Foxconn, one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers, has started to build its robot kingdom last year. The first batch of robots developed by the company, numbering about 10,000, has already been deployed on production lines in Shanxi province, Northern China. Foxconn is planning to turn out one million robots within three years. Terry Gou, the CEO of Foxconn, has revealed more info on his robot army in an interview. And Chinese journalist has the chance to take a sneak peek on Foxconn’s robots …
Terry Gou declared that they would use the city of Jincheng as a trial base for its plan to implement mechanized labor on a large scale. It is significant as it is the company’s first experimental field for the robot strategy. Inside the Foxconn industrial park, the robots are called Foxbots and to be definitely, they should be called robot hands as they can do some dull and repetitive work only. After a running-in period, they will start formal work and compared with production-line workers’ eight-hour working per day, they will run 24 hours all day long.
All the robots would be developed by Foxconn itself. The company established a robot business division as early as 2007 and so far, it had controlled five technologies covering the manufacture of hardware, key components, software, system integration and remote control. The machines cost between 140,000 (US$22,000) and 160,000 yuan (US$25,000), come in varying sizes depending on the model. Instead of taking the place of production-line workers, these robots would play a major role in specific workshops like polishing, grinding, welding, laser marking and color spraying. The Intelligence of those robot hands was at a similar level with human beings at age of three to six currently and it aimed to raise the figure to a level with human beings at age of 18.
The robot project would see investment rise to 9 billion yuan over the next five years. Terry Gou pointed out that it would take the company huge capital to develop and manufacture the robots, but in the long run it would benefit. The plan to use large numbers of robotic labor at numerous Foxconn manufacturing plants in China does reflect an important reality of a changing labor market. In the face of rising wages, many Chinese workers performing labor-intensive jobs could be gradually replaced by sophisticated machines. Gou said that with the introduction of robots, workers would be reassigned to produce value-added goods, and younger workers would be trained to operate and maintain the complex machinery.
Some young workers of the company said yes when asked weather there was possibility for them to be replaced by those robots one day. However, some others did not think so and in their opinion, robots were controlled by human beings and would be always laid behind by innovations. Foxconn is one of the largest corporations in the electronic assembling industry and has been plagued by scandal in the past over the treatment of employees. It suffered a string of suicides by young workers at its massive Chinese plants with blamed on working pressure. We are not sure whether Foxconn’s robot revolution can end the employee suicides but it shall improve the safety precaution to prevent huge fire and terrible explosion where humans are involved.
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