Foxconn Technology Co., Ltd. (TPE:2354) employees may soon be replaced by robots. At least that is what one MIT writer reports, in a new story for their Technology Review magazine. This article mentions several companies in China but mainly discusses Foxconn, a leading assembly manufacturer for big tech companies like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Nintendo Co., Ltd (PINK:NTDOY) (TYO:7974), Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL), Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), and more.
The chief executive officer of Foxconn recently made a statement that his company plans on using more robot labor and less human labor. The goal here is to create an automated assembly line, much like the car assembly lines found in North America. Another reason for this shift, is to appease the human rights watchers, who are concerned with the company’s treatment of employees and working conditions.
One IT-analyst/strategic communications specialist, David Wolf, thinks this is a smart idea. He recently said, “Automation is the beginning of the end of the factory girl, and that’s a good thing.” He also further predicts the decline will be similar to America’s decline in seamstresses and secretaries.
The working conditions at Foxconn are rather strange to most Americans. The employees live in guard-monitored apartments that are near factories. They spend the majority of their time working quietly in the assembly lines. The Foxconn plant is the largest private employer in China, as it employs over one million people in China alone, with 100,000 plus more in the Chengu plant, which has a notorious history of being dangerous for employees. Within one year of opening the plant, there was a fatal explosion in the facility that injured over a dozen employees and killed four. Then just last month, it was reported that there were 100 people at an apartment complex, who threw various objects at security guards. Then, nine days after the incident, one Foxconn employee took his own life, and jumped from an apartment building. In 2010, there were twelve Foxconn suicides that were committed at various operations around the country.
Despite the negative reports of a harsh work environment, many Chinese people still patiently wait in line in hopes of securing a job at Foxconn. M.I.C. Gadgets, a Chinese tech blog, said there are thousands of people who are trying to get one of the many summer job slots. These jobs only have one requirement: good eyesight. I think this shows that if Foxconn decides to use automated assembly lines in their factories, I just don’t see how they could ever fully replace humans.