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A US Apple Factory May Be Robot City

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the rise-of-the-iMachines dept.

Robotics 602

dcblogs writes "Apple's planned investment of $100 million next year in a U.S. manufacturing facility is relatively small, but still important. A 2009 Apple video of its unibody manufacturing process has glimpses of highly automated robotic systems shaping the metal. In it, Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design, described it. 'Machining enables a level of precision that is just completely unheard of in this industry,' he said. Apple has had three years to improve its manufacturing technology, and will likely rely heavily on automation to hold down labor costs, say analysts and manufacturers. Larry Sweet, the CTO of Symbotic, which makes autonomous mobile robots for use in warehouse distribution, described a possible scenario for Apple's U.S. factory. First, a robot loads the aluminum block into the robo-machine that has a range of tools for cutting and drilling shapes to produce the complex chassis as a single precision part. A robot then unloads the chassis and sends it down a production line where a series of small, high-precision, high-speed robots insert parts, secured either with snap fit, adhesive bonds, solder, and a few fasteners, such as screws. At the end, layers, such as the display and glass, are added on top and sealed in another automated operation. Finally, the product is packaged and packed into cases for shipping, again with robots. "One of the potentially significant things about the Apple announcement is it could send a message to American companies — you can do this — you can make this work here," said Robert Atkinson, president of The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation."

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Automation and unemployment (5, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 2 years ago | (#42231551)

If the reason it can be done in the US is automation there's very little difference in terms of employment -- The capital holders get to keep more of their capital, some Asians get fired, and very few Americans get hired.Sure the GDP will rise but that won't make the slightest difference for the unemployed.

Robots are replacing workers everywhere and we need a new economy to deal with the situation.

Re:Automation and unemployment (3, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 2 years ago | (#42231591)

Robots are replacing workers everywhere and we need a new economy to deal with the situation.

...or we need to grow the economy. Value creation isnt zero sum.

Perhaps a little of both?

Re:Automation and unemployment (4, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 2 years ago | (#42231603)

The present economy is growing in leaps and bounds leaving workers in the dust. "economic growth" is a meaningless metric when productivity allows this.

Re:Automation and unemployment (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231639)

Yeah good one... If all the robot factories are owned by few people, how will growing the economy help? We are probably less than 2 decades away from mass riots (And I only say that because I'm not an alarmist).

Re:Automation and unemployment (4, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#42231669)

Robots are replacing workers everywhere and we need a new economy to deal with the situation.

...or we need to grow the economy. Value creation isnt zero sum.

Perhaps a little of both?

Question is: for how long?

I mean, if the "workers" can't afford to buy the widgets, where's the growth in the economy produced by the" value creation"?
Let me rephrase: in extreme, if there aren't any buyers, what meaning the "economy" term still retains?

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231905)

If there were no workers involved in the production of our most complex products, the potential price of these same productions would be little over the cost of the raw materials.

Of course, there are many thousands of people still involved in the production of these devices. Final assembly is just one small part of what it takes to get an iPhone from inside a human brain, all the way to store shelves.

Re:Automation and unemployment (3, Insightful)

Vapula (14703) | about 2 years ago | (#42231919)

The potential price would be little over the cost of raw material in a perfect world. Automation has always been pushed forward as a way to lower manufacturing costs AND product cost.

Except that we are talking about Apple which is known to charge much more than needed and it's unlikely that the price will lower... In fact, the price may even increase as "it's made in US" with fallacies as "greater quality", "higher production costs", ...

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

grumbel (592662) | about 2 years ago | (#42231929)

...or we need to grow the economy.

The problem is that once you have flexible enough robots, all the new jobs created by a growing economy will be done by robots.

Re:Automation and unemployment (-1, Flamebait)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42231625)

Robots are replacing workers everywhere and we need a new economy to deal with the situation.

How about we start with rewarding employers for hiring people long term? Current US policy is to heavily punish employers in all sorts of ways from making US workers considerably more expensive to taking more of their income when they do anything profitable in the US. And it's getting worse.

For example, Obamacare (passed in 2009) makes hiring the 50th full time employee cost at least an additional $40k plus $2k per additional employee beyond that (that's the penalty for not providing expensive health insurance benefits to an employee), plus the associated bureaucratic overhead.

