iPhone manufacturer Foxconn replaces 60,000 factory workers with robots

By , May 25, 2016

Foxconn robots

Robots are taking over iPhone manufacturer Foxconn: the world’s biggest contract fabricator has successfully replaced as many as 60,000 factory workers with sophisticated machines that use artificial intelligence to perform elaborate assembly work more efficiently than humans do, a government official told the South China Morning Post.

One Foxconn plant has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots” and “more companies are likely to follow suit,” said Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region in the Jiangsu province, which is a manufacturing hub for the electronics industry.

Rise of the machines

35 Taiwanese companies, Foxconn included, spent 4 billion yuan (about $610 million) on artificial intelligence last year, as per official data. About 600 major companies in Kunshan are planning to tap artificial intelligence to replace workers with robots.

Foxconn Technology Group confirmed to the BBC that it was automating “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations.”

Still, Foxconn insists that using robots does not entail long-term job losses.

Robots manufacturing

The company would typically employ about 100,000 assembly line workers during peak iPhone production. It is believed that Apple’s supply chain employs, directly or indirectly, about a million people.

Robots are killing manufacturing jobs

“We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees,” said Foxconn.

“Through training, we also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control,” said the firm.

Foxconn said it would continue to “harness automation and manpower” in its manufacturing operations. Despite the massive deployment of these robots, Foxconn expects to maintain its “significant workforce” in China.

Robots TEsla factory
Versatile robots in Tesla’s new Fremont, California plant can perform up to four functions: welding, riveting, bonding and installing a component.

A report from consultants Deloitte in partnership with Oxford University, cited in the Economist, said that a disturbing 35 percent of jobs were at risk over the next 20 years due to automation and robotics.

“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” former McDonald’s chief executive Ed Rensi told the US’s Fox Business channel.

Meet the Foxbots

First mention of Foxxcon robots dates back to an August 2011 report claiming the manufacturer would replace assembly line workers with machines in the next 3 years.

The following year, Foxconn began deploying some robots which initially played more of a supporting role in assembly work. The company originally planned to outfit its manufacturing facilities with more than 10,000 robots, each costing between $20,000 and $25,000 to build, ringing up the total cost to at least $250 million.

foxconn production

Each Foxbot can apparently assemble an average of 30,000 devices.

In February 2014, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou met Google’s Andy Rubin to discuss using Google’s robotics operating system for manufacturers to “speed up robot deployment” at its manufacturing facilities.

Should we be concerned that much of our manufactured environment is being increasingly built by machines replacing human workers?

Source: The South China Morning Post

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  • I think this is a great move for Foxconn, considering how much hate they got for treating their workers,

    • igorsky

      Also a good wake-up call for China. Can’t keep selling cheap labor forever.

    • :D

      True, but what’ll happen to the workers? They could always have left previously if they wanted to but now they’re forced to leave.
      I guess they’re still gonna be getting hate either way…

      • Mallouk Malek

        60,000 ! good move for Foxconn okay, but “60,000” families lost their income source !!!

      • :D

        Wow your name intrigues me. It’s extremely similar to my full name.

      • Mallouk Malek

        Because we have the same name
        Name Malek, last name Mallouk lol nice to meet you

      • :D

        Haha nice to meet you too; my name’s Marouf Malik

      • Hunter Matula

        now they are going to the roof because they are all un-employed….

      • Hunter Matula

        Malek, seems like the periodicle expressed that FOXXCONN intends on holding on to their workforce….

        but really, do they really have use for 60000 company jesters??

  • Jamessmooth

    The future. Love the quote you added from MCD former chief exec because its so true. The people here in California are in for a rude awakening when the $15 min wage goes into effect in a few years and suddenly there are a fraction of the jobs available because, amazingly, companies want to protect their bottom line!

    • Shinonuke

      You mean “companies want to protect their greed.” Rude awakening indeed. There is a reason why many wages in California pays higher than many other states and California is still functional. This is the first non-professional job to have a high paying wages but wait and see how it goes instead of what you “think” might happen. San Francisco have already increased their wages to $15/hr for certain jobs. Have you heard of any ill effects yet? If you haven’t then it’s good because it’s working well.

      • Mark Azarmi

        yes the ill affects are it is so damn expensive for anything in San Francisco! When you raise the minimum wage companies raise the prices of everything else. This is a viscous cycle and the people not getting that minimum wage bump suffer do to higher costs.

      • Anonymous

        But the price of living is alot higher in California verus other state.

      • Shinonuke

        Not all parts of California is expensive. Cheaper cities, and comparable to other states like Arizona, are Sacramento, Merced, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, Fairfield, San Andreas, etc…

    • Rod Iron

      Good luck trying to sell a Big Mac to a robot! 😉

      • Jamessmooth

        Ha!

