Foxconn Has Already Started Replacing Workers With Robots

Foxconn Has Already Started Replacing Workers With Robots

Foxconn’s problems with worker rights are well known, and for the last year, CEO Terry Gou has been openly talking about an obvious solution to the human rights issue: replace as many of his human workers with robots as possible.

It makes sense. Robots can’t be underpaid, or overworked, and you certainly don’t need to hang suicide nets around their dormitories. Terry Gou is so enamored with the idea that he’s been openly talking about employing one million robots within the next three years.

Now it’s happening.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Foxconn is already getting its automation program off the ground, and some workers are already being shifted around to make room for robots.

For example, the Wall Street Journal mentions an employee named Zhang who has spent two years working on the Foxconn assembly lines, plugging components into a motherboard. Recently, though, he and some of his colleagues were transferred to different positions as robot arms took over the task.

“There were about 20 to 30 people on the line before, but after they added the robots it went down to five people, who just pushed buttons and ran the machines,” he said.

In the past, Gou has said that automation would help eliminate the most “monotonous, repetitive” tasks an assembly line worker might need to do. The idea isn’t so much to get rid of workers you have to pay — although that is an obvious possibility — but to allow workers to concentrate on more interesting, less dangerous jobs that require finesse, while automated workers deal with the grunt work.

Gou wants to have fully automated factories making iPhones in the next ten years, and it looks like Foxconn is taking their first step towards that vision today. In a decade, could the controversy about Foxconn be that they don’t employ anyone, not that they don’t treat their workers right?

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  • FriarNurgle

    Good news, everybody.
    You no longer have to monotonously place components in motherboards. Now you only have to monotonously press a button.

  • bdkennedy

    Apple’s products have gotten to the point where humans almost can’t assemble them anymore, which is why the initial launch was constrained. I believe the current iPad and iPhone will be the last assembled by humans.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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