So what's this "new economy" going to look like? I think we need look no further than Greece which has a thriving black market labor market. So here's how I see the future of US unskilled labor. Work will be done by robots, by part-time employees or whatever loophole status saves employers the most money, and by people working completely off the books. All which are already happening. I see this getting worse, unless we return to a saner employment policy.

Re:Automation and unemployment (2)

iamhassi (659463) | about 2 years ago | (#42231705)

So what's this "new economy" going to look like? I think we need look no further than Greece which has a thriving black market labor market. So here's how I see the future of US unskilled labor. Work will be done by robots, by part-time employees or whatever loophole status saves employers the most money, and by people working completely off the books. All which are already happening. I see this getting worse, unless we return to a saner employment policy.

Couldn't have said it better myself. US govt seems to doing all it can to make it more difficult for the middle class

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#42231873)

Assembly line workers are the US middle class? Since when? Oh, since all the American companies have been going bankrupt. Silly me.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231977)

no, but highly qualified folks, like teachers, doctors, engineers are of no need any more. Since poorer population is unable to afford their services. You need an engineer to build a house, but hei, you can't afford a house. You may want to go to college, but your single parent can't afford you to go there. You see where I am going?

Re:Automation and unemployment (4, Interesting)

cryptolemur (1247988) | about 2 years ago | (#42232055)

"Rewarding employers" does nothing in the long term, and only 'distorts the markets' in the short term, so it should have never been used, albeit it seems to be the idiocy du jour.
Think about it: if there's no purchasing power, no matter how much the employer is rewarded, there's no cash flow to keep the business viable. On the other hand, if there is purchasing power and thus business, the employer doesn't need subsidies to survive.
The best thing to do to national economy is to tax/destroy wealth at the top and create it at the bottom.
That, and tax/moderate the financial markets regressively, but in relation to time between purchase and sale -- and start from 99.5% or so regressing to 15% in about ten years, forcing investors to care about the long term health of companies and aiming for stable and predictable markets.
Oh, and cut the copyright to 25 years from first publication. But that's negotiable.

Re:Automation and unemployment (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#42231627)

Robots are replacing workers everywhere and we need a new economy to deal with the situation.

I suggest zombies. They're more cost-effective than robots, cheaper to replace, and on their off hours can do even more to reduce the number of unemployed.

Re:Automation and unemployment (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231633)

Robots are replacing workers everywhere and we need a new economy to deal with the situation.

Don't worry. As soon as the US robots unionize the jobs will move overseas again.

Re:Automation and unemployment (5, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 years ago | (#42231635)

Having the robot factories here is good. We can tax the owners, tax the engineers, and use the proceeds to support all the unemployed people. Automation guarantees that we will, eventually, have 50+% permanent unemployment. We'll need to transition to a socialist economy to survive, and it will help if the factories are in our backyard.

Re:Automation and unemployment (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42231783)

This kind of sentiment is informed by 1920s misinformation. We've already solved the problem of not having any manufacturing jobs by transitioning to a service economy.

If you still think manufacturing robots are going to cause 50% unemployment, consider the numbers: currently, 9% of the workforce is employed in manufacturing. Even if every single one of them got replaced by a robot and couldn't find a job anywhere else (unlikely), it would still only bring the unemployment rate up to ~17%. That 50% permanent unemployment rate isn't going to be a catalyst that will bring about a socialist economy, sorry. We'll all have jobs as shoe-shiners instead (actually in financial services, hospitality, retail, health, human services, information technology and education, but shoe-shiners is more hilarious).

Re:Automation and unemployment (2)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 2 years ago | (#42231927)

As a shoe shining socialist from the 1920s I disagree with everything you said.

Re:Automation and unemployment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232011)

It's enough for many people to loose value in life. Many of those = organised crime. Many of those = rise of local conflicts and if you like, revolutions. That's right. With State of Texas showing some interest of getting separated from USA, I wouldn't be amazed to see revolutions in USA.
17% affect another 17% of population. And they affect negatively strongly those other 17%, who needs support of others. And guess what, they ain't getting anything. Only one word: greed. Your nation is rotting to the bones. Not only yours, but in this example it's irrelevant.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#42232039)

This kind of sentiment is informed by 1920s misinformation. We've already solved the problem of not having any manufacturing jobs by transitioning to a service economy.

