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 84
    davendaven Posts: 706member
    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 84
    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 84
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    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 84
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,369member
    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 5 of 84
    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 6 of 84
    Welcome to Economics 101, China!

    And Trump. 
    mdriftmeyerdesignrneo-techSpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 84
    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 8 of 84
    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 9 of 84
    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 10 of 84
    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 11 of 84
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,849member
    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 12 of 84
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,867moderator
    May you live in interesting times.
  • Reply 13 of 84
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,361member
    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 14 of 84
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,849member

    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 15 of 84
    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 16 of 84
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,361member
    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 17 of 84
    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
  • Reply 18 of 84
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 1,039member
    Well someone's got to build the Foxbots right? I understand that the majority of the workforce will be cut. If I were an assembly line worker, I would take it upon myself to educate myself in another field. Should be interesting to see what China will be looking like in the next ten years. 
    designrdewme
  • Reply 19 of 84
    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.
    This has NOT been happening since humans existed, since the scale of the disruption is massive and since the timeline for change is exceedingly short.

    If you took a list of jobs, ranked by the number of people who do each one, you'll have to go all of the way down to number 33 on the list to find a new job that didn't exist 100 years ago: computer programmer.

    Sure, there have been technological advancements and "new" jobs, but most "new" jobs aren't new at all, because by and large the general categories have remained the same: driver, delivery man, manager, secretary, assembly line worker. It's just today that the assembly line worker snaps together circuit boards and screens as opposed to stamping car parts or sewing together buggy whips.

    The cabby of today was the carriage driver of yesterday, and, if Uber has it's way, replaced by the self-driving car of tomorrow. In fact, Uber has publicly stated that it's looking to replace all of the cab drivers in NY (51,000) with autonomous vehicles in the next decade.

    Major trucking companies are looking to replace their biggest expense (drivers) with autonomous trucks (trials are running... today). There go 3.5 million truck drivers.

    And if all of those autonomous vehicles hit their safety numbers, then accidents decline dramatically. That's fewer mechanics and body shop workers, fewer insurance claims adjusters, fewer ambulance and emergency room workers and staff, fewer police needed for speed traps, fewer cooks and truck stop workers, and so on, in every town and city across the US.

    Pretty soon you have massive dislocations as entire local industries collapse and -- even worse -- as the industries that depended upon the incomes of those workers collapse, which widens the circle even further. (Can't run a restaurant serving food to people who can't pay for it.)

    All told, here in the US we're looking at employment disruptions measured in the tens of millions, and all of them occurring within the next decade.

    The Great Depression had an unemployment rate of 25%. What happens when that number hits 45%?

    I'm not a Luddite, but I am worried that our civilization is going to go through a few major teutonic upheavals in a relatively short period of time.
    StrangeDaysrobin huberwaverboy
  • Reply 20 of 84
    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.
    Might be a good time to start the conversation on Universal Basic Income.
    waverboy
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