Foxconn to mass produce robots

Controversial Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn has announced plans to mass produce industrial robots as part of its efforts to cope with labour shortages and rising wages.

The project, which is initially forecast to cost the Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Tw$6.7-billion (US$223-million), was unveiled Saturday when Terry Gou, chairman of the conglomerate, broke ground for the construction of a research and development unit in Taichung, central Taiwan.

“The investment marks the beginning of Hon Hai’s bid to build an empire of robots,” the Central Taiwan Science Park authorities said in a statement.

Foxconn plans to make the investment through Hon Hai’s subsidiary Foxnum, a company which focuses on the manufacturing of automation facilities and equipment, it said.

A recent report in Business Week shows that the Hon Hai’s net income fell in the third quarter by “8.6 percent to NT$19.2-billion (US$641 million), according to a company statement, from NT$21 billion last year. The average of 11 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for a profit of NT$18 billion.”

Foxconn, in the last few months has been hit by a spate of suicides at its Chinese plants and plans to replace 500 000 workers with robots in the next three years.

Foxconn — the world’s largest maker of computer components, which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia — plans to use one million robots to do “simple” work, China Business News quoted Gou as saying in August.

At least 14 workers have died in apparent suicides since last year, most of them in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. Activists blamed the deaths on tough working conditions and have called for better treatment of staff.

*with additional reporting from AFP



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