The economies hit worst by the crisis are those with the least manufacturing jobs. Think about it.

Re:Automation and unemployment (5, Insightful)

Yoda222 (943886) | about 2 years ago | (#42232043)

Wait for the robot replacing the service economy. A robot in the future could cut your hair or goes in your heart to fix your valve. The service economy is not immune to automatization. And I'm looking forward to it.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

mrprogrammerman (2736973) | about 2 years ago | (#42232139)

We just need to learn how to automate the service jobs.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | about 2 years ago | (#42231811)

Automation guarantees that we will, eventually, have 50+% permanent unemployment

No it does not guarantee anything of the sort. It *could* happen.. but so could lots of other things.

In your scenario, you would either have a massive welfare program or a large number of destitute people. That would be extremely volatile politically... which would encourage people (in gov and business) to find a suitable solution.

The other problem with your scenario is that you imagine today, but with lots of automated equipment. As if everything else stood still. You have no idea what technology will exist in a 100 years and/or what type of labor that will require.

If the day comes when everything is automated and a small portion either owns or maintains that equipment... and there is nothing else for us to do, that won't necessarily mean unemployment. For example, taxes could be increased and used to fund research, construction of infrastructure, space program, etc.. that would put the rest of the people back to work.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

jools33 (252092) | about 2 years ago | (#42231851)

yeah but you can't tax the robot workers.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42231959)

Automation guarantees that we will, eventually, have 50+% permanent unemployment.

No it does not. Complete automation would mean that people have to switch jobs to things that aren't automated.

There is and will remain all kinds of work available for people who are willing to take any job that provides them a better opportunity than their present situation.

Re:Automation and unemployment (4, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | about 2 years ago | (#42232001)

Automation guarantees that we will, eventually, have 50+% permanent unemployment. We'll need to transition to a socialist economy to survive

Yeah, because a majority of all the people are unemployed now that we only need 4% of the population to work on farms to feed us, right? Back around 1900, when 80% of the people in the USA worked on farms, who could have foreseen the horrific effects of mechanization of agriculture? The horror!

You are very sadly misinformed about the effects of automation on productivity.

-jcr

Re:Automation and unemployment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232029)

We'll need to transition to a socialist economy to survive

Bullshit. The Norks have a 100% socialist economy. They drop dead from starvation on a regular basis. Socialist economies like red China and the Soviets managed to kill about a hundred million people the same way.

Are you actually stupid enough to believe the shit that's coming out of your mouth, ore are you just trolling? What next, are you going to tell us that we need Hitler to have a modern highway system?

And lastly, WHO THE FUCK modded THIS SOCIALIST ASSWIPE "INSIGHTFUL"?

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#42232179)

If you have 50% unemployment, why not reduce working hours and people will be able to start spending time with their families.

Re:Automation and unemployment (5, Interesting)

Mr. Tom Guycot (1298343) | about 2 years ago | (#42231647)

We need to either drastically lower the hours for 'full time' work, while increasing wages to compensate, or stop being afraid of welfare and accept that everyone doesn't have to be employed, but still guaranteed housing, healthcare, and living expenses. The only other option is the one we're currently going down, which is that of some kind of sci fi dystopian corporate future with massive slums/even greater prison population (maybe they'll just start merging them). The other options will never fly because people are petty and will complain about someone not having to work as much as them.

Full employment, with a living wage is just not possible anymore.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

dadioflex (854298) | about 2 years ago | (#42231693)

Actually it's worse than that. If US jobs that moved to China become US jobs performed by robots you have still lost the jobs and you've also lost the potential market. Those Chinese workers? They used to buy US goods. Not any more.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42231985)

Those Chinese workers? They used to buy US goods. Not any more.

What about when the US exports the goods to China, that were designed by US companies in the first place?

