Foxconn has faced a lot of criticism in recent years over the treatment, well being, and in some cases the young age of the workers it employs. So, related or not, back in 2012 the company started investing in robot technology, with the aim of replacing at least some of those workers.
This week Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has announced that the robots, which are called Foxbots, are about ready to deploy. The first production lines to get them will be those producing iPhones and iPads for Apple.
To begin with Foxconn will install 10,000 Foxbots, each with a manufacturing capacity of 30,000 devices. Although not stated, I assume that is a per month figure. Each Foxbot costs between $20,000 and $25,000, but they should soon start paying for themselves. The production rate is higher than a human worker could achieve, and they will be much cheaper to run. The Foxbot won’t make any mistakes, meaning quality assurance should be cheaper and there won’t be as many instances of damaged devices–another costly issue.
Foxconn has employed an additional 100,000 workers to handle iPhone 6 production, suggesting the Foxbots won’t be working on the new smartphone. It makes sense to first use the robots on a less important device, such as the iPhone 5C, in order to work out any kinks.
Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics contractor manufacturer and employs well over a million people. The introduction of robots may be great news for the company’s profit margins and overall quality of the products being produced, but it’s likely to also mean tens of thousands of people losing their jobs in the coming years.