- Foxconn, maker of Apple’s iPhone and other electronic devices, plans to automate the work of massive numbers of Chinese workers, reports the Verge. The Taiwanese tech company plans to automate its factories with software and robots, called Foxbots, in three phases.
- Phase 1 involves having robots perform dangerous or repetitive jobs humans don’t want to do. Phase 2 focuses on streamlining production and reducing the number of robots used in the process. The plan for Phase 3 is to automate most jobs and retain a few workers for some procedures such as production, testing, logistics and inspection.
- Foxconn reportedly has had massive automation in the works for years, and already has produced 10,000 Foxbots. The Verge says the company plans to have completed 30% of its automation in Chinese factories by 2020. The company claims to have automated 60,000 jobs in one factory alone.
The threat of robots replacing human workers is no longer the stuff of sci-fi movies. Technology already has automated countless jobs, most notably in healthcare and manufacturing. The Economist reports that 47% of U.S. jobs are at risk of being automated, including white-collar jobs held by lab technicians, telemarketers and accountants to service jobs held by security guards, receptionists, cashiers and counter clerks. For employers, automation cuts labor costs, makes workplaces safer and, as Foxconn points out, can make them more competitive.
On the positive side, automation might create opportunities for new-job creation, especially in the high-tech industry. Also, not every job realistically can be automated; even Foxconn is retaining some human workers by necessity.