Foxconn Details Three-Phase Plan to Eventually 'Automate Entire Factories' in China

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Dec 30, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Foxconn is deploying a plan broken down into three phases that will eventually "automate entire factories" in China (via DigiTimes). According to the general manager of Foxconn's Automation Technology Development Committee, Dai Jia-peng, the company's first phase of the plan is "to set up individual automated work stations for work that workers are unwilling to do or is dangerous."

    The second phase will see entire production lines automated along with a decrease of the number of robots used by the manufacturer. This will lead into the third phase, which is aimed to be fully automated factories "with only a minimal number" of human workers.

    Image via the South China Morning Post

    Currently, factories in Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Zhengzhou have been brought to the second and even third phase, with as many as 10 "lights-out," or fully automated, production lines at some of the locations. One of these facilities is located in Chengdu, where all-in-one PCs are being manufactured on automated assembly lines.

    Foxconn's lines are deployed with "Foxbots," which it develops and produces in house at a rate of around 10,000 each year. Besides technology manufacturing, the company is also said to be creating robots for use in medical care as well. Human workers are still integral to the process, according to Dai, "because humans have the flexibility to quickly switch from one task to another."

    Yesterday, an article by The New York Times looked more deeply behind the scenes of Foxconn and its major iPhone manufacturing plant in Zhengzhou, China. The "iPhone City" has become one of Apple's major global manufacturing plants over the past decade, and is one of the spots where Foxconn is now looking to deploy its three-phase automation plan.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: Foxconn Details Three-Phase Plan to Eventually 'Automate Entire Factories' in China
  2. Crosscreek macrumors 68030


    Nov 19, 2013
    It's really surprising that the lines have not been fully automated already. I guess labor was cheap enough that the costs have not offset the investment. The technology has been around for a long time.
  3. ripfrankwhite macrumors regular


    Dec 13, 2005
  4. MacFan23 macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2010
    I suspect you'd have to make an investment every year or 2 every time the design of these things change.
  5. DJ Ti-99, Dec 30, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016

    DJ Ti-99 macrumors newbie

    Jun 7, 2010
    A very small one. The platform is pretty generic. You'd just have to retool the machines. It is far cheaper than retraining your entire staff on the assembly line. Also, the lower failure rate of products coming off an automated assembly line adds another layer of cost savings.
  6. simonmet macrumors 68000


    Sep 9, 2012
    Nope, just increase profit.
  7. smacrumon macrumors 68030


    Jan 15, 2016
    Customers should expect a drop of at least 65% off the current iPhone, iPad and other device pricing.

    The robots are replacing a human workforce because it is cheaper to replace humans with robots. There is no other reason. Naturally, everyone, all Apple customers, should expect a huge drop in the cost to buy iPhone.

    I suspect iDevices will cost ~80% less than today.
  8. thisisnotmyname macrumors 68000


    Oct 22, 2014
    known but velocity indeterminate
    There are other reasons as well. As the technology advances the quality of products created on fully automated lines will be greater than that of human workers. You'll have much higher consistency of results. Ever heard the colloquialism "Never buy a car built on a Monday"?
  9. atikalz macrumors regular


    Mar 22, 2016
    The manufacturing costs are only a very tiny piece of the iprice. Nothing will happen to your wallet.
  10. smacrumon macrumors 68030


    Jan 15, 2016
    It will be interesting to see what the quality equation looks like. But, the main motivation here is to reduce the costs even further. If quality was front and mind, Apple wouldn't have battery issues, screen problems etc. In most cases, those parts are already automated. This conversion to robots it about reducing costs. Likewise customers should expect huge price reductions.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 30, 2016 ---
    Really? Manufacturing is a huge cost. With the threat of onshoring to the USA, robots aim to mitigate that cost.
  11. now i see it macrumors 68020

    Jan 2, 2002
    Then they can remove those pesky suicide nets. It's only fitting that machines assemble machines... until they turn on us and it's skynet here we come!
  12. RC Mike macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2015
    None of you are nervous about this? It'll forment the next Chinese revolution. They aren't set up for a service-based economy. Bad juju here. Something to watch for.
  13. dontwalkhand macrumors 601


