Turns out that simple operations like welding, spraying and assembling are still done by the 1.2 million strong army of Foxconn employees, with only 10 000 robots to back them up. Terry Gou, the Foxconn founder, known as a true capitalist who relentlessly pursues efficiency in his factories, is planning to increase the number of robots to 300 000 next year, and one million total in the next three years.
Well, robots don't jump from buildings because of the unbearable life at the conveyor belt, nor do they leak trade secrets about upcoming Apple products, or demand wage hikes, so in the long run the robot move is smart. Wages in China have to keep rising with the inflation that the West money-printing exercise is exporting around the globe, so the robots will definitely be cheaper in the end for repetitive tasks. We are, however, split should we worry about the Foxconn employees who will be without a job due to the robots taking over, or be happy for them leaving the mind-numbing assembly jobs and going back to nature in the rice paddy.
Either way, Apple is rumored already shifting the iPad 3 assembly entirely to Pegatron, trying to diversify contractors, and also mitigate the bad publicity its Foxconn relationship is creating with factory fires, suicides and leaks. Ironically, CEO Terry Gou broke the news at a "workers' dance party Friday night". Guess nobody was doing the robot afterwards.
source: Xinhua via Forbes