Apple manufacturer Foxconn aiming to fully automate factories in three phases

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Apple's main manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is planning to eliminate human workers from its Chinese factories in three phases -- something already complete at some locations, a manager with Foxconn's Automation Technology Development Committee revealed on Friday.




In the first phase a factory is equipped with robots at individual workstations, handling tasks that are too dangerous for humans or simply things people don't want to do, Dai Jia-peng told DigiTimes. The second stage scales up to entire production lines, and by the third stage, only a minimum staff is present for production, logistics, testing, and inspection.

Factories in Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Zhengzhou have reached the second and third phases, Dai said. Notably, at Zhengzhou -- where roughly half of Apple's iPhones are made -- only a CNC line has been fully automated.

Foxconn has deployed over 40,000 "Foxbots" so far, and is capable of building about 10,000 per year, according to Dai. On top of the industrial robots, the company is also developing medical ones. Dai commented that the industrial machines can't completely replace humans, since the latter have the ability to quickly switch from one task to another.

Ultimately automation should offer a number of benefits to Foxconn executives, including faster production, cheaper labor expenses, and the ability to outbid the competition. The switch has already eliminated thousands of jobs however, and could disrupt the economies of some Chinese cities.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 101
    davendaven Posts: 543member
    And so,lies the next big world economic challenge - how will the typical current factory and service industry workers earn a living when manufacturing and support services are automated? The factories may return but with very few jobs.
    StrangeDaysdewme
  • Reply 2 of 101
    This is exactly why Trump's promises of bringing manufacturing back to America are more likely to have a negative effect on jobs.  Not that it's Trump's fault, but promising factory workers that there is some great future for them is irresponsible at best, and dangerous on some level.
    netroxrobin huberSpamSandwichjkichlineanantksundaramretrogustomacxpresstmayben20neo-tech
  • Reply 3 of 101
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,296member
    We have to face up to the fact that jobs requiring little education, skills, or training are never coming back. Service and assembly line jobs are a thing of the past. It will take 50 years or more before trade jobs will disappear. We will continue to need carpenters, electricians, brick masons, plumbers, welders, ironworkers, etc. Robots won’t be able to build a skyscraper on their own for some time yet IMHO. So what do we do about that segment of society that becomes unemployable because of automation? That’s the $64K question. We all know individuals who just aren’t cut out for highly skilled, highly educated, highly trained jobs.
    retrogustotmaymacxpressravnorodomneo-techdewme
  • Reply 4 of 101
    Everyone needs to learn that if your job, or some part of it, can be automated...eventually it probably will be. So then, what will you do to keep increasing your value in less automate-able activities? What will you do to become skilled in things that are much harder to automate well or possibly at all?

    There are three basic options here:

    1. Try to prevent the automation in some way (unlikely and a bad idea anyway)
    2. Stare, light the proverbial "deer in the headlights" at the automation that's happening and then ask for handouts from the government.
    3. Keep growing, learning, preparing, saving, etc. in new or better skills that are still a few steps ahead of the robots.

    The third is the hardest but also the best option.

    retrogustolibertyforalltmaystanthemanneo-techdewme
  • Reply 5 of 101
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,336member
    daven said:
    And so,lies the next big world economic challenge - how will the typical current factory and service industry workers earn a living when manufacturing and support services are automated? The factories may return but with very few jobs.
    Yep. That's what I've been saying to the "Fight for 15" crew... you may get $15/hour... but not for long. Corporations will simply replace you with robots and computers.  That's the way things are heading. Anyone who doesn't see that has their head firmly jammed up their past.

    We are in the midst of the beginning of a new industrial revolution. The trouble is that our government is so far not wanting to admit it.  Instead, they want to return to "the good 'ol days" with "the good 'ol boys".  The people who will suffer are the average, everyday citizen that is trying to make ends meet.

