The poor working conditions at Foxconn's factories charged with making devices like the iPhone and iPad are now legendary. To address this issue, the CEO announced plans to replace human workers with an army of robots. Apparently, that wasn't just bluster, as the robots have begun their takeover.
Dubbed "Foxbots," the robot workers are meant to take over a number of factory positions considered dangerous. The company also hopes that, in the long run, the Foxbots (pictured above) will save money. But another reason for the change is likely related to the Foxconn's desire to avoid issues like worker riots, controversy related to underage workers, rising pay, and worker suicides due to stress and being overworked.
Foxconn has already deployed roughly 10,000 of the robots, which are now working in China's Shanxi Province, but the company is firming up plans to have another 20,000 working by the end of the year. According to reports, the projected one million new Foxbots will be in operation by 2014. The Foxbots are said to come in several varieties, including crab-like robots, lifter robots, and specialized robots designed for precision work.
An interesting point to note is what this portends for the future. China's chief advantage as a manufacturing source for U.S. tech firms has been the ability leverage the country's dense populations of low-wage workers. However, if the bulk of the work shifts to non-human workers in the next decade, it's reasonable to question what benefit there will be to keeping manufacturing in China rather than simply setting up robot factories in the U.S.
It could be that China's time in the tech spotlight may only last as long as it takes to ramp up new and better factory robots.