Even at the ridiculously low pay rates at Foxconn, it was just a matter of time when the commodity of human labor would be too complicated to exploit. Foxconn reportedly has started deploying 10,000 robots which replace somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 workers. Within 3 years, Foxconn wants to install about 1 million robots - called Foxbots - and replace up to 1 million workers.
These robots do not immediately make financial sense as they apparently cost somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 each and represent about three times the annual salary of an average worker at Foxconn - and this cost does not include running costs such as maintenance and power supply. But then we remember that salaries are likely to go up over time and Foxconn has had experience with complaints about labor conditions. These robots may be initially expensive, but they certainly will not ask for pay increases and not complain about the environment they work in and the number of hours they are online.
For Foxconn, this seems to be a natural move and automation is clearly an inevitable evolutionary development in the production iPhones and iPads. Singularity Hub says that Foxconn employs about 1.2 million people. It is rather unlikely that 80 percent of those will be moved within Foxconn to new jobs and robots certainly could mean massive layoffs, especially if Foxconn installs these Foxbots as quickly as it ramped the production of Apple gadgets.
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Pretty weak financial analysis. 4 or 5 years to get your capital back is pretty good. A more sophisticated analysis would use net present value, which Foxconn probably did.
My guess is that the investment does indeed make immediate financial sense.
I tend to disagree. You'll never have as many people to maintain these robots as they are replacing. And if you replace people with robots at all the repetitive, monotonous tasks, you pretty much eliminate all labor from the market. Yeah, robots can work longer, steadily, and create more output than a human, but at some point you'll eliminate so much of the need for labor that you won't have enough people earning a living to buy anything. One of the problems the US is facing now is the fact that with being forced to operate with fewer workers over the past few years, employers have realized they can actually operate with fewer workers. Despite what some people seem to think, companies aren't just gonna hire more people if they have more money. They now know they can get more with less, so they'll stick with that for as long as they can. Not calling the end of society and the age of robots, but just saying it's something to think about.