  • Antzboogie

    This is horrible and we need to stand up for ourselves before all of our jobs are lost to robots. We are really just going to stand here and let this happen?? #Facts

    • burge

      And who has to fix the robot when it has a issue. where i work we are looking at getting robots and bring it on is what i say. and no jobs will be lost if we do get them.

      • Rowan09

        How many people do you think is needed to fix 10 robots? Answer maybe 1 or 2 but at the same time, 10 people are out of a job. It will always affect the amount of workers, otherwise companies wouldn’t do it. No company takes on an extra expense for no reason.

      • TechToch

        No only fixing the robots but also manufacturing them and programming them as well as making sure that they are working properly, factories can never get rid of human

      • :D

        Unless they build robots to build robots and even bigger robots to build those robots as well as robots that can design and build bigger robots than themselves…

      • Rowan09

        That would probably be done by another company outside and shipped ready to go. I don’t think they are entering the robot design business. People losing jobs is never a good thing.

      • mrgerbik

        you are deluded. sorry

      • Kaptivator

        can a robot fix another robot? I’m not in your field, so my question is pure. At times i watch sifi movies and see robots fixing other robots.

      • Anonymous

        Im not in the field, but according to the venus project yes a bot could/can fix another bot.

      • Anonymous

        Yep, when you get rid of one job your create other out of it. Someone had to digisn the bot, some had to program the bot and some has to transport the bot, someone has to fix the bot, someone need to power the bot.

    • david95

      I agree. But I am a computer engineer, someone has to run the world. 🙂

      • K3NSH1R0

        I’m an automation engineer so I’m good as they’ll need guys to program and commission the equipment 🙂

      • Anonymous

        And chemist to help with the material design. Basically kids get an education!

      • Anonymous

        Hahahah, this guy gets it.

    • Anonymous

      Not all job will be replace by robots. After all in irder for a company to make money people need to have jobs to buy things. Robots are just replacing jobs that people do not need nor should do. Basically people need to get an education and build things. Like creating new technologies. Not flipping burgers. And for the record I actually am flipping burgers while im going to school. But even ill say my job is point less and a mechine wont get borde doing it… But i sure as shit do.

      • mrgerbik

        The numbers dont add up. This is naive thinking

  • shirtbrigade

    Soon, there will be no more need for muppets and then what happens??

  • Nigol T.

    Humans are so yesterday 😉

  • NooYawker

    Why not build our own robots and just make them here? No unions, no hassle.

  • Monkey Sea

    I could care less. We don’t make crap in the U.S. anymore so it has no effect on me. Some would say it will make the iphone cheaper, but do you really think that Apple will drop the price of their cash cow?

    • david95

      Correction, we make plenty of “crap” in the U.S. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        He’s right we do. Example ios watch os, tv os all made in the states.

  • david95

    If we sent our jobs overseas because of cheap labor, wouldn’t it make since to bring them back if they are going to use free labor robots instead?

    • Ooooo

      Wouldn’t that be sticking it to the chinese if the U.S. bought robotic units and made things here, LOL. It would cut down on shipping and provide tech jobs also.

    • triplewitching

      Ummm, sorry Trump supporters, those jobs are NEVER coming back. Those jobs won’t even EXIST in 10-20 years, just a few technicians to maintain the workbots…

  • Chindavon

    So that’s where all of the poor working condition reports got them…

  • Matt

    Lets start moving all our operations to the US then..!

  • Allen kimball

    And this is the result of continued demand for an increase in minimum wage for unskilled workers. The liberals think that money grows on trees.

  • trusake

    More and more people on Earth, less and less jobs for us all.

  • Rod Iron

    “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” former McDonald’s chief executive Ed Rensi”
    Hey Ed Ronald is gonna have one helluva time selling a Big Mac & fries to a robot! Corporate greed knows no bounds!

    • mrgerbik

      Its funny because I do see both sides of the argument. It seems to me that the problem with most people is they take a hard stance to one side of an issue, as if thats the ONLY position to take.

      Sure minimum wage increase can be viewed as ‘bad’ for business, and people should be creative and work towards becoming wealthy themselves – but really what is business for but to allow for people to live and thrive. Its not to allow only a few people to get astronomically wealthy at the expense of others.

      Issues like this arent meant to be football games where you cheer one side and boo the other.

  • GINGERDREADS

    I’m setting up a new AI robotics company, calling it Cyberdyne. Just waiting on a guy called Miles Dyson to get back to me. Any investors, give me a holla .

  • Hunter Matula

    great…. now they are going to have heavy machinery jumping off the roofs of Foxxconn instead of suicidal overworked underpayed slaves… better strengthen those nets Foxx

    ok, i was out of line, maybe they werent overworked underpayed or even a slave… but, suicidal???? if it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck…

    disregard the above statement…. I LOVE APPLE, and nothing that evolves into GREATNESS will never ever come without sacrifice, keep on changing the world Apple, we love you!

  • Zachary Lucier

    There are many pros and cons for this. They’re getting rid of underpayed labour but then again, killing 60,000 jobs…