Foxconn: Google's robotics manufacturing pal

Foxconn: Google's robotics manufacturing pal

Summary: Foxconn is reportedly chatting with Google about robotics. The contract equipment manufacturer could use the automation help and sales diversification.

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Foxconn is reportedly branching out into the robot business with Google and the move could come in handy for profit margins.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Foxconn, a unit of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is partnering with Google to potentially build robots for the search giant. Google put former Android leader Andy Rubin in charge of a robotics business.

android bot

Foxconn has been a player in robotics for its own plants. In 2012, there was a lot of news reports and chatter about Foxconn replacing human labor with robots to build Apple products. Foxconn is mostly known as the manufacturing partner for the iPhone and iPad, but has other businesses.

Google's robots' connective tissue: Android, cloud

Google has been on a tear with robotics acquisitions, but it's unclear what the company has in mind beyond self-driving cars. The Journal noted that Google is pitching a robot operating system for manufacturers.

In many respects, Foxconn has to get on the robot bandwagon as it is facing a bevy of challenges. To wit:

  • Labor costs are rising in China and Foxconn survives on making products with razor-thin margins.
  • Automation will be critical to keeping those costs down.
  • The company has to diversify away from Apple and contract manufacturing growth has stalled. Foxconn's January sales were flat year over year and revenue fell every month in 2013.
  • And as robots take over in manufacturing it may not make sense to build in China, which has cheap labor as its primary competitive advantage.

In other words, Foxconn will have to move upstream at some point and will need a heavy dose of automation to improve profit margins.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Google

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5 comments
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  • The same Foxconn the press hated last year?

    It's funny seeing the press dual standard applied here. Foxconn was hated b y the press because Apple used them as a contractor for iPhone's. Now that Google may be using them as a contractor, the press loves them. Foxconn is in the contract manufacturing business, so Google's business is the same as any customer, except for the positive press and PR that promotes Google, is a bonus for Foxconn.
    GaryDMN
  • So Foxconn is going to wipe out it's workforce

    How interesting. I wonder who they are going to sell stuff to, since there will be no jobs with which to make a salary; not that those folks at Fox Conn were getting anything close to a salary, more like begging for alms on the street.

    But this is nothing short of ironical that China is going to try and eliminate it's own labor force, that they have used for years to destroy the labor markets of everyone else.
    roberth6901
    • "So Foxconn is going to wipe out it's workforce..."

      the japanese did not decimate their workforce when they adapted robotic manufacturing (courtesy of us engineers and scientists) during the 70's. the us manufacturers who at that time was afraid that computer and computer aided manufacturing will displace each and every member of the labor unions did not budge when offered it. well, guess what, none of those myopic chanting (displaced workforce) materialized. the japanese leapfrog the us in efficiency and became a world-class manufacturing powerhouse in a very short time ... and those 'displaced workers', they became knowledge workers!
      kc63092@...
  • Foxconn: Google's robotics manufacturing pal

    china is at a tipping point just like the japanese in the 70's. it is good that google is proactive in pursuing the market and knowledge workers in that part of asia. taiwan may not be china itself, but the two are economically interconnected and the rapid progress in r&d and the burgeoning army of chinese engineers and knowledge workers are force to reckon in the near future. it is good for business ...
    kc63092@...
  • editorn

    So, if machines take over all human activity, including art and science, what will happen to the organic body and its conditioned-to-work-and-think brain? Surely, will it decay? Certainly, is mankind-machines coexistence possible while people are fighting for jobs and resources: competition, nations, and so on? Anyway, what is the endeavour in which a robot cannot take part or channel at all? Why won't the future automatons be alive? What is the fundamental difference between a mechanical structure, organic or inorganic, that imitates life and life itself? Is there any, virtual or real? If it said that there is a difference, is it just some kind of authority who defines and differentiates? Perhaps then, someday, will be a powerful automaton the one who will define life, its unique life, truth itself? Is the human-like living robot the demand of a hard and terrible future? Along these lines, there is a peculiar book, take a look in a sample in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another freethinking suggestion, far away from dogmas or axioms
    editor-b