News just broke on XinHuaNet (via Slashdot) that Foxconn, a Taiwanese company with more than 1M Chinese laborers on the mainland, plans to deploy one million robots(!) over the next three years -- a 100-fold increase over current numbers. This should serve as a wake-up call for the United States. China already dominates in manufacturing; if they can capture the "new" flexible, light manufacturing space too, then the United States will be in dire straits (National Robotics Initiative or not). One commentor on HackerNews suggests that the robots will be ABB's Frida. Of course this needs more substantiation, but ABB isn't exactly a newcomer to industrial robotics; the Swiss company has been around for ages. Still, it would be mildly surprising if ABB wins out over all the competition (eg. Heartland Robotics) that are specifically trying to establish themselves as pioneers in "flexible, light manufacturing." The future of robotics certainly looks interesting!
Like I mentioned, a commentor on HackerNews suggested that the robot being deployed will be Frida, a humanoid robot made ABB (a Swiss-Swedish multinational corporation). Here is Frida:
I'd like to see a little more substantiation regarding a ABB-Foxconn deal. One commentor with unsubstantiated claims doesn't make it true; however, ABB and Foxconn have definitely had some interaction in the past. But an order of 1 million robots would be huge for ABB. It could easily add several billion dollars in revenues and profit for a company that currently (on the NYSE) has a market cap of around $50B. Heck, this might make a good speculative stock play if the market doesn't react to this news by Monday (assuming of course that ABB will actually receive the orders).
Here is a copy of the press release from XinHuaNet for posterity:
SHENZHEN, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday.
The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers' dance party Friday night.
The company currently has 10,000 robots and the number will be increased to 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years, according to Gou.
Foxconn, the world's largest maker of computer components which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, is in the spotlight after a string of suicides of workers at its massive Chinese plants, which some blamed on tough working conditions.
The company currently employs 1.2 million people, with about 1 million of them based on the Chinese mainland.