Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing company which among other contracts makes Apple’s iPhones, is looking at a massive automation programme.
President-elect Trump may want to bring jobs back home to America, but a question mark hovers. Even if he can return manufacturing to the US, it may not mean that many new jobs.
These days, of course, the world’s big companies are the giant techs. They may make a lot of money, but they are not big employers, although some, such as Apple, do employ a lot of workers indirectly, via contract manufacturers such as Foxconn.
Back in the day, manufacturing jobs, for example those in the US rust belt, were relatively well paid. Car industry jobs may have been lost to China, but a good deal more have been lost to automation.
Jobs involved in the manufacturing of smart phones are not so well paid. But even if Donald Trump can wave a magic wand and see this type of manufacturing return to the US, it is dubious how much of a welcome US consumers will grant to iPhones if they double in cost thanks to higher labour costs in the US.
But that debate may be an irrelevant anyway, because Foxconn has revealed plans to introduce more automation to its factories.
According to Digi Times, the company is looking to eventually fully automate entire factories.
Dai Jia-peng, general manager for Foxconn's Automation Technology Development Committee was quoted as saying: "Foxconn has deployed more than 40,000 Foxbots, industrial robots developed and produced in house, at factories in China . . . Foxconn can produce about 10,000 Foxbots a year. In addition to industrial robots, Foxconn is developing robots for use in medical care.”
But he said “Although robotic technology keeps improving, industrial robots will not be able to completely replace workers because humans have the flexibility to quickly switch from one task to another.”
So there’s the hope for humans, the ability to quickly jump from one task to another, which reminds me, did you see the football last night? Now that is a change of subject a robot cannot match.