I understand wanting to keep manufacturing in the US --- most likely this reduces risks like Chinese manufacturing companies stealing proprietary secrets, or creating pirated/copycat versions.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231737)

What about who builds the factory? The restaurants to feed the employees, the utilities needed to service the factory...ect... A single apple factory will generate hundreds of millions in spin off investments.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

torsmo (1301691) | about 2 years ago | (#42231781)

Spin-off employment? Really? Providing food to robot workers might generate some employment, I guess.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

Fjandr (66656) | about 2 years ago | (#42232087)

They will generate money, but they don't generate jobs long-term. An automated factory is like a data center: a decent chunk of change in property taxes and that's about it. They require almost nobody to staff or keep operational in proportion to the income they generate, so their economic output is almost entirely divorced from the number of people one might assume that much economic output supports.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231761)

What, copy Swatch (Swiss) ?

Unlike Apple, the Swiss did not need think too hard about keeping high value production domestic and on brand pedigree.
US always could, but like TV's, Walkmans, VCR's, overseas assembly always won out.

As for any company - certainly not. By hand is still cheaper, and more importantly preserving capital for patent spats, rather than product improvement, is the name of the game . Unless you take domestic mood, outrage over hardly paying just taxes, this is a PR local assembly shift to delay some nasty medicine.

Apple did one good thing: They mass marketed high value products made in China, at a premium..With the tax angle blown, those assumptions of 'domestic goodness' and profits going home - are empty, and legislator are rethinking lots.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231789)

I'll bet the outrageously high profit won't change nor will the price change. They didn't get to have all those trillions in cash on hand from charging a reasonable price.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231861)

Plenty of Americans get hired. You still have the construction workers building the factories, the guys installing, maintaining, and monitoring the output of the robots. The inventory guys, shipping/receiving people, managers, truck drivers, retooling the robots for new products, etc etc. You've only eliminated a large portion of the assembly line workers. Still, plenty of new jobs for opening an assembly line.

Plenty of mind numbing jobs left in the US at McDonalds if assembly line work is what you want.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

Yoda222 (943886) | about 2 years ago | (#42232063)

If they currently use X chinese for the job and need Y american to replace them, and if Y < X, unemployement raise.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42231939)

If the reason it can be done in the US is automation there's very little difference in terms of employment -- The capital holders get to keep more of their capital,

Who do you think is designing, monitor, and maintain/repair the automation systems, and build the factories? More robots?

Robots doing most of the high precision raw labor, doesn't mean there won't be significant need for additional skilled human workers.

Re:Automation and unemployment (1)

Fjandr (66656) | about 2 years ago | (#42232089)

There is a need for skilled human workers, but it is not by any means significant.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231963)

If the reason it can be done in the US is automation there's very little difference in terms of employment

Sounds good. But how do we get americans to want to work when unemployment is same as vacation for lower/middle class?

To those of you who get up and work everyday to support bums. I'm sorry but you have little idea how much abuse is going on. ask anyone who does, or sells drugs. They'll tell you how to collect from several socials, have people work your social, collect unemployment (get extension, then get disability/crazy check), foodstamps (mmm lobster) subsidized housing (subsidized everything actually) look into kare, or other utility programs. Your standard of living will sky rocket. ya its the same money you'd make by working but factor in 24/7 free time, half your daily expenses ($5 a gallon to go to work? psh not for me)

This brought to you by a mid 30's HS dropout with new car paid for in 3yrs, renting a house (8yrs), with 30k in the hands of my financial adviser. working a seasonal gig where i work from May-October.and spend the other 6 months snow boarding, driving the coast, getting stoned, and spending time with the family.enjoying life. Dont worry my kids education is paid for by you. that is if working stiffs are still this stupid in 15 years to allow me and those like me to teach our children how to scam.
Best part about this? its all fact except I dont have kids, imagine if i did.
Sorry for the rant I been dying to say this everytime I hear someone bring up the poor unemployed who cant find work. we just want enough work sponge off the system.

So out of all that why is your life better than mine? maybe your car is better than my Accord. Maybe your house is paid for and in a better school district, maybe you have more than 30k in the bank. Maybe your iphone is better than my SGIII,but you're working 25 more years than me. Maybe its time to stop worrying about the unemployed so much.we're not worried about you. Oh you can't answer that cause its 1Am and you have to get up for work tomorrow.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232045)

Let robot buy iPhone ...
oh, you mean those robots doesn't buy iPhone, well good luck Apple.