    Jul 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Ladies and gentlemen: a preview of US built iPhones. Zero jobs gained. Possibly one, a manager.
  14. tasset macrumors 6502a

    May 22, 2007
    I do appreciate the technological innovations but at some point business efficiency effectively cannibalize their very customers. It's a virtuous circle as Jobs used to say. This constant drumbeat of cost savings in the end amounts to "F you, I got mine." Walmart didn't get to be Walmart without the average person thinking they could get cheap products and everyone else pick up the tab.
    My eyes are wide open to reality. I find irony in all the rubes who want factory jobs to come back, that they think it will magically happen without big government regulation (which they loathe so much), unionized worker protection which has been demonized and dismantled, or without consumer sentiment changing and not demand ever-cheaper goods. The consumer must also put up or shut up, for meaningful change.
  15. Amacfa Suspended


    May 22, 2009
    Seriously. China is known for manufacturing, having it displaced by automation is sure to cause a mess.
  16. Wutdat macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2014
    This may or may not reduce Foxconn's production cost. Wether they pass that savings on to apple is up them.

    All these media outlets complaining about Foxconn paying their employees peanuts and making them work long hours. Then criticizing Apple for it. Now they will be out of a job.
  17. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Apple used to have automated manufacturing plants in the US. Now here is the chance to bring the robots back to the US. Anxious to see how this ends.
  18. RC Mike macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2015
    There would be construction, automation, and supply chain jobs. Better, I think, than assembly jobs.

    There would also be the strategic bonus of having one less thing tie our foreign policy to trade with factory-countries. It's the same reason for energy independence--allows us to do what we want, rather than what we're beholden to.
  19. mateytate macrumors regular

    Apr 10, 2014
    I'm no expert - but I understood the whole reason Foxconn et al. exist in their current state is because the labour in China is so cheap I that it makes financial sense to manufacture there. But if the bulk of the labour expense is taken out of the equation what's the benefit of having the manufacturing in China anyway? Why not build the automated factories in the US?

    I'm asking seriously as I don't know.
  20. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    Foxconn, for the most part, is an assembly company. Assembly is a small piece of the overall cost of the phone.

    Also, no one in their right mind should think that lower costs of production on a device like an iPhone is going to result in lower prices. That's not how high margin multinational companies operate, they pocket the difference and buy back stock to inflate the executive teams pay.
  21. mdriftmeyer macrumors 68030


    Feb 2, 2004
    Pacific Northwest
    Transportation, distribution and logistics of supplies costs more than the actual assembly, by orders of magnitude. The original poster is correct: Cost will not plummet to the consumer. They will be flat. You will be repaying FOXCONN for their investment in automation for decades, akin to paying for purported Human Labor Training that never happens.
  22. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    China has modern ports, airports, and rail lines. The USA is woefully inadequate in this regard. Unless there is a massive overhaul of our production infrastructure capabilities, this kind of manufacturing is simply not coming to the US.

    Additionally, healthcare costs get factored into every product made here (which is why Toyota decided to go with Canada over the US for an assembly line, US facilities had to factor roughly $200+ in healthcare for every car made) so unless we go single payer that is going to be a large consideration in the way as well.
  23. Carlanga macrumors 604


    Nov 5, 2009
    I can see the future:

    Apple is bringing back factories to the US. They are 100% robot ran. Robots are made in China. Apple has hired 10 engineers in the US (100% US employee factories) to handle the robots.

    Meanwhile China has increased its robot making factories by 1000% and have increased jobs.
  24. ceriess macrumors member

    Oct 25, 2003
    It won't. To think otherwise is naive. This will simply centralize profit into fewer pockets. The former factory workers will be thrown into the street. There will be no compensation for the loss of income due to robots. In fact, If I were under the age of 45 I would be worried. You kids have been forced into a nightmare scenario of skyrocketing fees for college, skyrocketing rental prices, and a President who is set on removing healthcare from you if you are unemployed. And you're going to be unemployed. You will be out on the street just in time for middle age. Me, I am from another generation and I will be fine. But you won't be. I'm sorry that this is happening to you.
  25. Sharewaredemon macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2004
    Cape Breton Island
    I'll be impressed when the customer can be fully automated too.

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