Photo: Thomson Reuters

Photo: Thomson Reuters

Foxconn is preparing to enhance its assembly process with a new line of robots, the CEO of the iPhone manufacturer’s parent company said during a shareholder meeting. According to the executive, Apple will be the first company to reap the benefits of the new process, likely indicating that the iPhone 6 will be the first phone to be produced by the new machines.

Each of the planned 10,000 robots will cost the company between $20,000 and $25,000, and will be capable of churning out 300,000 smartphones on average. The machines, which are said to be in the final testing stages now, won’t be available for sale to other companies, according to CEO Terry Gou, as Foxconn will likely not have enough to meet its own needs.

Foxconn recently went on a hiring spree in preparation for the upcoming Apple smartphone, reportedly hiring as many as 100,000 new workers. There’s no word yet on how (or if) the decision to implement a mechanical solution on the assembly line will affect those jobs.

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32 Responses to “Foxconn prepares to replace workers with robots in iPhone 6 assembly process”

  1. bobbell69 says:

    Reblogged this on BobLovesTech and commented:
    This should be interesting.

    Like

  2. dcj001 says:

    “Each of the planned 10,000 robots … will be capable of churning out 300,000 smartphones on average.”

    During what period of time?

    Is that 300,000 smartphones per day?

    Is that 300,000 smartphones per week?

    Is that 300,000 smartphones per year?

    Is that 300,000 smartphones per lifetime of each robot?

    Like

    • well, that might be lifetime. I mean, 300,000 phones x 10,000 machines is a lot phones.

      Like

      • 10,000 x 300,000 is 3 Billion phones. One would think this increases the chances of it being phones per lifetime. However, considering that Foxconn manufactures for other people this could be a yearly yield. That would allow Foxconn to quickly produce phones, allowing companies more time to design and perfect something before it has to go into production to be on time for launch. In 2007 1.1 Billion smartphones were sold – largely due to the launch of the iPhone. Smartphone sales hit nearly 2 Billion in 2013. Now, obviously they want these machines to keep up with future demand so 3 Billion/year is even more likely. We also need to consider that the article doesn’t specify that the machines can only produce smartphones. iPod Touches, truly aren’t all that different. Then factor in iPads, iPad minis and well these robots aren’t even keeping up with the annual world wide demand of more than 3 Billion mobile devices/year. However, I do see Apple reaching 3 Billion iOS devices in the near future (next decade). These machines producing 3 Billion devices/year seems to be the perfect match for current need and future growth. It’s awful to see people losing jobs, but it’s a positive considering how horrible multiple reports have said these jobs are. Factoring in that Foxconn houses, feeds and transports their employees – I’m hoping the robots lead to a cheaper iPhone for me – or an iPhone that has more advanced (aka expensive) chips in it!

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    • The writer wants you to use your imagination, obviously. I say 300,000 an hour. That sounds exciting. Imagine how fast that robot would be?

      Like

    • alanaudio says:

      Multiplying the number of robots by it’s throughput does not give you the number of iPhones made per year unless you believe that each robot manufactures an entire iPhone by itself.

      I think you can be pretty sure that a given iPhone will be worked upon by a succession of robots, each robot doing a number of tasks and then passing it on to the next one.

      Like

  3. Seth Elliott says:

    Will certainly help with secrecy efforts, if nothing else.

    Like

  4. I am sending this to a few union advocates with a one word note: “Warning!”

    Like

  5. It’s 30,000, not 300,000.

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  6. 10,000 robots!!! Yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about. 24/7, 365, no breaks, no sleep. Nothing but pure output. That’s a cool $250,000,000 and pocket change for Apple. Yet the pundits keep saying Apple has to watch out for Xiaomi stealing all of Apple’s business. I don’t think so.

    I’m guessing those 300,000 units of iPhone output would be over a period of at least a year. 50,000 iPhones output per quarter would only equal 200,000 a year and so far Apple hasn’t come close to that number. We’re talking iPhone 6 flood numbers and that’s insane. I dare some fool to short Apple. Let’s see what Google is going to do with its robotics project to put it to good use other than a robot Fido running down the street.

