Taiwan-based Employer Turning to Robots to do Segment of Work

Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Business News, Business Technology [ 0 Comments ]

Imagine something out of a sci-fi movie where machines and not humans are manning the assembly lines at different companies worldwide, with the ultimate goal being a more efficient workplace.

Think it could not happen? Think again.

Recent media reports note that Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer Foxconn will increase automation as part of its mission plan over the next three years, using some one million robots to do the work in place of humans. The robots will reportedly perform such routine chores as spraying, welding and assembling parts.

Foxconn, which produces iPhones among other hi-tech gadgets, and is a partner for joint-design, joint-development, manufacturing, assembly and after-sales services to to different electronic leaders, has reportedly been dealing with increasing expenses and growing questions over its working conditions.

Finances, Employee Stress Lead to Issues

The company reported it lost $218 million in 2010, compared to a profit of $37 million the previous year. According to a Credit Suisse spokesman, salaries for migrant workers increased 30 to 40 percent in 2011 and are estimated to grow by another 20 to 30 percent annually until at least 2013.

Meantime, in just a few months last year at the company’s main facility in southern China, 10 employees committed suicide. Along with reported low wages, another complaint from assembly line workers is that they must remain silent while working.

According to one industry expert, “Workers can command higher wages and are less willing to settle for lower ones. You can no longer just double your workforce to double your output.”

A spokesman for the China Labour Bulletin added, “Its (adding robots) a positive development in that it will get rid of the really mind-numbing jobs that are done by unskilled workers and could help to improve skill levels. You still need people to manage and operate these machines. The question is how many people are going to be laid off and are they going to be reassigned?”

While Foxconn’s move on the surface may seem like a bad one to many, time will tell if such a decision will actually be good for the company.

Such a move could give many workers increased responsibility while machines do more of the mundane work. If that is the case, then other manufacturers may follow suit. If not, look for Foxconn to be dealing with more than just challenging financial reports.

Photo credit: Reuters

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