Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision Industry is looking to automation to keep productivity up without the rising costs of human labor. Meg Teckman reports.
Your next iPhone could be wholly made by robots. Currently, Apple products are still assembled by hand as robotic arms aren't precise enough. But rising labour costs in China have Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry looking to reduce its massive workforce for the first time ever. The Taiwanese firm, which trades as Foxconn, employs well over one million people worldwide - most of them in China, most of them young people in factories like these. Manufacturers have been grappling with rising labour costs in China for several years as the country loses global competitiveness. Many have turned to other manufacturing destinations across Asia such as Vietnam. Rabobank's Michael Every. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF FINANCIAL MARKETS RESEARCH, RABOBANK, MICHAEL EVERY, SAYING: "If China wants to become a developed economy with developed-level worlds of productivity, it needs to automate the same way that the developed world has." Hon Hai says labour costs have doubled in the past four years as humans are still better at certain tasks. But automation is seen as a much-needed boost for Chinese firms who want to keep their businesses afloat. So as consumers demand thinner, faster, and cheaper smartphones, manufacturing robots may need to develop a human touch. ENDS