The Chinese electronics manufacturing giant, Foxconn, generated revenue of almost $60 billion in 2010. Without a doubt, this is possible due to their wide portfolio of high-paying clients. Among their clients you will find Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo, Acer, Dell and Nokia, just to name a few.
Certainly, Foxconn has been making several devices for Apple in the last years. The company has been in the news several times due to their less-than decent working environment. Their plants happen to be located in Shenzhen, and their employees are allegedly forced to work long hours.
But perhaps Foxconn has found a way to avoid this type of allegations: replace their employees. This is not about letting them go and rehiring, but rather have something else do the job. Foxconn has announced that within three years, they will have one million robots working in their plant. However, this doesn’t sound too far from what currently goes on at the plant. Foxconn counts with 10,000 robots that do the job of 1.2 million employees.
Among the “responsibilities” – or mere tasks – that the robots will be performing are assembling the product parts together, welding and spraying whenever it’s needed.
Even though this sounds harsh in the sense that workers will be simply replaced, Foxconn’s very own CEO, Terry Gou, has stated that they see this process as a way to give more importance to their workers. They are looking into upgrading their employees’ responsibilities into something more appreciated, which doesn’t have to do with the actual manufacturing of the product.
Gou added that this will contribute to the bettering of the working condition of all of their employees. In addition, Foxconn will be capable of delivering high-end products. This is rather an important statement, given that records show that 17 Foxconn workers have committed suicide because of the poor working environment at the plant.
Sadly enough, this type of mistreatment is quite common in China, especially in the electronics industry. Foxconn might be the first to step up and improve these conditions in order to keep clients, such as Apple and Microsoft, content. Recently, they have adjusted their overtime hours to meet the requirements stated in China’s labor laws.
Nonetheless, Foxconn ought to remember that robots and human beings aren’t supposed to work in the same area. This is in order to ensure the safety of the worker and to reduce the risk of injury. Robots are certainly not intelligent, and they can’t sense when a person is close to them. However, it seems that Foxconn is already working on having this problem resolved.
Having in mind that the company is looking to have 1 million robots in three years, it becomes difficult to think these robots will be working alongside humans. Even though the company has stated that they are looking to promote or upgrade their current employees, it sounds easier, simpler and cheaper to lay them off.
Only time will prove, or disapprove, Foxconn’s promise to their workers.