Apple gadgets you buy in the future may have been assembled by machines as Apple’s biggest manufacturing partner, Foxconn, begins replacing its workers with robots. The move is expected to improve efficiency in Foxconn’s Chinese plants, as well as combat rising labor costs.
Foxconn, who is China’s largest private-sector employer with more than 1.2 million workers, announced last year that it plans to replace one million humans with robots within the next three years. It has now begun that process with an initial batch of 10,000 machines that it has named “Foxbots.”
Another 20,000 robots are due by the end of the year, CNET reports. Each one costs between $20,000 and $25,000 each, which is said to be around three times the amount of the average Foxconn worker’s salary. While the initial cost of deploying Foxbots will be significant, they’re sure to save cash over time.
Foxconn has been scrutinized for its treatment of factory workers over the years, with underage employment, poor wages, illegal overtime, and worker suicides becoming a major issue throughout its plants. Before Foxconn announced its robot initiative last August, at least 16 workers had committed suicide since the beginning of 2010.
Apple has been working with the company throughout 2012 to improve the working conditions in its factories, however. The Cupertino company has also sought help from the Chinese Fair Labor Association, which has carried out inspections to highlight the areas in which Foxconn must improve.