    What we need is a more progressive governance that understand that automation is the future we had always hoped for and that finally mankind can work less and enjoy life instead of slaving away for peanuts.  What you are seeing now are oligarchies struggling with this new reality and trying to use it to further line their pockets. But there will be a social revolution.  It's an inevitability. 
  • Reply 6 of 101
    Automation of line workers is inevitable. Automation increases when the technology has improved enough and when the cost of using the person exceeds the cost of using the machine. Guessing this will also decrease the number of leaks in the supply chain!
    designrretrogustotmay
  • Reply 7 of 101
    lkrupp said:
    We have to face up to the fact that jobs requiring little education, skills, or training are never coming back. Service and assembly line jobs are a thing of the past. It will take 50 years or more before trade jobs will disappear. We will continue to need carpenters, electricians, brick masons, plumbers, welders, ironworkers, etc. Robots won’t be able to build a skyscraper on their own for some time yet IMHO. So what do we do about that segment of society that becomes unemployable because of automation? That’s the $64K question. We all know individuals who just aren’t cut out for highly skilled, highly educated, highly trained jobs.
    Most of what you say is true. But keep in mind that even some of the jobs you mention (carpenters, electricians, brick masons, plumbers, welders, ironworkers, etc.) are also being increasingly automated just in less obvious and perhaps less visible ways. As a simple example: I'll be that tools like power nailers, power saws, laser levels, etc. have reduced the time any individual worked needs to do a job, thus reducing the total number of workers required to do a given job. So people even in these jobs need to be continually enhancing their skills and moving up the value ladder (for the lack of a better metaphor). This movement up the value ladder generally involves more mind/intellectual/creative work and less body/physical work in some way in every profession.
    retrogustoSpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 101
    Welcome to Economics 101, China!

    And Trump. 
    mdriftmeyerdesignrneo-techSpamSandwich
  • Reply 9 of 101
    This is exactly why Trump's promises of bringing manufacturing back to America are more likely to have a negative effect on jobs.  Not that it's Trump's fault, but promising factory workers that there is some great future for them is irresponsible at best, and dangerous on some level.
    There are always related ancillary jobs created and needed, ever been to an automotive production plant?  I was just at the Camaro/CTS plant in Grand River, MI, and there are plenty of people also required for much work...  
    designrSpamSandwich
  • Reply 10 of 101
    This is exactly why Trump's promises of bringing manufacturing back to America are more likely to have a negative effect on jobs.  Not that it's Trump's fault, but promising factory workers that there is some great future for them is irresponsible at best, and dangerous on some level.
    There are always related ancillary jobs created and needed, ever been to an automotive production plant?  I was just at the Camaro/CTS plant in Grand River, MI, and there are plenty of people also required for much work...  
    Yeah. The job counts might decrease in some way in some areas and in the short term. But really what happens is the jobs themselves change and are redefined in some ways. And then there is demand (and supply of of labor) for other things.
  • Reply 11 of 101
    Robots aren't consumers or taxpayers, so there's a point where automated work becomes self-defeating economically: the increased efficiency and savings have no purpose if there aren't enough consumers or a stable society.
    retrogustoMacsplosionasdasdStrangeDaysrobin huberzoetmbSpamSandwich
  • Reply 12 of 101
    designr said:
    This is exactly why Trump's promises of bringing manufacturing back to America are more likely to have a negative effect on jobs.  Not that it's Trump's fault, but promising factory workers that there is some great future for them is irresponsible at best, and dangerous on some level.
    There are always related ancillary jobs created and needed, ever been to an automotive production plant?  I was just at the Camaro/CTS plant in Grand River, MI, and there are plenty of people also required for much work...  
    Yeah. The job counts might decrease in some way in some areas and in the short term. But really what happens is the jobs themselves change and are redefined in some ways. And then there is demand (and supply of of labor) for other things.
    Exactly, there are always changes and retraining required, anyone who thinks they found a life-long job is fooling themselves these days.  Everything is evolving and job skills and training must also continually evolve, that is the only way to thrive in these times of change.  

    We as a species are planning to goto Mars, now THAT is an area for jobs!  ;)  
    designrSpamSandwich
  • Reply 13 of 101
    There are always related ancillary jobs created and needed, ever been to an automotive production plant?  I was just at the Camaro/CTS plant in Grand River, MI, and there are plenty of people also required for much work...  
    That's 'Old School' Manufacturing.
    If you want to see the future look at what Elon Musk is going to do with the Model 3 Production lines. That's the next phase in the automation of car making. Camaro's and CTS's are not designed for automatied production. You have to start from the ground up and design the line AND the car together. This way you can make the car using the tools and very few humans are needed.
    Recent advances in robotics will enable the likes of Tesla to make cars with at least 50% fewer humans on the production line.


  • Reply 14 of 101
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,961member
    This is exactly why Trump's promises of bringing manufacturing back to America are more likely to have a negative effect on jobs.  Not that it's Trump's fault, but promising factory workers that there is some great future for them is irresponsible at best, and dangerous on some level.
    There are always related ancillary jobs created and needed, ever been to an automotive production plant?  I was just at the Camaro/CTS plant in Grand River, MI, and there are plenty of people also required for much work...  
    For now...when they figure out how to replace their jobs with robots you can guarantee the head count there (and elsewhere) will decrease. Robots in the end are much more efficient and consistently accurate. Plus, robots are never late to work, they don't take vacations or sick time, they're not hungover from the night before (or whatever), they don't work for the union, etc, etc. 

