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Robots at Foxconn factory replace 60,000 employees

By Shawn Knight
May 25, 2016
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  1. Foxconn is turning to artificial intelligence to replace human help on its manufacturing lines. The Chinese electronics manufacturer has cut its workforce from 110,000 employees down to just 50,000 at one factory simply by replacing them with robots according to a recent report from the South China Morning Post.

    In a follow-up with the BBC, Foxconn said they are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees. A spokesperson added that through training, they are enabling employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development as well as process and quality control.

    Or in other words, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer is replacing menial-task employees with robots.

    Naturally, Foxconn downplayed the impact of its AI helpers. The spokesperson told the publication that it will continue to harness automation and manpower in their manufacturing operations and expect to maintain a significant workforce in China.

    As the South China Morning Post points out, it’s not just something Foxconn is doing. Last year, 35 companies spent a total of four billion yuan (more than $610 million USD) on artificial intelligence. According to a government survey, as many as 600 major companies in the region have similar plans.

    Consultants from Deloitte, in partnership with Oxford University, suggest that as many as 35 percent of jobs will be at risk of being replaced through automation over the next 20 years.

    Image courtesy South China Morning Post

    Permalink to story.

     
    misor likes this.
  2. axiomatic13

    axiomatic13 TS Booster Posts: 88   +30

    Now when a defect/mistake occurs on a PCB Foxconn will have 25,000 defective parts in the field instead of 2500. Been in the biz a long time guys. THIS is the result most of the time.
     
  3. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 908   +384

    Not surprising. "Boring" repetitive tasks, usually result in products with defects. The robots that stuff parts, place covers etc, don't get bored. You'll still need people to do final checks and boxing.
    Same thing is starting to happen to the fast food industry, especially with the push for the silly 15/hr minimum wage. That will just fuel the urge to replace fast food workers with automation.
     
  4. bmw95

    bmw95 TS Addict Posts: 103   +51

    How so? Is it usually because it takes the robots a lot longer to notice defective parts? What kind of stuff do you do in the biz? Super curious how this stuff affects manufacturing.
     
  5. axiomatic13

    axiomatic13 TS Booster Posts: 88   +30

    Lucky I was still reading the site and saw your reply. ;-)

    How it usually plays out is the design is flawed or the change to an existing PCB breaks something, and the added speed that the robots bring you actually wind up hurting you in material costs because so much more of the broken product gets built in a shorter time that it would take a human assembly line. It all boils down to "how long did the machine keep running building a broken product?" On a human assembly line there is time to react to a flaw still as not as many have been built. Material cost savings, that's the true goal. Anything beyond this is marketing and logistics.
     
  6. spac18

    spac18 TS Rookie

    In a couple of decades or so, getting a job will be an obsolete concept. People would have family investment portfolios which will be mandatorily passed down (ie cannot be used up by a perticular member or members) through generations and people will live off the dividends. I know predicting the future is a futile and often stupid exercise, but I am very confident of this particular prediction.
     
  7. bmw95

    bmw95 TS Addict Posts: 103   +51

    Ah ok yeah that makes sense. I guess it seems that the best solution is a bit of both perhaps. I wonder though if that issue is negated with the fact that profits, or at least revenue are significantly increased using the robots. Perhaps though the real problem is that small issues can become dangerous over time when gone unnoticed by the robots as they make their way to production. So with the 25,000 vs 2500 defective products part, do you mean those making it to production, or those making it to QA but then being thrown away? It seems there's been increasing incidences of small issues that can become major problems over time requiring recalls from companies. Curious if that's due to robots taking over more, and also if there were more hands-on humans, would it be more likely to spot issues.
     
  8. axiomatic13

    axiomatic13 TS Booster Posts: 88   +30

    Yes I did mean that the broken product made it to market. You lose anything you gained in service and RMA's.
     
    Reehahs likes this.
  9. seefizzle

    seefizzle TS Addict Posts: 278   +142

    It's not limited to the food industry... this kind of automation is taking place across most industries. We laugh at the *****s that want 15 an hour to flip burgers... but huge swaths of jobs are on the chopping block. Everything from security guards, nuclear technicians, realtors, taxi and truck drivers, pharmacists, butchers, insurance processors, mortgage people...

    What do we do as a society when automation takes over 30% of the jobs? 60%? We'll be sabotaging those burger flipping machines and asking for our min wage jobs back. It's easy to talk sh*t about fast food employees, it's not necessary though.
     
  10. misor

    misor TS Evangelist Posts: 1,163   +197

    Did Foxconn already create Bender, the suicidal bending robot? ;)
     
    Raoul Duke likes this.
  11. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,149   +1,424

    Isn't it ironic, for the most over-populated country in the world to adopt robotics like that?

    Many of the people who lost their jobs will end up robbing the ones who fired them, because they will have nothing better to do with their lives.

    Life may be a vicious circle, but it is all about balance.
     
    cliffordcooley and mosu like this.
  12. spac18

    spac18 TS Rookie

    Demanding 15/hr to flip burgers is hardly the way of saving minimum wage jobs, increasing minimum wage by that much would certainly act as a catalyst for automation. As I posted earlier, automation is inevitable, but we have decades to prepare for that, to build up our investment portfolio. Plus don't forget, a lot of people out of work means a lot of people ain't buying anything. So the industry will approach automation cautiously, keeping involuntarily unemployment in check. So I don't forsee any doomsday scenario.
     
  13. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,258

    If your component PCB arrives with cigar ash embedded in beer stains, you can consider that a smoking gun
    Not much different to how Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan (among others) grew their economies. Build a base on dirt cheap labour, then consolidate by modernizing the assembly lines and educating the workforce for tech infrastructure (IT, research, support etc). Of course China, has an overabundance of people so it isn't hard to see them hitting the same wall that the U.S. did when production/manufacturing gave way to service/development...maybe with even more far reaching consequences.
     
    Raoul Duke likes this.
  14. Johny Legendary

    Johny Legendary TS Rookie

    Technology Knows no balance, AI's can't think rationally only logically they still need the few workers to verify products. the level of unemployment in that country will be overwhelming... but I dont think product defects will increase after all machines are meant to improve product quality
     
  15. Reehahs

    Reehahs TS Addict Posts: 169   +70

    Before automation: 90% manufacturing staff, 10% QA staff.
    After bad automation: 10% operators, 90% QA staff
    After good automation: 10% operators, 20% QA staff, 70% out.
     
    bmw95 likes this.
  16. ManuelV

    ManuelV TS Enthusiast Posts: 58   +26

    People will complain, but if foxconn don't do that and another company does they will have lower cost and people will complain about foxconn having to expensive or less quality products. So...
     
  17. DAOWAce

    DAOWAce TS Booster Posts: 249   +30

    I'll take automation in every field, please.

    Less human error in the industry, the better.

    Too bad we have to cull a few billion people to make up for the lack of jobs and income; not enough of it to go around in the first place..
     
  18. Phr3d

    Phr3d TS Booster Posts: 236   +42

    Cull:
    NOUN
    a selective slaughter of wild animals.

    I trust that this is the sarcasm winner of the month?
     

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