Foxconn and TSMC recruit 5,000 workers each ahead of Apple product launches

iPhone 5 (manufacturing process 005)

Apple’s contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry – also know in the Western world as the controversial Foxconn – and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry, will each add 5,000 new jobs just as Apple is conveniently expected to refresh its existing product families and possibly venture into the HD TV and smartwatch markets. If true, the report could also explain “the worst February” Topeka Capital has seen in terms of Apple’s supply chain procurement of components…

Reuters reported on Monday, citing the Taiwanese Economic Daily:

TSMC and Hon Hai posted the recruitment notices at an event designed for Taiwan university students who will graduate this year, the Economic Daily said, adding that Hon Hai’s planned hiring is the biggest of its kind in recent years.

Most of the new Foxconn hires will be in research and development for automated production, e-commerce and robots.

Foxconn has long been rumored to be replacing factory workers with sophisticated robots. At least 10,000 Foxbots are said to have arrived at an unspecified plant, a far cry from the company’s original plan of deploying a million robots over the next three years.

These machines cost a lot of money and are reportedly quickly obsoleted due to “rapid changes in technology” so Foxconn’s hiring in that regard may signal that the manufacturer may have overcome teething problems with the deployment of these bots.

According to Topeka’s Brian White, Foxconn saw a 25 percent month-over-month drop in sales for February, but Tim Cook cautioned us not to read too much into these reports because Apple’s supply chain is a complex animal (and he should know: Cook in his op-chief capacity had been managing Apple’s supply chain for years, making sure the trains run on time).

TSMC is mostly recruiting equipment managers, Reuters notes, also indicative of possible orders for all-new products. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted as much, telling analyst earlier this year that Apple’s pipeline was “chock full of incredible stuff.”

iPad mini keynote (Phil Schiller, A6x slide 001)

TSMC has entered Apple’s supply chain with trial production of the A6X processor that powers the fourth-generation iPad. And a die-shrunk A5 chip identified yesterday inside a retooled Apple TV has led some to believe Apple is basically now testing TSMC’s new 28-nanometer process for future chips.

We last heard TSMC will start making Apple chips in volume next year, though nothing has been (and won’t be) confirmed yet until TSMC solves manufacturing yield issues and expands its capacity.