From infrared scanners to tracking apps: How Foxconn is dealing with coronavirus

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iPhone sales drive Apple’s biggest supplier to big profits
Foxconn operates mega-factories in China, which are more like mini-cities.
Photo: CBS

Apple manufacturers in China, such as Foxconn, are taking measures including installing infrared temperature scanners and producing their own surgical face masks to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Factories belonging to companies like Foxconn have been hit hard by the spread of the virus, now officially called COVID-19. While some remain closed, others have reopened with a vastly reduced workforce. A new report sheds light on some of the safety measures they have been ordered — or have chosen — to take.

Nikkei Asian Review explains the challenge faced by mega-factories like Foxconn. In one instance, the company has to virus-proof a “campus the size of 250 football fields where 100,000 people live and work.”

The government has ordered Foxconn and other major tech manufacturers to “implement a wide range of health and safety measures.” These include “setting up quarantine spaces,” installing special temperature sensors, and keeping a two-week stock of surgical masks and disinfectant.

They must also prove things like proper airflow in dorms, restaurants, and production facilities.

Foxconn trying to virus-proof factories to fight coronavirus spread

Although Foxconn is still suffering the effects of the coronavirus spread, it has managed to reopen one iPhone-critical site. It has also set up a production line making surgical masks. By the end of February, it could be making 2 million masks per day. The company has additionally developed a smartphone app which sends alerts to employees if they are too close to infection hotspots. They also get alerts if they gather in large groups. This sounds similar to a location-tracking app developed by the Chinese government.

Foxconn is planning to stagger meal times at its restaurants to avoid too much mixing of employees. It is reportedly advising employees to eat alone, talk less, and avoid meeting with friends after work. When people do meet, they should have windows open and sit one meter away from one another.

“It will take at least one to two months rather than just one to two days, for normal resumption of manufacturing,” a source familiar with matter told the Nikkei Asian Review. “We have to extremely lower the risks. … Foxconn’s current priority is not to churn out as many products as quickly as possible but instead ensure the recovery of small-scale production proceeds smoothly and later gradually pick up.”

Different guidelines exist for different locations. Other Apple manufacturers such as Pegatron, Wistron, and Quanta Computer are all dealing with the issue as well. Where possible, some manufacturers are looking at shifting manufacturing to places like India and Taiwan to try and get back on track.

The spread of coronavirus

A total of 1,355 people have so far died in China as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus. On Wednesday, 242 people died of the virus. That is the highest in a single day and more than 2x the previous record high. Cases have been reported around the world, although China remains the country most affected.