Foxconn is planning on replacing many of it’s hard-working human manufacturers with about 1 million robots, a number that, if you think about it, is a very telling comment on the current state of electronics manufacturing.
There are apparently 10,000 robots at the factory now and that number will increase by 300,000 next year. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou plans another million robots by 2014. The company currently employs 1.2 million humans.
The most important thing to note here is that most of the repetitive tasks associated with manufacturing – placing components, closing cases, applying decals and paint, and testing – are all done by hand. Although we imagine that the manufacturing industry is run by huge, Transformer-like robots that plop out fully formed iPads in a wicked silicon satire of human reproduction, there are actual people involved in almost every step of the process. We are literally not far off from the Industrial Revolution here.
Where will those hands who once snapped our plastic geegaws together go once the robots arrive? Probably to the unemployment line, which is another matter entirely. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that, but any time serious labor savings have been applied to mass manufacturing it hasn’t ended well. Just ask Detroit.