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The ultimate goal of China’s latest Five-Year-Plan is to overtake Germany, Japan, and the United States in terms of manufacturing sophistication. To make that happen, the government needs Chinese manufacturers to adopt robots by the millions. The manufacturing hub for the electronics industry, Kunshan, in Jiangsu province is proving that that initiative is well underway. The transition from human to robot workers may upend Chinese society. “You can make the argument that robotic technology is the way to save manufacturing in China,” says Yasheng Huang, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “But China also has a huge labor force. What are you going to do with them?” For now, that question remains unanswered, but that won’t stop from unleashing the biggest robotic revolution seen in recent years.
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– Minimum Wage Consequences? iPhone 6 Will Be Made By “FoxBots” (ZeroHedge, July 7, 2014):
First it was burgers, then waiters, traders, and recently earnings-report-writers; but now it’s iPhones. The endless pressure to raise minimum wages, demand bathroom breaks, expect to sleep, and tolerable breathing standards have finally culminated in China’s FoxConn – manufacturer of the iPhone – to use a ‘robot army’ to build the new model. As The Daily Mail reports, The firm has pledged to have a million robot workers by the end of the year – and CEO Terry Gou has revealed the robots, dubbed ‘Foxbots’, are in the final stages of testing.
It is believed Foxconn will install 10,000 robots as a test.
– Foxconn Working With Google on Robotics (Wall Street Journal, Feb 11, 2014):
Foxconn has long been associated as the partner for Apple, assembling the majority of the U.S. company’s iPhones and iPads.
But few people know the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, also known as Hon Hai Precision industry, has been quietly working with Google.
People familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that Foxconn has been working with former Android executive Andy Rubin since last year to carry out the U.S. company’s vision for robotics.
To speed up robot deployment at its own factories, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou met with Rubin in Taipei recently and they discussed new robotic technologies, they said.
– Foxconn to speed up ‘robot army’ deployment; 20,000 robots already in its factories (ITworld, June 26, 2013):
Manufacturing giant Foxconn Technology Group is on track with its goal to a create a “million robot army”, and already has 20,000 robotic machines in its factories, said the company’s CEO Terry Gou on Wednesday.
Workers’ wages in China are rising, and so the company’s research in robots and automation has to catch up, Gou said, while speaking at the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Taipei. “We have over 1 million workers. In the future we will add 1 million robotic workers,” he said. “Our [human] workers will then become technicians and engineers.”
Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics maker and counts Apple, Microsoft and Sony as some of its clients. Many of its largest factories are in China, where the company employs 1.2 million people, but rising are threatening to reduce company profits.
– Foxconn Sees New Source Of Cheap Labor: The United States (Forbes, Nov 8, 2012):
Foxconn Electronics – the China-based contract electronics manufacturer also known as Hon Hai – is planning to build manufacturing plants in the U.S., DigiTimes reports, in a story attributed to “market watchers.”
The company is reportedly evaluating “cites such as Detroit and Los Angeles.”
The story says that “since the manufacturing of Apple‘s products is rather complicated, the market watchers expect the rumored plants to focus on LCD TV production, which can be highly automated and easier.”
Nice to think they will be hiring here…but still a fascinating insult to U.S. manufacturing prowess, dontcha think – the idea that actually making Apple products is a little too complicated for Americans to handle…
– Foxconn says underage workers used in China plant (Reuters, Oct 17, 2012):
TAIPEI – Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest contract electronics maker, has acknowledged hiring teenagers as young as 14 in a Chinese factory, in breach of national law, in a case that raises further questions over its student intern program.
Labor rights activists in China have accused Foxconn and other big employers in China of using student interns as a cheap source of labor for production lines where it is more difficult to attract young adult workers to lower paid jobs.
Foxconn, the trading name of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, said it had found some interns at a plant in Yantai, in northeastern Shandong province, were under the legal working age of 16. It did not say how many were underage.
“Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.
– Thousands of Foxconn workers clash with security guards in China (WSWS, Sep 25, 2012):
Taiwan-based Foxconn, the world’s largest outsourcing electronics manufacturer, had to suspend production at one of its major facilities, in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan, on Monday following a protest during which 2,000 assembly line workers clashed with 1,500 security guards.
The unrest is another sign of the rising social tensions in China, where the economy is slowing sharply due to the deepening slump in the major Western markets, threatening to fuel major working class confrontations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.
– iRage: Apple’s FoxConn China Plant Damaged As Riots Resume (ZeroHedge, Sep 23, 2012)
– Report: Riots break out at Foxconn factory in China (NBC News, Sep 23, 2012)
– Apple’s Chinese iPhone plants employ forced interns, claim campaigners (Guardian, April 1, 2012):
Students told to man production lines at Foxconn if they want to graduate, says Hong Kong-based nonprofit
Apple’s factories in China are employing tens of thousands of students, some of them on forced internships, according to campaigners lobbying for better labour conditions at Foxconn plants, which assemble iPhones. Some students could be as young as 16.
The Foxconn chairman, Terry Gou, head of China’s largest private-sector employer – with 1.2 million workers – promised on Sunday to reduce hours and improve pay after an independent audit found multiple labour law violations at his factories.
But campaigners have accused Apple, Foxconn and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a charitable organisation that carried out the audit published on Friday, of ignoring the issue of forced internships, where students are told they will not graduate unless they spend months working on production lines during holidays.
– Foxconn apologises over boss’s ‘animal’ comment: report (AFP, Jan. 23, 2012):
TAIPEI – Taiwan technology giant Foxconn has apologised over comments by chief Terry Gou allegedly comparing workers to animals, according to a report.
Gou drew criticism on online news forums and discussion sites after he was quoted by Taiwanese media as saying “I have a headache how to manage one million animals” at the company’s year-end party in Taipei Zoo earlier this month.
Foxconn is the largest maker of computer components and assembles products for Apple — including the iPhone — plus Sony and Nokia. It employs about one million workers in China.
– Foxconn to replace workers with 1 million robots in 3 years (Xinhua, July 29, 2011):
Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday.
The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers’ dance party Friday night.
The company currently has 10,000 robots and the number will be increased to 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years, according to Gou.