Re:Automation and unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232175)

They DERK OUR DERBS!

Aren't the US already a low wage country? (4, Insightful)

Casandro (751346) | about 2 years ago | (#42231553)

I mean sure, on paper wages in the US look high, but then again there's next to no social security. There's no mandatory health insurance, there's little public infrastructure. In some places you even need to have a car.... at least that's what the typical prejudices say.

Re:Aren't the US already a low wage country? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231729)

Shutup, you pinko commie

Re:Aren't the US already a low wage country? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231795)

Of all the democratic countries in which to live in the world. The bottom of the list is America. The pro's do not outweigh the cons. Unless your the invest banker...gotta have money gotta have money type. In terms of actually democracy it is rather pathetic in terms of what is offered elsewhere. The simple fact is you cannot have a country that size that puts no money back into itself. You need to tax people in order to keep public works going. Privatization does not work....your country is falling apart. I don't live in an overly "socialist" oooh bad word that saved America....country. However having friends who do, I would be happy paying that sort of tax for a worry free (relatively speaking) existence. I don't live on credit, nor do I wish to. I don't keep up with the jonses either. I am not faulting America as a country here, possibly as an IDEA, as holding on to that IDEA is going to ruin you. I simply worry about the growing amount of problems in all large nations who have adopted this sort of attitude. If your infrastructure sucks now think of what it will be like for your children and on. But then foresight is not something which the majority of humanity seems to have. Build in deserts, then complain about lack of water....build in known flood, earthquake, tsunami zones...then only do something about it after....before costs money that might not be re-couped. However fixing something after the fact ALWAYS costs money. This is just general of a growing amount of nations who seem to copy the US model. Big government, or for that matter any government is not inherently bad if it takes care of its citizens, dictatorships included.

I use America only as it is always in the news, and well this is an American site.

Think, if you had just invested in measures before your recent storms how life would have been like after.....Your country, and man many others, virtually abandons its citizenry unless forced to do otherwise.

For example, my brother in Canada with the recent f-35 problems. Now Canada does not, and never will have the kind of military who can defend against the kinds of countries who could attack it. Sorry Iran or Palestine is not going to wage war with Canada. (Terrorism, from any nations does not need a military to fight it...terrorists in a sense always will win, they always have....policy change is the only thing that works as the attacks will always, ultimately succeed - and no this is not meant as an endorsement of terror by either Iran or Palestine). Incidentally the f35 is classified as a first strike weapon anyways, for defence there are better. Hell it can't even travel the distances in Canada that it would need to. Anyways the billions they want to dump on this and yet people starve, people get sick etc etc.

You need to have infrastructure that supports people, who then support that infrastructure....take the people out, which is becoming commoner and commoner...it will all eventually fall apart, it is happening...watch your news.

This desire for ever better technology at the expense of everything is not good. Slow down. Paying a little more wouldn't matter if people made a decent wage and profit wasn't the only thing in mind. Really? does apple need the billions it has? No i am sorry there is such a thing as greed and big company's personify it.

Re:Aren't the US already a low wage country? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231853)

English. Practice.

Re:Aren't the US already a low wage country? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232173)

English. Practice. Somewhere. Else.

You can make this work here.... (2)

whydavid (2593831) | about 2 years ago | (#42231575)

...if you don't actually pay anyone except the huge firm that sells you the robots (which were probably made by other robots). So, while I admit this is an overly simplistic view, we get all of the industrial waste and hardly any jobs. I sure hope more companies do this! There's a park down the street that would sure look great if it were paved over and filled with widget-making robots so a couple hundred people could make 11 bucks an hour to sweep the floor.

Re:You can make this work here.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231799)

Wow, you think that floor sweepers make 11 bucks an hour? What fantasy-land do you live in?

Re:You can make this work here.... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#42231859)

I think your vision of automation is unrealistic, we cant even make a copier that doesnt suck, machines that do this work constantly fuck up, constantly need reels changed, and constantly need double checking

you just dont flip a switch and let her ride for the next 20 years

Re:You can make this work here.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232057)

I trust his opinion and not yours. For 2 reasons.
People with money are not stupid, they have counted cons and pros.
Secondly, equipment improves, every day it does.

