Foxconn's 'Foxbot' robots will assist human workers at major iPhone factory, report says

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 2014
Following up on news that Foxconn would soon deploy robots on assembly lines dedicated to Apple products, a report out of Asia claims the so-called "Foxbots" will have a limited role in device assembly as humans are still needed for most operations.




According to industry insiders, Foxconn's Foxbots will only assist human workers by locking down screws, polishing parts and performing other menial duties when they are finally installed on the production line, reports Taiwan's United Daily News.

The publication's sources said workers are still required for final assembly and quality control of various procedures, though the final robot-to-human ratio is unclear. These people also expect the Foxbots to roll out at Foxconn's factory in Zhengzhou, which is responsible for manufacturing Apple's top-tier iPhone products.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou on Sunday said his company's Foxbots have reached the final stage of testing and would see deployment in at least one major factory. For its first rollout, the firm is reportedly planning to field as many as 10,000 robots at a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 each. Following the initial 10,000-unit batch, Gou said he expects Foxconn's factories to get Foxbots at a rate of 30,000 per year.

In November of last year, the Zhengzhou plant supposedly hit capacity in making up for low iPhone 5s supplies, churning out some 500,000 units per day on a 24-hour operating schedule. At the time, production of the iPhone 5s was said to require 600 workers per assembly line, compared to 500 people for the previous generation iPhone 5.

If Tuesday's report is accurate, Foxconn's robot initiative may be a move to accelerate iPhone build times, not replace existing employees as previously thought. The theory jibes with rumors from June that claimed the firm will hire some 100,000 new workers in a ramp up to iPhone 6 production this month.

Apple is expected to release two new iPhone models with 4.7-inch and 5.5.-inch screen sizes when the usual refresh cycle comes around in September. Bearing the same overall aesthetic, both versions are expected to be completely redesigned with a thinner chassis more akin to the current iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. Some analysts believe Apple will attempt to differentiate the larger "phablet" variant from its smaller siblings by adding high-end features like optical image stabilization and more onboard storage.

Although Apple has yet to announce the next-gen iPhone, recent rumors have already guessed at a launch date on either Sept. 25 or on Sept. 19.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    justbobfjustbobf Posts: 261member
    Our societies are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe sooner than we think, most people will not be needed for work. What do we do then, with all the idle hands?
  • Reply 2 of 37
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,010member

    Well it's a good thing too!  I guess Apple won't be buying robots of its own and using them in factories in the US.  Phew!

  • Reply 3 of 37

    Same thing we did with all the people manually rewriting books before the manual printing press was invented, typesetters before digital printing was invented, elevator operators before push button elevators were invented, pinsetters before bowling alleys were automated, icemen who delivered ice before the fridge was invented, lamplighters for street gas lamps, before electricity was invented,  telegraph operators before the Internet was invented and phone operators before phone switches were automated.

     

    We kill them.

     

    Just kidding, they find something else to do.

  • Reply 4 of 37
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,532member

    Robots have been in use in factories for decades and there are close to 2 million already deployed just in manufacturing. These are simply automated machinery, not C-3PO science fiction comic book fantasy androids capable of doing anything at all on their own. The manufacture and use of robots creates lots of jobs for manufacturing, technology, and knowledge workers.

     

    Societies may be in deep, deep trouble but it's not going to be a result of robots being used in manufacturing or any other form of highly repetitive, mundane, high precision, or dangerous processes or tasks that are more efficiently done by programmable machinery. A quick perusal of the daily headlines seems to indicate that the meat based automatons who are currently running our societies seem to be more than capable and determined to destroy our societies unaided by any programmable machinery whatsoever. 

  • Reply 5 of 37
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,503member

    I recall commenting on the necessary synergy between human and machine just the other day, and how stupid it would be for FOXCONN to can it's human staffing.

