In 2011, the Chinese company FOXCONN took the decision to acquire 1 million robots over the next three years, between 2012 and 2014.
The FOXCONN example
The company FOXCONN has build a dormitory for the 300 000 employees near the industrial complex in Longhua where products for Apple are assembled. Each employee is focused on a single task sitting behind the conveyor. They wear a protective mask, a gown and a safety net for hair.
The repetitive and strictly structured tasks are suitable for automation. Industrial robots with a mobile arm call upon laser sensors or pressure to determine the beginning and the end of the phase of work. A robot can work for 160 hours per week. An operator, even the most skilled performing 12 hours of work per day can’t replace a robot which can do the work of 4 employees. However, the substitution of all the operators cannot take place immediately because the total automation of the assembly lines would need a redesign of the production process.
A new competitive advantage : automation
In two years, a robot working 24/24h repays its cost of acquisition. Employing a lot of operators is no longer a competitive advantage. The cost of robotization is more advantageous than the employment of a battalion of unqualified operators for doing repetitive tasks.
The level of competitiveness between countries would not be any longer based on the labour cost but on the capital cost. Indeed, companies which would have the best borrowing capacities would have the best position to acquire industrial machines. This phenomenon would reach every country, even developing countries, which would be forced to automate all their industries to keep a competitive advantage over their competitors.
Accelerating sales of robots in the developing countries
Heretofore, most of the robots’ sales are going to the developed countries, especially for the automotive sector with a high labour cost. Now, we can notice an acceleration in sales of robots on all manufacturing and transformation activities, apart from the economic level of the country. But on the contrary to what we might think, the automation of the industrial processes demonstrates a positive effect on employment.
Beneficial effects on the macroeconomic level
Because even though, in a short term, the replacement of the operators by robots would be considered as harmful on a socially based point of view, it would be beneficial on all economic players : more qualified and well paid jobs, decreased of the painfulness of work, increase of productivity, better quality of products, fall in the sale prices, creation of jobs. Industrial robots can release the human hand for noblest tasks to the benefit of the economic development and the improvement of the standard of living.
Besides, the used machine market provides used industrial robots or used industrial market for a cheap price and a good quality. Some marketplaces offer a good service to professionals putting in touch buyers and sellers of used machines all around the world.