with the 2tb hard drive. The next day I cancelled the order and got the 16" M3 Max base and Apple site said it was available at my local store 5 mile away that day. So that's what I ended up getting. The local store has all the base models in stock M3, M3 Pro, M3 Max base and full. There are so many different configurations with ram, SSD, CPU, GPU it only makes sense to keep in stock what 90% of people are going to buy. The other 10% are power users that need custom configurations and that takes longer because they are not already at the Apple Store locally.
 

Jim Lahey

macrumors 68020
Apr 8, 2014
2,245
4,499
Even if one assumes that the production process is incapable of discriminately building a customer order, which is unlikely given the sophistication of modern logistics, it’s folly to expect that every possible permutation should be available in the same quantities everywhere.

It’s absolutely likely that some configurations have to be shipped or flown in from overseas in order to satisfy transient demand. No way does any retailer, including Apple, hold all models at all times in all places. And if they did you’d have to pay a lot more for the convenience or they’d have gone out of business a long time ago 👍
 

geta

macrumors 65816
May 18, 2010
1,327
958
The Moon
Because it's BTO, aka “Build To Order”… and you’re not the only one that ordering custom configuration.
 

jlc1978

macrumors 603
Aug 14, 2009
5,374
4,108
If I were Apple, I might still warehouse the North American variations in North America. English and probably Latin American Spanish. Brazil might be big enough to warehouse Portuguese models there (depending on Mac market penetration).
It's very similar to the news vendor problem.

Warehousing and shipping has costs, as does inventory. Every day a product sits unsold just to cut shipping times costs money that could be better spent; plus since demand is variable you could wind up with a lot of unsold inventory when new models come out. Warehousing in the sales location would add import duties as well. The costs of doing that, vs. build to order and air freight, is probably much higher at the BTO volumes. People are willing to wait for CTOs, and if they are not are likely just to buy an in stock model, so Apple doesn't lose in the end and keeps costs down.

From a consumer's POV, they'd likely get a BTO that has an old OS on it, needing an immediate upgrade. No big deal but still they'd feel they got an "old machine."
 

dmccloud

macrumors 68030
Sep 7, 2009
2,899
1,598
Anchorage, AK
The OP seriously underestimates the number of different hardware combinations there are for any given model of Mac. For the base (M3) MBP 14" alone, there are 288 possible combinations available from the Apple Store. For the M3 Pro/Max versions, there are an additional 3840 possible combinations. It would be logistically unfeasible for Apple to keep every possible configuration (4128 for the 14" MBP alone and another 1440 combinations for the 16" MBP) on hand at all times just in case someone orders that specific combination of components.

Ignoring artificial limitations set forth by Apple, one can figure out the number of possible combinations with the following formula: (# CPU Options * # RAM Options * # SSD Options * # AC Adapter Options * # Keyboard Options. I just went to the Apple website and counted the number of options for each component to fill into the formula.
 

posguy99

macrumors 68020
Nov 3, 2004
2,282
1,529
If I were Apple, I might still warehouse the North American variations in North America. English and probably Latin American Spanish. Brazil might be big enough to warehouse Portuguese models there (depending on Mac market penetration).
I doubt Apple wants to listen to the battery wankers whine about a laptop that was warehoused months ago and now has a (relatively) old battery in it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: kitKAC and jlc1978

JPack

macrumors G5
Mar 27, 2017
12,348
22,734
The notebooks are literally built to order, yes. They are not stocked in a warehouse.

What OP has forgotten is component prices fluctuate and in general, trend downward. This means Apple doesn’t want to be sitting on large quantities of pre assembled logic boards with 16GB or 32GB RAM and 1TB SSDs when component prices are always dropping.

Second reason is Apple doesn’t stockpile their own M processors either. If they discover a bug that requires a respin of the silicon, they don’t want to end up with a bunch of old M2 chips. Intel and AMD have a few steppings per product.


