Foxconn to Replace Workers with Robots Before Expanding into the US

While Hon Hai’s CEO Terry Gou expressed his thoughts about Foxconn putting a million robots to work across factory assembly lines back in June, we didn’t see any public information about progress. Now, however, the WSJ (Via The Verge) reports the automation process has already begun: a win for technology over cheap labor.

Foxconn workers

The question now is: how will this affect the workers? The Wall Street Journal cites an employee spending two years on the assembly lines at Foxconn’s Shenzen plant, saying that when the robotic arms took over a part of the assembly line (deployed to plug components into a motherboard), the number of employees working on the line dropped to five people, from the previous 20–30.

In a shareholder meeting, Terry Gou said — back in June — that by implementing robots Foxconn could eliminate monotonous, repetitive tasks, previously assigned to low-wage laborers, and that the first fully automated plant would be ready in five to ten years.

“The younger generation of workers these days, they don’t want to continue to do boring, mundane, repetitive work, especially in the manufacturing sector. We have to begin to add more value in the process, otherwise it will be difficult to attract a young generation of workers,” a Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo said to the Wall Street Journal.

Fact is, his words are in line with President Barack Obama’s statement on outsourced manufacturing jobs, saying that certain low-skill jobs are simply “not going to come back”.

In addition, the adoption of robotics means lower production costs, all across the globe, so the question now is where the $100 million Apple plans to invest — in bringing the Mac line computer production back to the US — will go. We tend to think that Foxconn’s plans to adopt robots have something to do with that.