    And then if you need the robot to do something different you simply reprogram it and test. 
    edited December 2016
  • Reply 15 of 101
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,129moderator
    May you live in interesting times.
  • Reply 16 of 101
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    lkrupp said:
    We have to face up to the fact that jobs requiring little education, skills, or training are never coming back. Service and assembly line jobs are a thing of the past. It will take 50 years or more before trade jobs will disappear. We will continue to need carpenters, electricians, brick masons, plumbers, welders, ironworkers, etc. Robots won’t be able to build a skyscraper on their own for some time yet IMHO. So what do we do about that segment of society that becomes unemployable because of automation? That’s the $64K question. We all know individuals who just aren’t cut out for highly skilled, highly educated, highly trained jobs.
    I don't believe there would be enough "highly skilled, highly educated, highly trained jobs" available even if nearly everyone met the requirements. There's not very many jobs that can't largely be done either by automation, robotics or AI. No level of education or training will change that. 
    StrangeDayspatchythepirategwydionfreerange
  • Reply 17 of 101
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,961member

    This is exactly why Trump's promises of bringing manufacturing back to America are more likely to have a negative effect on jobs.  Not that it's Trump's fault, but promising factory workers that there is some great future for them is irresponsible at best, and dangerous on some level.
    Someday all of these Trump supporters will see his campaign was completely full of BS. All of these promises he cannot and will not keep. 
    singularitywaverboySpamSandwich
  • Reply 18 of 101
    designr said: Yeah. The job counts might decrease in some way in some areas and in the short term. But really what happens is the jobs themselves change and are redefined in some ways. And then there is demand (and supply of of labor) for other things.
    The problem is that we're facing a massive dislocation of work in ALL areas. In the past, buggy drivers might become cab drivers and then Uber drivers, or switch and drive delivery trucks or long-distance trucking.

    But all driving jobs are at risk.

    Nor can dislocated drivers simply switch to another field, like agriculture, or manufacturing, in that those jobs are also disappearing at the same rate.

    It's estimated that up to 45% of the jobs that people in the US currently do today are up for automation in the next couple of decades. That's 45% of the workforce, and if you're one of the those dislocated you're not going to just be able to switch to another field, because people there have also been dislocated and they're also looking for work.

    I'd advise that everyone watch the following video, Humans Need Not Apply



    We in for some serious social problems that we're not preparing to deal with. Heck, with Trump and Company we are, in fact, getting ready to dismantle the structures and institutions we're going to need.
    StrangeDayspatchythepiratefreerange
  • Reply 19 of 101
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,095member
    hmlongco said:
    designr said: Yeah. The job counts might decrease in some way in some areas and in the short term. But really what happens is the jobs themselves change and are redefined in some ways. And then there is demand (and supply of of labor) for other things.
    The problem is that we're facing a massive dislocation of work in ALL areas. In the past, buggy drivers might become cab drivers and then Uber drivers, or switch and drive delivery trucks or long-distance trucking.

    But all driving jobs are at risk.

    Nor can dislocated drivers simply switch to another field, like agriculture, or manufacturing, in that those jobs are also disappearing at the same rate.

    It's estimated that up to 45% of the jobs that people in the US currently do today are up for automation in the next couple of decades. That's 45% of the workforce, and if you're one of the those dislocated you're not going to just be able to switch to another field, because people there have also been dislocated and they're also looking for work.

    I'd advise that everyone watch the following video, Humans Need Not Apply



    We in for some serious social problems that we're not preparing to deal with. Heck, with Trump and Company we are, in fact, getting ready to dismantle the structures and institutions we're going to need.
    How do you suggest preparing for an economy where even "highly skilled. highly educated" engineering jobs are not safe from AI and computerization? I've not a clue as to the answer but those that think their craft is immune to automation are likely mistaken IMHO. Outside of artists and some sciences there's not much. 
    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf
    edited December 2016 dasanman69
  • Reply 20 of 101
    This has been happening since humans existed. So to say all of the sudden this is going to be a major issue is absurd. It changes the landscape so people have to adapt as well. It still doesn't make it any less important to retain jobs in the US. It also is a good idea to keep illegals out and require them to play by the same rules if they want into this country. Then the biggest piece of this is those that are jobless need to WANT to work. Good luck with that.
    designrmonstrosity
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