1707678117978.png
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: jlc1978

jlc1978

macrumors 603
Aug 14, 2009
5,374
4,108
The notebooks are literally built to order, yes. They are not stocked in a warehouse.

What OP has forgotten is component prices fluctuate and in general, trend downward. This means Apple doesn’t want to be sitting on large quantities of pre assembled logic boards with 16GB or 32GB RAM and 1TB SSDs when component prices are always dropping.

Good point; however I would think Apple has already factored in some % price drop to be expected in pricing, so that overall margin for Macs over the sales cycle hits the target, with the first batch having lower margins than the last. This allows setting a stable price point that isn't too high at the start and can be maintained across teh sales cycle.

Second reason is Apple doesn’t stockpile their own M processors either. If they discover a bug that requires a respin of the silicon, they don’t want to end up with a bunch of old M2 chips. Intel and AMD have a few steppings per product.

That would make sense; and fit in with JIT manufacturing.
 

JPack

macrumors G5
Mar 27, 2017
12,348
22,734
These aren't CTO machines, they're production models. Even if you wanted to build them CTO, it would be impossible, because of how integrated they are. It's simply impractical to stop a highly automated line and say "let's solder an 8 TB drive to the next one, in the midst of a run of 1 TB machines". The MOST they could do is make all 83 motherboards in batches, then slap them in a case when someone orders one (and why even do that for Space Black, which gets most of the demand - MAYBE for a few odd configurations in Silver)?

Impossible? Not only is it possible, it's how manufacturing BTO electronics is normally done.

The pick and place machine literally spins around and picks up 4x2TB (8TB) chips instead of a pair of 512GB NANDs. Then the whole board heads to the wave soldering line. Think of it like a print job. You can add new orders to the printer at any time.
 
  • Like
Reactions: rb2112

JPack

macrumors G5
Mar 27, 2017
12,348
22,734
Good point; however I would think Apple has already factored in some % price drop to be expected in pricing, so that overall margin for Macs over the sales cycle hits the target, with the first batch having lower margins than the last. This allows setting a stable price point that isn't too high at the start and can be maintained across teh sales cycle.

Yes, Apple has factored in price drops. But it's free money on the table if Apple does BTO and doesn't stockpile. In exchange, the customer waits a couple weeks. In general, the customers that want a specific config are willing to wait a bit. This is the same practice if you order from Lenovo or Dell.
 

TechnoMonk

macrumors 65816
Oct 15, 2022
1,471
1,889
Storing in the warehouse isn’t Apple for long time. Apple uses JIT manufacturing. The custom models, which aren’t popular configuration are build to order. Your best bet if you want custom config is grab from retailer.i had to wait 4-6 weeks when M1 Max 16 MBP was released for 64GB. I found one at Microcenter and bought from them when they had a deal.
 

danwells

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 4, 2015
765
596
The OP seriously underestimates the number of different hardware combinations there are for any given model of Mac. For the base (M3) MBP 14" alone, there are 288 possible combinations available from the Apple Store. For the M3 Pro/Max versions, there are an additional 3840 possible combinations. It would be logistically unfeasible for Apple to keep every possible configuration (4128 for the 14" MBP alone and another 1440 combinations for the 16" MBP) on hand at all times just in case someone orders that specific combination of components.

Ignoring artificial limitations set forth by Apple, one can figure out the number of possible combinations with the following formula: (# CPU Options * # RAM Options * # SSD Options * # AC Adapter Options * # Keyboard Options. I just went to the Apple website and counted the number of options for each component to fill into the formula.
I did the same thing, but forgot the keyboards (and deliberately excluded the AC adapters, because they can easily be inserted at a warehouse)... I still think English and Spanish (and Chinese, but there's not as much of a shipping time issue there) might be treated a little differently from, say, Finnish - the calculus between warehousing and air freight might differ. Apple has admitted in their own environmental reports that air freight incurs substantial financial and carbon costs.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.