  • Reply 6 of 37
    I think that the more robots are used for jobs, the more free money there will be to go around. Right now, we have welfare, food stamps, and all kinds of programs for those in need.. many of which didn't exist a hundred years ago. Only now that there's more to go around, because of the increased prosperity - in part because of the increased productivity, has this been possible. It used to take someone hours to do laundry (and that wasn't long ago). Milking cows, tilling land, building houses has been optimized through machinery to make more free time. It seems to make sense that we have more to go around because of increased productivity. I heard the president ask why the richest nation in the world didn't have free health care. In other words, he expects everyone in this country to receive free benefits because of the collective prosperity. That's a big change in mentality over the last hundred years. As less jobs are needed, I see more money allocated for those who don't do anything.
  • Reply 7 of 37
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,536moderator
    justbobf wrote: »
    Our societies are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe sooner than we think, most people will not be needed for work. What do we do then, with all the idle hands?

    Simple. Manufacture fewer humans. We really don't need to take over every ecological niche on the planet. We could decide to leave some room for nature. It's our choice as a supposedly intelligent species.
  • Reply 8 of 37
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 906member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by justbobf View Post



    Our societies are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe sooner than we think, most people will not be needed for work. What do we do then, with all the idle hands?

    Our societies are deeply involved with robot-assisted production. Sooner than YOU think, there will be more jobs created for those who are willing to learn new skills which are not replaceable by machines. Maybe sooner than YOU think there will be fewer excuses for those UNwilling to learn new skills and to work to be supported by those who ARE willing to learn and to work.

  • Reply 9 of 37
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    I think that the more robots are used for jobs, the more free money there will be to go around. Right now, we have welfare, food stamps, and all kinds of programs for those in need.. many of which didn't exist a hundred years ago. Only now that there's more to go around, because of the increased prosperity - in part because of the increased productivity, has this been possible. It used to take someone hours to do laundry (and that wasn't long ago). Milking cows, tilling land, building houses has been optimized through machinery to make more free time. It seems to make sense that we have more to go around because of increased productivity. I heard Obama ask why the richest nation in the world didn't have free health care. In other words, he expects everyone in this country to receive free benefits because of the collective prosperity. That's a big change in mentality over the last hundred years. As less jobs are needed, I see more money allocated for those who don't do anything.

    Just give us a robot to replace our presidents with one capable of following the Constitution.
  • Reply 10 of 37
    relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by justbobf View Post



    Our societies are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe sooner than we think, most people will not be needed for work. What do we do then, with all the idle hands?

     

    How are you with foot massages.

  • Reply 11 of 37
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,536moderator
    I think that the more robots are used for jobs, the more free money there will be to go around. Right now, we have welfare, food stamps, and all kinds of programs for those in need.. many of which didn't exist a hundred years ago. Only now that there's more to go around, because of the increased prosperity - in part because of the increased productivity, has this been possible. It used to take someone hours to do laundry (and that wasn't long ago). Milking cows, tilling land, building houses has been optimized through machinery to make more free time. It seems to make sense that we have more to go around because of increased productivity. I heard Obama ask why the richest nation in the world didn't have free health care. In other words, he expects everyone in this country to receive free benefits because of the collective prosperity. That's a big change in mentality over the last hundred years. As less jobs are needed, I see more money allocated for those who don't do anything.

    This works until you run out of cheaply attained resources. Technology can help to extract raw materials from among those remaining available, and can help to mitigate and even reverse the adverse effects of resource consumption, such as pollution and other adverse environmental alterations. But using less, even to the point where natural cycles, which act as a massive and efficient machine to cleanse and recycle, can keep ahead of us, should be considered part of the answer. So conservation and, dare I say, fewer new humans being manufactured, should be options to consider.
  • Reply 12 of 37
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

     

    Our societies are deeply involved with robot-assisted production. Sooner than YOU think, there will be more jobs created for those who are willing to learn new skills which are not replaceable by machines. Maybe sooner than YOU think there will be fewer excuses for those UNwilling to learn new skills and to work to be supported by those who ARE willing to learn and to work.




    Pretty much. A decent amount of the unemployed simply have skills that are no longer marketable. Meanwhile, there' s a serious shortage of skilled tradesmen in this country. Plumbers, welders, electricians, all jobs that pay pretty well on average. But most aren't going for those jobs; after all, they're not fancy and you don't get a nice office. :rolleyes:

  • Reply 13 of 37
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,674member
    relic wrote: »
    justbobf wrote: »
    Our societies are in deep, deep trouble. Maybe sooner than we think, most people will not be needed for work. What do we do then, with all the idle hands?

    How are you with foot massages.

