updated 10:33 am EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
Apple-based assembly lines getting first crack at automation
Foxconn is in the final stages of testing new assembly robots, and could deploy them at one or more major factories in the near future, reports say. During the initial deployment phase, Foxconn is expected to use 10,000 robots to replace human workers, with Apple product lines being the top priority. While there's no exact date for when the robots will be installed, they could be ready in time to help with iPhone 6 production.
Although each robot will cost $20,000 to $25,000, the tradeoff should be worth it for Foxconn on a corporate level. A single robot will be capable of manufacturing an average of 30,000 devices per year, meaning that the initial deployment could theoretically churn out as many 300 million products annually. That productivity will come at the expense of workers, since Foxconn currently employs over 1.2 million people, a number of whom may lose their jobs even if the company will still need human help for the foreseeable future.
Eliminating people from the equation will let Foxconn save on costs incurred through factors like housing, overtime pay, and strikes or other labor rights actions. The firm already has some robots in operation, but the new push has been delayed since 2011.