Ask people if they know any company called Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd and you’ll get a big NO, but ask them if Foxconn sounds familiar and you’d get a different response. But did you know that both companies are one and the same? Hon Hai trades as Foxconn Technology Group.
The Taiwanese company is known as a contract manufacturer for companies like Apple, Nokia, Sony, Nintendo and even Microsoft as the Xbox One is one of the products they manufactured. Even with a long list of high profile clientele, Foxconn is usually in the news for the wrong reasons. The corporation is plagued by controversies related to its working conditions which has resulted in quite a number of its workers committing suicide.
The company plans to change its work conditions by automating its entire factories in China in three phases. The General Manager of Foxconn’s Automation Technology Development Committee, Dai Jia-Peng, says the first step will be the automation of jobs that human workers are unwilling to do or that are considered dangerous.
Its second phase will result in production lines getting automated along with a decrease in the number of robots currently in use. The final stage is the full automation of the factories with only a small number of human workers remaining in employment.
Some of Foxconn’s factories in places like Chengdu, Zhengzhou, and Shenzhen have already gotten to the second and third phase of the automation program. The Chengdu line for example which makes all-in-one PCs is already fully automated.
A 2015 count of the number of employees at Foxconn puts it at 1.3 million. A complete automation of its factories will see a large chunk of this number relieved of their jobs. The effect will be catastrophic as all of these workers have one or more dependents who look up to them for their upkeep.
The New York Times made a feature article about the “iPhone City” in China, where majority of Apple’s smartphones are being manufactured. It’s also being largely automated for the most part, but there are still lots of humans as of the moment.
The big question: Is automation good for us?
The robots Foxconn currently uses are developed in-house at a rate of 10,000 per year and are called Foxbots. The company is definitely achieving great strides in robotics as it is working on developing robots for medical use as well.
Source: The Verge