    Indeed, relevant question. Also, how much for a Happy End¿
  • Reply 14 of 37
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,036member

    Okay this does not surprise me, as I said in the other thread on this topic I would be surprised if the China government would allow this, they do not like robots doing things a human can do. China is all about jobs for peasants, not robots.

     

    Every factory in China I saw with any sort of automation usually had a person still operating the machine. All that person did was to press a button to start the operation even though that could have been automated as well. So what you see and all their robots and automation systems with a human standing or sitting in from of them pressing a button and then you had others walking around loading machine with material if need be and then others who were checking on everyone work (button pushing).  If you saw the same factory in another country, you would see 1/3 of the work force as seen in China. 

  • Reply 15 of 37
    We certainly don't have a fair taxation system today. Rather than give the government more ways to collect money unfairly maybe we could simply make the current system less complex and less easy to game. Better government is certainly better than no government. Just look at Irag or Syria if you need a refresher course on why we need a government. The only new tax I would add would be a tax on having more than one child. The need for a permanent reversable form of birth control is certainly accute, but a high tax with increasing penalties for more than 2 children would help. Non citizens could be taxed at a higher rate.

    Robots are not the problem. Good governance that is not corrupted by money is the problem. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme court stands with Plessy v Ferguson as one of the worst decisions every made by the US Supreme court.
  • Reply 16 of 37
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

     

    Okay this does not surprise me, as I said in the other thread on this topic I would be surprised if the China government would allow this, they do not like robots doing things a human can do. China is all about jobs for peasants, not robots.

     

    Every factory in China I saw with any sort of automation usually had a person still operating the machine. All that person did was to press a button to start the operation even though that could have been automated as well. So what you see and all their robots and automation systems with a human standing or sitting in from of them pressing a button and then you had others walking around loading machine with material if need be and then others who were checking on everyone work (button pushing).  If you saw the same factory in another country, you would see 1/3 of the work force as seen in China. 


    "Button pushing"… You mean like operating a computer? That seems like a weird job.

  • Reply 17 of 37
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,036member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by BobSchlob View Post

     

    "Button pushing"… You mean like operating a computer? That seems like a weird job.


    No I mean a little green or red button that they push to start the operation or stop the operation. The machine does everything else.

  • Reply 18 of 37
    theothergeofftheothergeoff Posts: 2,081member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

     

    No I mean a little green or red button that they push to start the operation or stop the operation. The machine does everything else.


     

    sort of like pushing a button and 'Siri, find me a good chinese restaurant'?  

     

    no  really, those machines that take a repetitive and low tolerance for variance task and complete it faster and more accurately.

     

     

    We pay professional athletes MILLIONS of dollars, and using basketball as a measure, the most highly trained can only achieve 90% accuracy when putting a 9" diameter ball into an 18" diameter hole from a fixed height and distance. (we're not talking Dwight Howard here).

     

    If you eliminated 99.9% of those failures (now a 99.99 accuracy), and increased their ability to shoot from 5 seconds per shot to 5 shots per second (25X),  and they need no breaks (another 90 minutes per shift), you've increased productivity 30 fold.   You've also lowered the cost of training for the human from learning the complex task, to 'take the blanks out of barrel X, put them in feed chute Y, and take finished work product in Bin Z, and roll it over to assembly point A.'   

     

    You've cut 29 workers who needed months of training to get skilled, to a person who can push a broom and lift 30 lbs and notice when the red light is on the robot because it's tolerances were exceeded.   

     

    This is what you need to do if you want to feed a customer who wants 2GB RAM 128GB Flash 5" iPhones that cost $299 unsubsidized (;-) )

    (Read: I don't understand what the issue is here?... you want to go back to rickshaws and hand planted rice to ensure 100% employment?)

  • Reply 19 of 37
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,036member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

     

     

    sort of like pushing a button and 'Siri, find me a good chinese restaurant'?  


    yes it enable the mindless

  • Reply 20 of 37
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BobSchlob View Post

     

    "Button pushing"… You mean like operating a computer? That seems like a weird job.


    No I mean a little green or red button that they push to start the operation or stop the operation. The machine does everything else.


    I'm sorry… You understand these are 21st century robots; not 1950s die stamps, right?

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