Foxconn Details Three-Phase Plan to Eventually 'Automate Entire Factories' in China

Friday December 30, 2016 6:24 AM PST by Mitchel Broussard

Foxconn is deploying a plan broken down into three phases that will eventually "automate entire factories" in China (via DigiTimes). According to the general manager of Foxconn's Automation Technology Development Committee, Dai Jia-peng, the company's first phase of the plan is "to set up individual automated work stations for work that workers are unwilling to do or is dangerous."

The second phase will see entire production lines automated along with a decrease of the number of robots used by the manufacturer. This will lead into the third phase, which is aimed to be fully automated factories "with only a minimal number" of human workers.

foxconn-foxbot

Image via the South China Morning Post

In the third phase, entire factories will be automated with only a minimal number of workers assigned for production, logistics, testing and inspection processes, Dai indicated.

Currently, factories in Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Zhengzhou have been brought to the second and even third phase, with as many as 10 "lights-out," or fully automated, production lines at some of the locations. One of these facilities is located in Chengdu, where all-in-one PCs are being manufactured on automated assembly lines.

Foxconn's lines are deployed with "Foxbots," which it develops and produces in house at a rate of around 10,000 each year. Besides technology manufacturing, the company is also said to be creating robots for use in medical care as well. Human workers are still integral to the process, according to Dai, "because humans have the flexibility to quickly switch from one task to another."

Yesterday, an article by The New York Times looked more deeply behind the scenes of Foxconn and its major iPhone manufacturing plant in Zhengzhou, China. The "iPhone City" has become one of Apple's major global manufacturing plants over the past decade, and is one of the spots where Foxconn is now looking to deploy its three-phase automation plan.

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Tag: Foxconn

Top Rated Comments

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43 months ago

If only this would lower the prices... :)

Nope, just increase profit.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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43 months ago

Customers should expect a drop of at least 65% off the current iPhone, iPad and other device pricing.

The robots are replacing a human workforce because it is cheaper to replace humans with robots. There is no other reason. Naturally, everyone, all Apple customers, should expect a huge drop in the cost to buy iPhone.

I suspect iDevices will cost ~80% less than today.

The manufacturing costs are only a very tiny piece of the iprice. Nothing will happen to your wallet.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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43 months ago

I agree with your predictions but I see this as positive innovation. Somewhat ironic that you seem to share fear and mistrust of technological advances with "all the yokel rubes."

I do appreciate the technological innovations but at some point business efficiency effectively cannibalize their very customers. It's a virtuous circle as Jobs used to say. This constant drumbeat of cost savings in the end amounts to "F you, I got mine." Walmart didn't get to be Walmart without the average person thinking they could get cheap products and everyone else pick up the tab.
My eyes are wide open to reality. I find irony in all the rubes who want factory jobs to come back, that they think it will magically happen without big government regulation (which they loathe so much), unionized worker protection which has been demonized and dismantled, or without consumer sentiment changing and not demand ever-cheaper goods. The consumer must also put up or shut up, for meaningful change.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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43 months ago


Really? Manufacturing is a huge cost. With the threat of onshoring to the USA, robots aim to mitigate that cost.

Foxconn, for the most part, is an assembly company. Assembly is a small piece of the overall cost of the phone.

Also, no one in their right mind should think that lower costs of production on a device like an iPhone is going to result in lower prices. That's not how high margin multinational companies operate, they pocket the difference and buy back stock to inflate the executive teams pay.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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43 months ago
If only this would lower the prices... :)
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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43 months ago
Trump will force all iPhones to be built by American robots thereby securing the robot vote in 2020.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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