Re:You can make this work here.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232131)

You don't get it. Making the case to deploy robots in the USA will ONLY work in the USA because there is an actual need to have the robots replace expensive USA labor. There is no need to replace cheaper China labor (yet), so there's no economic benefit to actually deploying robots in China. So once the robots are perfected in the USA, the technology will be deployed in China as their labor costs increase.

NeXT 2.0 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231583)

Apple is really NeXT 2.0. NeXT also had a fully automated computer assembly plant which was closed down when NeXT got out of the hardware business.

Re:NeXT 2.0 (1)

dadioflex (854298) | about 2 years ago | (#42231723)

That's right. The NeXT assembly plant was "automated". That whole thing wasn't just marketing crap, it was really, really automated. Yup.

No.

Re:NeXT 2.0 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232185)

In terms of their competitors in 1990, being Sun Microsystems, IBM, HP, Apple and Dell, NeXT was very automated. What they didn't have was customers.

To be fair (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about 2 years ago | (#42231649)

This massive factory will provide 10 badly needed jobs. Somebody fortunately needs to oil the robots.

Re:To be fair (1)

solidraven (1633185) | about 2 years ago | (#42231713)

More than that as well.
Even for putting components on a PCB a machine is often insufficient. Our current SMT pick and place machines are fast, and they're very precise considering the speed they work at. But if you go to the small component sizes you either sacrifice yield or production time (increase in cost). You'll need to test every single one of the devices if you sacrifice the yield (Apple already did this). In the latter case the cost will increase by a significant factor. In either case you'll need to employ a lot more humans, and Apple isn't going to suddenly fix the precision vs. speed problem unless they come up with a new way to build servo systems.
Another problem is that machines can't easily put together certain things like lens assemblies. Not to talk about fixing the devices that fail the post-production tests, if you don't fix those you're going to lose a lot of money. So you need to employ people to fix those. A probing station and a computer might be able to tell you where the error is, but desoldering the components is work for a human no matter what you try.

Re:To be fair (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#42231837)

" A probing station and a computer might be able to tell you where the error is, but desoldering the components is work for a human no matter what you try."

heck, I am putting together a probing station, it parts alone cost just over 10 grand, and required at least a dozen companies products + 2 weeks of my time to wire it all up + 2 weeks worth of software design.

this is the 3rd one this quarter, and we are a tiny company doing simple products!

Automation and Unemployment (4, Insightful)

FsG (648587) | about 2 years ago | (#42231683)

It's a myth that automation is bad because it leads to unemployment, but no-doubt that myth will be perpetuated here. Someone might even say "yeah it frees people up, frees them up to STARVE." Let's try to address that before it happens.

As processes become more automated, the things we want become cheaper because the cost of labor is the dominant cost in almost every business. This means people have more spare money available, and it will be spent on things that before would have been considered too wasteful. This creates new industries and new jobs.

At one time, people would have spent virtually all their wealth on food. Because of improvements in automation, most people in the U.S. now spend a small fraction of their wealth on food, and this leaves extra money for, say, entertainment. At one time, having many people devote their whole lives to entertaining others would have seemed hugely wasteful -- those people should be out gathering food, after all -- but the wealth created by automation means that it's now a reality.

Some folks also make the claim that the new wealth will be concentrated in too few hands, and most people won't get wealthier. That, too, is false: automation makes things so cheap that just about everyone ends up owning things like microwaves, air conditioners, and computers -- things that before were reserved for the rich. Here's a good explanation of this: http://youtu.be/OkebmhTQN-4 [youtu.be]

Re:Automation and Unemployment (2, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 2 years ago | (#42231757)

How many cheap iphones can a jobless person purchase?
You're being deliberately obtuse. What has happened in the past is no evidence of what will happen in the future. Automation drops prices. Comprehensive automation leaves everyone without a job. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I think our goal should be 0% employment. But that goal leaves us with no one buying things in this style of economy. So we need a new way. These [thefiscaltimes.com] charts show what productivity increases have done over the last four years. A trillion dollars more GDP, five million fewer workers. And this trend will continue. We need a change and we need it now.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (-1, Troll)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#42231889)

How many cheap iphones can a jobless person purchase?

