Robots in Manufacturing To Escalate Rapidly

by Malc on August 3, 2011

Robots in Manufacturing

NXT Robot (Wikipedia)

The number of robots used in the electronics factories of Foxconn, China’s biggest employer, is planned to rise from 10,000 to 1,000,000 over the next two years. Foxconn counts Apple iPhone among its manufacturing projects.

At the same time, employees will be pushed up the value chain, wages rising by 20-30% per year – for the ones who stay.

I know – it’s “technology taking our jobs”: but the other side of the coin is a number of high profile suicides by oriental workers carrying out highly repetitive tasks day after day.

The massive increase in robots used is a reflection of the general trend. Robots are tireless, accurate, and will work for 24 hours a day. These are attractive features.

They can also be used to make… other robots!

On the face of it, this is a story about manufacture: but robots are clearly destined to penetrate every part of life, including healthcare.

For example, take doctors. We all know just how much data doctors have to master to do their job; in fact, it is much too much for one person. Hence patients get referred to one or more specialists during the course of diagnosis and treatment. The use of robots, especially when coupled with artificial intelligence, to augment the doctor’s skills will mean faster diagnosis and fewer trips to see other experts. And the diagnosis will be able to take more factors into account, and see relationships which one person working alone can easily miss.

We all know this is coming, it’s true. But what struck me about this story was the speed at which it is coming. That increase in Foxconn’s robot force is by a factor of 100 – in just 2 years. Stunning.


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