Sixty thousand Chinese workers have been replaced by robots at Foxconn since the iPhone 6 launch in 2014. The company joins Wendy’s, McDonalds and Adidas who are all getting rid of human workers in favor of robots. Apple and Samsung supplier Foxconn has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots,” Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, told the South China Morning Post. Yulian also noted that more companies are likely to follow suit and invest heavily in a robot workforce.
iPhone maker Foxconn has replaced more than half its workforce with robots since iPhone 6 launch -> https://t.co/pJkxVLrj5I
In a statement to the BBC, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed that it was automating “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations” but denied that it meant long-term job losses.
We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees, and through training, also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control. We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.
BBC News reports that since September 2014, more than five hundred factories across the province of Dongguan have invested $630M on robot and AI technology to replace human workers. China’s Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics, unveiled the autonomous, sophisticated humanoid known as Pepper back in 2014. PC World described the AI as a “cute, wisecracking personal robot designed to bring joy to everyone.” Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank launched the product for consumers last year, for the price of a high-end PC.
“We want to have a robot that will maximize people’s joy and minimize their sadness,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a press conference in Tokyo. Learn more about the communications robot via the video below.
Meanwhile, are robots about to change the travel industry? The clip below profiles the service robots that welcome visitors at the international travel fair in Berlin. These AI’s could soon be the face of the check-in desk at international hotels. Check out the report below.
Economists have wanted that 35% of jobs are at risk of robotic takeover within the next 20 years. Former McDonald’s chief executive Ed Rensi recently said that a minimum-wage increase to $15 an hour would make companies consider robot workers.
“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” he said.
Fast-food chain Wendy’s plans to install self-service ordering kiosks at its restaurants because of growing labor costs associated to rising minimum wages.
“We’ll continue to invest in technology, with things in the front of the house, consumer facing, like customer self-order kiosks, mobile-order, mobile-pay,” President Todd Penegor says, “And as we’ve talked in the past, we’ll continue to invest in the back of the house, where we can take out non-consumer facing labor around things like temperature controls and checking, scheduling and the like.”
Could robots and drones replace waiters too?
A drone called the “Infinium Serve” is here to enhance your dining out experience. The flying robot is part of the wait staff at a Singapore restaurant and delivers food directly to patrons. Check out the video report above.
60,000 workers replaced by robots could calm criticism about the conditions in Foxconn’s factories. Moreover, the manufacturing hub for the electronics industry, Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, is making the cost-saving shift from human-to-AI’s as it undergoes a massive makeover after an industrial explosion killed 146 people in 2014.