iPhone 5 battery replacement process (iFixit 001)

DigiTimes, the hit and miss Taiwanese trade publication, is reporting this morning that Apple is moving from labor-intensive iPhone battery production to fully automated production lines in 2014. The move is said to stem from Apple’s desire to reduce its manpower demand and is expected to prompt other consumer electronics vendors to follow suit, as per supply chain chatter…

DigiTimes writes:

With automated production lines, Apple will be able to move manufacturing to wherever it likes; however, since most of its other component supply partners are still located in China, the US-based vendor is unlikely to make any significant moves in the short term, the sources added.

Apple and other vendors are said to face labor shortages and high turnover rates because young people are increasingly unwilling to take manufacturing jobs due to low wages and very long hours.

Besides, minimum wages in China are on the rise, adding up to increased costs.

DigiTimes reminds us that Apple previously automated Mac Pro and iMac production lines, adding that “other than materials and final assembly, manpower is not required for the rest of the manufacturing.”

The news is interesting in light of Foxconn’s ongoing efforts to replace workers with about a million robots to take over some of the labor-intensive assembly work.

The three-year initiative, however, has hit roadblocks due to high costs: each robot costs an estimated $20,000-$25,000 to produce. Foxconn’s plan could receive a boost from no other than Google, whose Andy Rubin recently met with Foxconn founder, CEO and Chairman to discuss speeding up robot deployment at Foxconn’s plants.

These machines would run Google’s upcoming robotic operating system for manufacturers and the two firms are said to have been collaborating since 2014 to carry out Google’s vision for robotics in manufacturing.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., is the world’s #1 contract manufacturer and Apple’s preferred partner (alongside Pegatron) that assembles iPhones, iPads and its other products.

Image top of post via iFixit.