Foxconn to increase robot use to curb suicide among workers

(CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Foxconn Technology Group, the major supplier of Apple's iPhones and iPad, plans to use more robots for its various manufacturing operations as part of its efforts to replace "dangerous, boring and repeated" work, which has often been blamed for the series of suicides at its facilities in recent years.

The company will shift from mass production to lean production in the future and consider manufacturing on an order-on-order basis by upgrading its production lines and using more robots, its Chairman Terry Gou said on Friday.

Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple Inc, is building a research-and-manufacturing hub in Guiyang, the provincial capital of Guizhou.

Gou said plants in the new industrial park have been designed with high ceilings to leave sufficient room for robots' operation.

The park is expected to generate a revenue of 50 billion yuan (S$10 billion) in 2018, he said, adding that products from the park will be mainly sold to the mainland market.

Gou said the Guiyang park will focus on energy saving and environmental protection. With clients including Apple seeking suppliers with more environmentally friendly manufacturing, Foxconn's new plant will be able to make use of abundant local water resources for cooling technology that automates humidity controls, Gou said.

The plant will also use an automated process for painting mobile phones that is more environmentally safe than traditional spray guns, he said.

On Thursday in Guiyang, the company also signed cooperation contracts with Tsinghua University and Peking University to develop nanotechnology for use at Foxconn plants and develop the commercial application of vast quantities of data held by powerful computers.

"Guiyang is a more natural place to focus more on the application side of that basic research," Gou said. "Besides, the major Chinese mobile operators have set up a big data and cloud computing research center in Guizhou. Foxconn will be able to share resources with them."

The Guiyang plant is also a move by the company to increase its production in southwest China for exports and for supplies to the domestic market.

The new hub is more than 1,100 km inland from coastal Shenzhen where Foxconn opened its first mainland plant more than two decades ago.

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