Foxconn begins deploying robots to replace factory workers

Back in August, Cody told you that Foxconn, Apple’s favorite component-making company, was intending to replace an unspecified amount of its assembly line workers with one million robots over the next three years. Today, a new report out of China claims the contract manufacturer has begun deploying sophisticated machines that will take care of labor-intensive assembly work. The move is intended to improve manufacturing efficiency and combat rising labor costs while also ensuring the best possible build quality so issues like Scuffgate might become a thing of the past…

Cnet relays a story by Chinese-language web site TechWeb claiming so-called Foxbots have already arrived at one Foxconn plant, at least 10,000 of them. Another batch of 20,000 robots are due by the end of the year.

These things don’t come cheap: each bot costs an estimated $20,000-$25,000 to produce. This means Foxconn will shell out between $600 and $750 million to install 30,000 bots.

Foxconn, as you know, is a poster child for labor violations in oversea factories.

The firm is under heavy criticism from labor watchdogs left and right over a rash of suicides amid difficult living and working conditions at its plants. While both Apple and Foxconn did raise wages and made other moves toward improved working conditions, suicides remain an ongoing problem.

For instance, Foxconn installed safety nets but that didn’t stop workers from jumping from buildings. These safety nets were largely deemed a band-aid solution.

For all the criticism, it’s important to point out that Foxconn employs a whopping 1.2 million workers in China who assemble gadgets for companies like Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony and others, meaning it’s next to impossible to have a zero percent suicide rate.

What do you think?

Are Foxbots the right answer to Foxconn’s woes?