Have you seen the unemployment and welfare lines? They all have them. Go down to the poorest neighborhoods in a major city, and you'll see out of work people sitting on their porches playing words with friends on their iPads.

Does that answer your question?

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#42232161)

No, comprehensive automation of existing kinds of jobs leads to new kinds of jobs. How many software developers could be sustained by the economy of the 1900s?

Now, we do have a problem with cronyism, which is rewarding the wrong behaviors and therefore destroying good incentives. That we need to fix.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | about 2 years ago | (#42231759)

This is so wrong its not even funny. How is automation going to make the Macbook Pro cheaper for the masses? ITS NOT. Apple, like many other companies, decided that manufacturing was too costly in the US, so they moved it overseas where labor costs were next to nothing. If Apple is moving some manufacturing back to the US, and using automation to do it, it must at least be on par with their costs to do business in China. Do you expect Apple to knock $50 off the price of your next computer because of it? They won't. They'll pocket that money. Rich get richer, just like always

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

Moses48 (1849872) | about 2 years ago | (#42231909)

His point was not that a specific instance of automation will lower the cost of that item. He is talking on the macro scale, responding to a misinformed argument. You can still argue what you are arguing without saying what he is saying is wrong. If moving manufacturing to automation lowers the cost of manufacturing, it might maximize profit to lower the price of their products, but it might maximize profit to keep it the same. We don't have the data. But in general, as efficiencies in an industry (not a specific company with a monopoly on "cool") improve, we see lower prices on the consumer side.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 2 years ago | (#42231937)

He provided a counterexample. The argument by FsG was "automation will reduce costs". The counterpoint by Mr Superman is "no, companies are greedy and will keep prices as is, apple is a counterexample to your argument". A single counterexample is all it takes to say "hey, this argument isn't on the ball."

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

FsG (648587) | about 2 years ago | (#42232023)

It's precisely *because* companies (and individuals) are greedy, that prices will come down as automation makes things cheaper.

Imagine that thanks to nano-assembly, a nice gaming laptop can be produced for $10. Even if the existing companies try to keep prices where they are, nothing will prevent some young hotshot who is looking to make his fortune from setting up shop and selling laptops for $15. He will do this because he wants to get filthy rich, and won't mind destroying the whole entrenched industry to do it.

Maybe he'll get bought early and cash out, and the buyer kills the tech. No problem. Someone else will just come along and do it again.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

Moses48 (1849872) | about 2 years ago | (#42232027)

Except that it isn't a counterexample. At least if Superman understood what FsG was getting at. He is talking macro economics. If we look at the hypothetical that apple won't lower prices with lower production costs it is just bogus. They would have to find the price elasticity of demand and determine what gives them maximum profits. It might even be in the best interest of a "greedy" company to lower prices. But that is beyond the point, my statement was to help Superman understand FsG, because if he thought that was a valid counter-example then he didn't understand what FsG was saying. In an open market with no price fixing (colluding) than it's safe to assume competition will drive prices down as cost goes down. If he is making the argument that the US is rampant with price fixing, that's another issue.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 2 years ago | (#42232171)

He provided a counterexample.

First he said "This is soooo wrong" and then attempted to use a specific counter-example as a general disproof. I don't know where you went to school, but I'd lay odds that it was in America, because your logical abilities is atrocious in the way that you not only didnt notice, but then actually repeated his attempt.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

teg (97890) | about 2 years ago | (#42231953)

This is so wrong its not even funny. How is automation going to make the Macbook Pro cheaper for the masses? ITS NOT. Apple, like many other companies, decided that manufacturing was too costly in the US, so they moved it overseas where labor costs were next to nothing. If Apple is moving some manufacturing back to the US, and using automation to do it, it must at least be on par with their costs to do business in China. Do you expect Apple to knock $50 off the price of your next computer because of it? They won't. They'll pocket that money. Rich get richer, just like always

The Macbook Pro is priced based on the value Apple believes it provides, not on the production value. A really nice position to be in, and one which requires a way to differentiate you from other potential competitors. If the production price goes down $50, all other things equal, Apple pockets the difference. Same thing if the production cost increases $50, without Apple believing the reason is something that increases the relative value of the product (if the cost increase is $50 for everyone, e.g. from Intel, they'd increase the price of course).

