Foxconn Replaces Human Workers with 1 Million Robots

Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision) may have finally figured out a solution to all those pesky accusations of poor working conditions that keep popping up in headlines -- robots! The human condition being what it is, workers comprised of blood and guts tend to gripe and moan when employers saddle them with low wages, long hours, tedious tasks, and other things that, collectively, drive some to view suicide as a superior alternative.

Fine, have it your way. In the face of (reasonable) complaints, Foxconn president Terry Gou last year said he hoped to replace 1 million living and breathing workers with cold, mechanical robots. Apparently he really meant it. According to a translated article from Chinese website TechWeb, the first shipment of 10,000 robots, called "Foxbots," has already arrived, and Foxconn hopes to install 20,000 more by the end of the year.

Image Source: TechWeb

Foxconn is looking at the long-term financial benefit of replacing workers with Foxbots. Each robot costs between $20,000 and $25,000, which works out to more than three times the average salary of just one laborer. It essentially takes each robot three years to pay for itself, which doesn't factor in maintenance costs or, on the other side of the coin, increased productivity. It's also worth noting that Foxconn continues to raise employee salaries each year, including a 25 percent bump earlier this year.

It's hard to tell how much of this strategy is motivated by Foxconn wanting to remove itself from under a media microcope over labor issues, versus wanting a more productive and potentially cost-effective assembly line to keep up with increased mobile device orders.