Taiwan's Hon Hai
Precision Industry Co Ltd. (2317) last year had to contend with a
firestorm of negative publicity following a string of suicides  at its Chinese subsidiary, Foxconn.
Most of the suicides occurred at the company's Shenzhen city-factory,
which employed 400,000 people, and was a major manufacturing center Apple
iPhones, iPods, and iPads. The suicides claimed the lives of at least 12
employees, and at least one other employee was allegedly worked
After these incidents, Taiwanese billionaire and Hon Hai CEO Terry Gou
suggested one possible solution was to replace
employees with robots. Most thought the suggestion was far fetched.
But Hon Hai is looking to prove doubter wrong, announcing a sweeping plan
to replace its Chinese laborers with robots.
The new robots have many advantages over humans. They're suicide-proof (unless you believe a certain controversial GM commercial).
Their families can't sue you when you work them to death, as a) they
don't have families, and b) you can't work them to death (or it would be much
harder to, at least). And best of all the robots collect no pay or
Foxconn currently has 10,000 robots at its plants. The majority of its
labor, however, is human labor. That will change as it expands to 300,000
robots next year and 1 million robots within 3 years.
That new robotic army could replace much of the company's current 1.2 million
employee work force. Ironically an employee last year complained
about the robotic nature of their job stating, "Life is
meaningless. Everyday, I repeat the same thing I did yesterday."
Aside from the suicide and working conditions complaints against Foxconn, the
robots are also a response to the rising wage demands of Chinese
laborers. This trend has forced many major Chinese manufacturers to
move to cheaper countries, like Vietnam, or -- like Foxconn -- consider
The new Foxconn robots will be proficient at many chores,
including spraying, wielding, and assembling. While they will
certainly slash jobs at the manufacturer, some are predicting that they may
help to raise the salaries of the remaining specialist workers.