Women employees work at assembling line at a factory of Foxconn. [File photo]
Foxconn plans to churn out a million robots by 2013 to assist in manufacturing alongside human employees, founder and chairman Terry Gou said during a visit to an IT park in Shanxi Province.
The Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, which contracts for tech giants such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard, has approximately 1.2 million staff worldwide, 1 million of which work on China s mainland.
Last year, Foxconn came under fire for a rash of worker suicides at factories in southern China. In response, it substantially raised the salaries of its workforce, only to find its already thin profit margins becoming losses.
As more manufacturers have gained a foothold in China and labor costs have shot up, replacing human staff with more efficient robots has become an inevitable option for Foxconn to maintain its competitive edge.
Terry Gou said using robots to do work currently done by human hands will move its human employees higher up the value chain.
"The young employees will learn how to operate, use and fix the robots and turn themselves into engineers," he said.
Last year, Foxconn deployed the first batch of its homegrown robots in operation at its plant in Jincheng City, Shanxi Province. Terry Gou said the number of robots working at the plant will reach 10,000 this year.
The mechanical devices can polish, meld and spray components. Compared with human beings, they are more able to protect themselves under corrosive, combustible working conditions.
Foxconn, one of the largest contract manufacturers for electronic devices, was ranked 60th on the Fortune Global 500 list in 2011.