During a recent shareholder meeting, president and CEO of Apple partner manufacturer Foxconn said his company plans to roll out robots on assembly lines responsible for products like the iPhone, possibly in time for production of the so-called "iPhone 6."
According to CEO Terry Gou, the robots — dubbed "Foxbots" — are in the final stages of testing and could see deployment in at least one major Foxconn factory in the near future, with lines dedicated to Apple devices getting first priority, reports IT Home.
For the initial rollout, Foxconn is said to be planning an installation of 10,000 robots to replace human workers, possibly including those who make Apple's popular iPhone product range. Each Foxbot can complete an average of 30,000 devices per year, meaning a release of 10,000 would theoretically yield 300 million iPhones if completely tasked to that production line.
At a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 each, the robots could also represent a substantial savings for Foxconn, which currently employs more than 1.2 million workers at its various factories across China. Aside from overtime wages, housing and production line stoppages, the introduction of a fully automated manufacturing solution could solve the company's ongoing workers' rights troubles.
Foxconn's robot initiative has been delayed since it was first announced in 2011. At the time, Gou said the company had about 10,000 units already in operation, a number that was supposed to rise to 300,000 in 2012, then one million by 2014. The current number of robots being used in Foxconn's factories is unknown.
Despite the reported advancement in its robotics project, Foxconn will still have to rely on human hands for the foreseeable future. In June, a report claimed the firm would be hiring some 100,000 employees in ramp up to production of Apple's next-generation iPhone, which is rumored to start in July.
Apple's iPhone 6 is expected to boast a completely revamped design with a thinner chassis and next-gen "A8" SoC. New for this year may be the introduction of two new models in a 4.7-inch version and a 5.5-inch "phablet" variant, the latter of which could see differentiation through optical image stabilization and a higher 128GB storage option.