My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Foxconn to replace workers with Robots – Devil in a Blue Dress avoid Mutiny on the Bounty

Monday, August 1, 2011

Foxconn to replace workers with Robots – Devil in a Blue Dress avoid Mutiny on the Bounty

For men must work, and women must weep,
And there’s little to earn, and many to keep
Though the harbour bar be moaning.

Charles Kingsley, The Three Fishers

Today is a rather special day for me. It is my birthday, as evidenced from my Facebook Page. Yes, I am an Emancipation Baby. I was born on August 1st 1979, Jamaica’s Emancipation Day, albeit our clever cartoonists at The Jamaica Gleaner Las May will declare that we are not emancipated.

The year of my birth is also significant, as it is the year that Three Mile Island decided to take a leak of 17 curies of Radioactive Material and make American  revile Nuclear Power as per my Geezam blog article entitled “Japan Nuclear Disaster – Implications for Jamaica and the Consumer Electronics World” and my blog article entitled “Japan, Jamaica's OUR and Net Metering - When Disaster Strikes Don't Hold It Against Me”.

This brings me to the disaster in the Far East Japanese Archipelago on Friday March 11th2011AD, which is still fresh in my mind, as the cleanup from the resulting Nuclear Accident in Fukushima Dai’ichi (that means “No. 1”) Reactor, 270km (170miles) North East of Tokyo run by Tokyo Power Electric Co , as my article point out, will take years. This will translate to increased costs to manufacturers of electronic gadgets, as Japan is a major supplier of components to companies that not only make gadgets, but also assemble them.

So it is with some great deal of pleasure that I write this rather short blog post on my birthday, possibly with my Seventh Day Adventist Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) Audia Michelle Granston smiling down on me, daring me to give her some OMG!

This Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan as chronicled in my Geezam blog article entitled “Japan Nuclear Reactor Meltdown is the Asian Tiger Chernobyl” and mentioned in countless blog articles is having a ripple effect on the Far East. One of those ripple effects, it seems, is concern for the working conditions of workers in the Far East, which appears to be set to get better.

This comes to light as problem plagued Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, the assembler of components for devices branded for such tech heavyweights as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony and Cupertino Kids aka Apple Inc just to name a few, has decided to go with robots to reduce the cost of manufacturing  in the next three (3) years in the following Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) of articles:

1.      Foxconn to replace workers with robots”, published JULY 31, 2011 12:40 PM PDT by Steven Musil, CNET News - Apple
2.      Foxconn Planning To Hire 1 Million Robots”, published Monday, August 1, 8:07 AM By TechCrunch via Washington Post

Seems that Foxconn may have read my blog article entitled “Amazon's Social Network for Pets - Quidsi in the Flight of the Navigator” and the article ‘QR Codes and Shopping in South Korea - My Science Project for A Virtual Supermarket” and realized that automation be it via Robots or QR codes, would be the best way to go, as the savings are obvious!

Wishful thinking on my part, but the coincidence, less than a month after the above article were published, so the coincidence is glaring. This indicates that Foxconn's actions may have at least been inspired by the use of Robotics in the Far East, whichever way you wish to spin it, as Japan is known for its robotics.

Albeit their lack of robotics during the ensuing Nuclear disaster post Earthquake and Tsunami on Friday March 11th 2011AD as stated in the article “Where are the Robots' in Japan’s Nuclear crisis”, published March 19, 2011 4:28 PM PDT by Tim Hornyak, Crave - CNET News is puzzling.

Foxconn is replacing of their now labor force of one million two hundred thousand workers (1,200,000) with approximately one million (1,000,000) robots, a nearly 100% replacement of their work staff and a hundred-fold increase on their current deployment of one hundred thousand (10,000) robots. This will happen on a phased basis over a three (3) year period as a plant of the age and condition as those run by Foxconn will require a lot of planning and retooling.

Research analyst JPMorgan at Alvin Kwock explains this best, quote: “Foxconn has been comparatively slow when it comes to automation. Automating an old factory is difficult because you then have to redesign the floor plan, so you want to introduce automation as part of a new plant.” Apparently, the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Accident in Japan is now having a marked effect on the cost of electronics, as despite the very low wages of the Foxconn workers, efficiency cannot be achieved so easily now that the actual cost of components has increased.

Again, Research analyst JPMorgan at Alvin Kwock makes this point, quote: “This is part of a broad automation push among China-based manufacturers. It signals that the cost of labour is no longer lower than the cost of capital”.

This was due to the increases in components coming from Japan due to the Earthquake and Tsunami back on Friday March 11th 2011 as well as increase in suicides among Foxconn’s workers at its Shenzhen Plant in the People’s Republic of China. However, it is their worker related problems i.e. sixteen (16) suicides jumps and factory related deaths to date, that has drawn unnecessary attention to Foxconn’s questionable operations due to their association with Apple as stated in the article “Why Apple and Others are Nervous about Foxconn”, published June 3, 2010, 11:00AM EST by Stephanie Wong, John Liu and Tim Culpan, BusinessWeek – TECHNOLOGY.

To this end, Foxconn Founder and Chairman Terry Gou have also decided to:

1.      Increase salaries by 20% (I’d prefer 50% pay increase)
2.      Install safety suicide nets at their Shenzhen Plant (how about that 50% pay increase, with vacation and medical and dental?)

I am really writing this article due to the fact I had made note of Foxconn’s troubles in my blog article entitled “Apple + Android beat Nokia + RIM Globally - Regina Beaver's La Dolce Vita”, the SOLE reason this article even caught my eye like a Devil in a Blue Dress (1995). Good move on the part of Foxconn, as this should take some heat off them an d Apple CEO Steve Jobs for being associated with Foxconn and avoid a Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) as Apple ramps up for the launch of the Apple iPhone 5, the Apple iPad 3 and…..a Apple Television Set.

Stay tuned……..

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