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The Information today reported that shortly after COVID-19-related lockdowns and protests in China impacted iPhone assembler Foxconn in late 2022, Apple's senior vice president of operations Sabih Khan instructed managers to reduce the number of workers on iPhone assembly lines by as much as 50% over the following few years.

iPhone-Assembly.jpg

To achieve this goal, Apple allegedly began approving high-cost automation projects for iPhone assembly that it previously shied away from. The report claims these efforts resulted in a "significant amount" of automation being involved for iPhone 15 production, but automation has still posed challenges for Apple due to manufacturing complexities.

For example, the report claims that Apple had to cancel some automation processes for the iPhone 16 series due to a "high rate of defects":
This year, Apple sought to build on some of its automation successes by using machines to install the iPhone's buttons, receiver, speaker and main logic board into its chassis, according to three people who worked in Apple's supply chain. But the machines stumbled in properly fastening those components, which have to be carefully screwed into position at odd angles, the people said.
Apple's push for automation could allow it to move even more iPhone assembly to countries outside of China, such as India, Vietnam, and Thailand, as part of the company's efforts to diversify its supply chain in Southeast Asia.

More details can be found in The Information's report.

Article Link: Apple's Efforts to Automate iPhone Assembly Detailed in New Report
 

ackmondual

macrumors 68020
Dec 23, 2014
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Apple is a $2 trillion dollar company, so they can eat much more of these costs than any other company. I'm sure it's more so dealing with unproductive periods that are the bigger concern (the protests, and quarantines)
 

jz0309

Contributor
Sep 25, 2018
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maybe that's what the alleged robot (Gurman, do you hear me?) is for?
I don't see how this automation allows to move to the countries mentioned (India, Vietnam, Thailand) other than # of skilled workers available?
 
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JordanCautious

macrumors regular
Sep 26, 2023
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If they manage to make the iPhone process mostly automatic, couldn't they just bring a factory to the US since it won't need the specialized workforce in volume that only developing countries can provide? I feel like there has to be some way for Apple to benefit from the CHIPS act other than the TSMC plant in I think Arizona?
 

rp2011

macrumors 68020
Oct 12, 2010
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It certainly makes sense. These are extremely high-volume products where the cost involved to automate makes a lot of sense. At the very least the cost involved in research, development and viability would be well spent.
 

Infinity Vortex

macrumors member
Jun 19, 2024
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If they manage to make the iPhone process mostly automatic, couldn't they just bring a factory to the US since it won't need the specialized workforce in volume that only developing countries can provide? I feel like there has to be some way for Apple to benefit from the CHIPS act other than the TSMC plant in I think Arizona?
I doubt Apple’s margin’s will allow them to do that. It would be nice though.
 

motorazr

macrumors 6502
Apple hit a stage a while back where it resents having to employ people, and sees them as a burden.

The soul apple had has since vanished, from manufacturing, product development, retail connection, etc. It is what is it - they’re here to make money. That said, chasing automation of this type may be yet another way to hemorrhage excess cash unless they decide to compromise the device build for what they can automatically assemble.

Anyone else imagine a 16c variant that was auto assembled? Can’t be too much more likely to have the screws falling out as the 5c was xD!
 

jz0309

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Sep 25, 2018
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If they manage to make the iPhone process mostly automatic, couldn't they just bring a factory to the US since it won't need the specialized workforce in volume that only developing countries can provide? I feel like there has to be some way for Apple to benefit from the CHIPS act other than the TSMC plant in I think Arizona?
from article: reduce the number of workers on iPhone assembly lines by as much as 50% over the following few years.
that's not even close to "mostly automatic".
CHIPS act money has been distributed, it was mainly for wafer fabrication/foundry with the biggest beneficiary: Intel.
 
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dumastudetto

macrumors 603
Aug 28, 2013
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You couldn’t replace “Apple” with just about any company.

Once everyone is out of work, they won't be needing these massively complex production facilities. The customer base will be shrinking down by a lot. Everyone racing to automate and eliminate jobs seems to be forgetting they need customers with money to consume whatever they are producing.
 

Infinity Vortex

macrumors member
Jun 19, 2024
97
162
Once everyone is out of work, they won't be needing these massively complex production facilities. The customer base will be shrinking down by a lot. Everyone racing to automate and eliminate jobs seems to be forgetting they need customers with money to consume whatever they are producing.
Yup. Capitalism without consumers falls apart.
 

ipedro

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Nov 30, 2004
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Toronto, ON
This is probably Apple insulating itself against the possibility of having to exit China in a tariff war. Robotic assembly is one way to bring iPhone assembly to the United States. With American cost of living and wage expectations and unions, we’d be paying double or more for an iPhone. Cut the required number of workers by half and it suddenly starts to make sense.
 

Infinity Vortex

macrumors member
Jun 19, 2024
97
162
There’s a strong possibility that this is Apple insulating itself against the possibility of having to exit China in a tariff war. Robotic assembly is one way to bring iPhone assembly to the United States. With American cost of living and wage expectations and unions, we’d be paying double or more for an iPhone. Cut the required number of workers by half and it suddenly starts to make sense.
It would probably have to be cut by even more than half to make up the difference in overall pay and benefits.
 
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