It Has Begun: Apple Supplier Foxconn Replaces 60,000 Employees With Robots
Foxconn, one of Apple's most prominent suppliers and the world's biggest contract electronics manufacturer, recently entered into an agreement to acquire Microsoft's feature phone business for $350 million.
That is apparently not the only thing keeping the company busy, though, as it has engineered a massive move into automation for its factories.
Foxconn has replaced 60,000 employees in one of its factories with robots, drawing forth visions ranging from robots completely obsoleting human workers to a robot apocalypse. The robots will replace humans in many manufacturing processes associated with the company's operations, the company said.
Industrial automation through the utilization of robots in the manufacturing process is part of a global trend that is looking to reduce idle labor times by replacing low-skilled and modestly skilled humans with robots.
According to Foxconn, it will be integrating robotics into repetitive tasks that were previously done by humans. With robots taking over these mundane tasks, the company will then be training up human employees to be able to carry out more complicated parts of the manufacturing line, which add more value, including quality control, process control and research and development.
Foxconn's move, while certainly bad news for the workers who were replaced, would be a good sign for Apple and the many top electronic brands that rely on Foxconn as a supplier.
The automation of part of the manufacturing process could lead to cost savings for companies and, looking at the bigger picture, could signal the return to prominence of the "Made in the USA" tag.
Manufacturing businesses in the United States have fallen off due to the lower costs and more advanced capabilities of suppliers abroad. However, with the continued rise of automation, manufacturing may soon be brought back to the United States, albeit with robots taking most of the mundane work instead of humans.
Among the products that Foxconn supplies components to include Apple's iPhones and iPads, Samsung's Galaxy smartphones and Sony's PlayStation 4 video game console. Will some of these devices be completely "Made in the USA" in the future? Only time will tell.