Foxconn's robots will assist its human workers, not replace them

Foxconn’s upcoming robot deployment on Apple-based production lines will only be in a supportive role, leaving human jobs mostly intact, claims Taiwan’s United Daily News. Sources say that the robots will help in tasks like locking down screws and polishing parts, leaving the most essential tasks to people. The sources add that the robots will first be used at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, where flagship iPhones are built. Although the robots could still potentially put some Foxconn workers out of a job, they may also alleviate an ever-increasing production burden. Last November the Zhengzhou facility hit its capacity trying to make up for low iPhone 5s supplies. Operating round-the-clock, it produced approximately 500,000 phones per day, with 600 workers on each assembly line. For the iPhone 5, Foxconn is believed to have required only 500 people per line.

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.

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