Foxconn, which is Apple's biggest supplier, has reportedly replaced 60,000 workers with robots in one of its factories.
The news came after a local government official told the South China Morning Post that employee numbers had been reduced significantly at one of the company's factories near Shanghai in Kunshan over the past few months.
Foxconn's headquarters are located in Taiwan but it operates 12 factories throughout China. A number of popular devices such as the iPhone and the iPad are manufactured for Apple at its factories.
The official went on record saying that: “The Foxconn factory has reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labour costs.” He also added that he believes that “more companies are likely to follow suit.”
Currently Kunshan has 2.5 million residents with a majority of them being migrant workers who first came to the city to work in the many electronics factories there. Despite the loss of 60,000 of its employees, Foxconn has denied that this change will result in long-term job losses. The company has defended the move by claiming that the robots were only used to replace the most repetitive tasks. This will free up Foxconn's workforce to focus on learning more advanced aspects of the manufacturing process such as quality control and research and development.
A spokesperson for the company explained its reasoning behind moving to automation in its factories: “We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.”
Foxconn's factories made the news in the past due to the high number of suicides at its factory in Shenzhen. Hopefully the move to a robotic workforce will help improve employee morale and conditions.
If Foxconn keeps its promise of training its workers, it could see a win-win scenario on both ends, with workers becoming more specialised and the robots carrying out repetitive tasks more efficiently.
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