Few people have heard that Apple has been experimenting with robots for 8 years and … as a result, abandoned the total robotization of production processes – thousands of Chinese workers can safely escape.
Back in 2012, the leadership of the Taiwanese company Foxconn, which assembled most of Apple’s technology, made an indelible impression on Tim Cook by showing automated iPad production lines and at the same time promised to install a million robots in their enterprises and replace most of them with them.
Former accountant Cook was so inspired by the ambitions of the Chinese and the upcoming superprofits that he founded his own secret robotics laboratory, which set a seemingly achievable goal: to cut staff in production by 2 times.
After all, robots do not get tired, they do not need pauses and they perform precision operations better than humans. In addition, robotic production is easy to scale after fluctuations in demand, and robots are instantly retrained.
Happened? In 2019, the number of robots at Foxconn enterprises was 100 thousand (i.e., 1/10 of the plan for 2014), and the Apple laboratory was closed in 2018. Why?
The wonderful dream of automating complex production processes has so far turned out to be extremely far from reality.
First of all, it turned out that when assembling complex equipment, it is necessary to perform many operations that require physiological feedback and high sensitivity. And such sensitivity can be provided only by VERY expensive robots in production.
Moreover, it turned out that such robots are expensive not only in production, but also in maintenance. A failed robot is much more difficult to repair than to replace a person. And in a situation where logistics and sales are linked to production on a global scale, a simple production line results in serious losses.
But even if you create a fully automated production line, there is another problem.
Reprogramming it to produce new device models is significantly longer and more expensive than retraining experienced builders. And you can scale production by simply connecting additional suppliers.
In general, Apple’s economy on robots has not yet converged. It does not converge with Tesla, in the factories of which manual labor still prevails, and with Amazon, in whose warehouses people still work, despite the very high level of technical expertise of all three companies.
The dream of the bourgeoisie to completely not depend on people in his factories and factories remains a dream. But it’s time for office workers to begin to strain.
Practice shows that it is easier to automate management processes than production processes, and the so-called artificial intelligence and robotics, which are firmly connected in the minds of the average person, develop at very different speeds.
Because it is one thing to build models of the outflow of employees on the basis of their personnel data or to automate the calculation of salaries, and quite another to automate the real assembly process, requiring the physical movement of parts and what a person calls “fine motor skills”. Why is it there – even food can’t be delivered without a living person really yet.