    Like

    • 300,000 iPhones would likely be the combined output of 10,000 robots, although it would be hard to estimate how fast each robot could complete a task. A group of robots would likely do a specific task and then pass the iPhone on to the the next group for further assembly.

      Like

      • If you re-read the first sentence of the second paragraph – it specifies 300,000 devices each. So that a combined output of 3 Billion devices. I’m assuming per year. Don’t forget Foxconn manufactures for companies other than Apple. However, I don’t think these robots will be limited to purely making smartphones. I think they will make iPods, iPads, iPad minis – the whole gambit of mobile devices. Even if they were limited to smartphones, you’re quoting sales figures for the latest model only – these robots would at a bare minimum be assembling previous models of iPhones – as well as Androids and Windows device too. Considering the increased spectrum of device manufacturing, I see 3 Billion/year as being a very reasonable number. Don’t forget for Foxconn to invest they’re going to want to ‘Future proof’ these machines. So considering that 3 Billion will be the required output in a decade or two seems a lot more reasonable. If you’re not convinced that it’s 3 Billion consider the reverse. 300,000 devices across 10,000 machines in 1 year is a grand total of 30 devices per year/per robot. 2.5 iPhones a month/robot. Trained monkeys are faster than that. It’s definitely 300,000 each robot/each year for a total of 3 Billion devices per year.

        Like

  7. Reblogged this on Taste of Apple and commented:
    This is interesting news. It would seem that this is an effort to save money and reduce human error in producing products. I also wonder how much this might be targeted to reducing leaks from the supply chain. The less people with access to parts and iDevices, the less Apple will have to worry about leaks. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the long run.

    Like

  8. rettun1 says:

    These god dang robots taking all of our hard working Chinese jobs!

    Like

  9. It’s about fucking time. Robots don’t leak schematics and pictures.

    Like

  10. dugbug says:

    I for one welcome out new robot overlords

    Like

  11. And the report is absolutely meaningless without knowing what kind of robots they are and what parts of the process they will be performing.

    As with ALL robot assembly currently known, the robots are simply not capable of “assembling an iPhone.” What robots are capable of (and very good at) are performing the various, simple, repetitive steps that form PART of the process of assembling an iPhone. Presumably one robot would be placing the battery in the case, one might be putting in the main board, etc.

    Without knowing the number of steps, it’s impossible to calculate the output. It’s also very likely that not all the steps are capable of being automated and that people still have to interact with the robots which would slow the entire assembly line down to the speed of the slowest part (the human). Fro this reason robots are most often used to increase accuracy and efficiency, not to increase the speed of production.

    The very fact that they didn’t fire everyone and send them all home tells you that this is a robotically augmented assembly line, and not full-on robot production of iPhones.

    Like

  12. and how many people will louse their job because of those robots?

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    • standardpull says:

      I imagine if they bring in these robots and they fail to be reliable, the CEO will have completely loused up his job.

      Like

    • I’st progress baby. How many people lose their jobs when they invented trains and cars? There’s no point in letting people do jobs that a robot can do. It’s humiliating and pointless. These people have to find a new job, they need to use what makes them human, hence better than a robot. There are so many things that even the most advanced of robots can’t do at the moment. Not only robots will speed up, improve and rationalise production, but they will also force people to do nobler jobs and jobs which are fitter for a human being than putting a battery in a case hundreds or thousands times per day.

      Like

  13. Oflife says:

    iRobots?

    Like

  14. prolango says:

    I found a better source that explains the poor journalism Mike showed in this article.

    For the initial rollout, Foxconn is said to be planning an installation of 10,000 robots to replace human workers, possibly including those who make Apple’s popular iPhone product range. Each Foxbot can complete an average of 30,000 devices per year, meaning a release of 10,000 would theoretically yield 300 million iPhones if completely tasked to that production line.

    Source: http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/07/06/foxconn-to-replace-iphone-6-assembly-line-workers-with-foxbot-robots-

    Like

  15. QHARTZ -Elegant, thin and portable. Never run out of battery power again.

    http://kck.st/1rrQxhe

    Like

  16. Yep, a robot can’t scratch a screen and commit suicide and get paid pennies for a days work. Well done FoxxConn!!!

    Like