Foxconn, a prominent Apple supplier, started a massive automation effort for its factories in May by replacing 60,000 human workers with robots.
In a new report by DigiTimes, it seems that Foxconn is ramping up automation in its factories, with the initiative to be rolled out in three phases.
Automation Of Foxconn Factories
According to Foxconn Automation Technology Development Committee general manager Dai Jia-peng, phase 1 of the automation of its factories will involve setting up automated work stations that will carry out tasks, which are dangerous or are unwilling to be done by human workers.
For phase 2, Foxconn will be automating whole production lines to decrease the number of robots required for the company's manufacturing processes.
Lastly, for phase 3, entire factories will undergo automation. Upon completion of the shift into automation, factories will only have a minimal number of human employees who will be assigned to roles in logistics, production, testing, and inspection.
Foxconn's Progress For Automation
The plans of Foxconn to automate its factories are not just starting out but rather are already well advanced. According to Dai, Chinese Foxconn factories in Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Zhengzhou are either in the second phase or third phase. In some factories, there are already 10 production lines that are fully automated.
In addition, the company has already deployed 40,000 so-called Foxbots, which are industrial robots that were developed by Foxconn itself.
Foxconn is capable of producing about 10,000 Foxbots annually to support the move into automation. The company is also involved in the development of robots that can be used in medical care.
The Pros And Cons Of Automation
The automation plan for Foxconn highlights the growing trend in the tech manufacturing industry of replacing human workers with robots for more efficiency and productivity. There is also the long-term benefit of reduced costs, after the initial investment needed to develop and implement the necessary technology.
Foxconn's automation efforts would also give some sense into the company's plans to expand into the United States, a move that was previously seen as a factor that would increase the price of iPhones due to higher labor costs in the country.
However, with the goal of only hiring human workers for a minimum number of roles and thousands of people already having lost their jobs, the economy of entire communities might be affected by the replacement of human employees with robots.
The move into automation is a particularly sensitive topic for Foxconn due to the reports of abysmal working conditions that employees suffer from while working in its factories. By replacing humans with robots, Foxconn will no longer need to address its worker welfare-related problems, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.