Re:Automation and Unemployment (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42231763)

That's the way it has worked in the past, but there's no guarantee it will always be that way in the future. An observation of a historical pattern is not necessarily a law of nature.

Someday we may reach a point where not enough new jobs are created to offset those lost to automation or offshoring, especially as high-end machines become as smart/reliable as low-end people. In the past, inventions aided humans, not replaced them. A semi-welfare state may be the only way to keep enough demand to push the economy.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (2)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#42231911)

In the past, inventions aided humans, not replaced them.

That's not true. Inventions have been replacing humans for a very very long time. The steam engine and railroads replaced the couriers (ala pony express). The assembly line replaced manufacturing workers (not all of them, just a large portion). Email has been replacing postmen. Computers have been replacing people since their invention (whole accounting offices reduced by 90%), business analysts reduced by 50%, etc.

In almost every case, people have screamed that the end was coming because of it. People adapted at a much faster rate than they needed to (usually except the ones who were screaming the loudest).

Re:Automation and Unemployment (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#42231829)

But there is a hypothetical case where everything we need can be made by robots, even the robots. In that case we would need a new economic system to distribute wealth.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#42231913)

Robots can't be creative, at least not yet. Either through coming up with new ideas, new directions, and art.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#42231987)

I think it has to be asked what would happen if some people never want to be creative and their jobs are automated away.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#42232127)

Perhaps you should ask the guy who only wanted to build buggy whips when the car was invented.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42232069)

But there is a hypothetical case where everything we need can be made by robots, even the robots. In that case we would need a new economic system to distribute wealth.

How do you figure that? If you have an unrestricted supply of robots to make everything you need, even more robots... it seems you have obsoleted "wealth", so there is no need or point in attempting to find a new economic system.

The concept of wealth, is predicated on the idea, that you have something worthwhile to trade. If robots can make everything, then you laboring to make something is no longer an item that holds any value for trade.

And neither is the robots, nor anything they can make. Their value is reduced to the value of the property rights to raw materials that comprise them. Which ultimately means the robot owner can't afford or justify the cost of paying the electricity bill required to operate the robots.

That would become an immediate problem for the owner(s) of the robots -- as there is no point in their robots making things, they won't be able to trade, or gain an advantage by having their robots make; then the only thing it makes sense to do is have the robots make things required by the owners.

It's just as much a problem for robot owners as anyone else.

The only reason the robot owners would want money from other people is to trade for things they want. If other people can't provide the robots' owners with anything of value, then again, the robots' owners have no benefit in "profiting", by selling things for worthless money.

The potential to earn money or profit is of no value, if the robots' owner can't use the money to pay other people for goods or services (goods or services that the owner needs because their robot can't make them -- which don't exist, if the robots can make anything).

I believe you have a self-correcting system there; the robots also render owning robots less profitable, possibly less profitable than the costs of maintaining the robots themselves, at which point they get scrapped for their raw material value.

Re:Automation and Unemployment (1)

Squapper (787068) | about 2 years ago | (#42232021)

It's the very basics of capitalism, if you create too much unemployment, the system will collapse. What you need for sustained growth is a large middle class with jobs and money enough to pay for your products. On the other end, making production cheaper and more efficient while keeping the middle class rich enough to consume is what creates economical growth. Luxury items that used to have high production costs and thus be reserved for the rich gets cheaper and becomes available to the lower classes.

With that said, believing that infinite growth is possible in an infinite world is still both unscientific and retarded. While the economical cost of consumtion of luxury goods might decrease due to efficient production, the same is not always true for the ecological cost. At some point we will have to transform to a society where production efficiency increases no longer means that we buy a larger number of iphones every month, where we instead use increased efficiency to work less and increase spare time.

If you ask an scientist working with climate change, i guss he/she would say that we already have passed that point..

Re:Automation and Unemployment (2)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#42232067)

What you do not factor in is the fact that people who will loose their job because of automation will not get their job replaced. Say there are 10 people working 40 hour shifts. Because of automation 7 will looses their job.
This means that the 30% need to support the other 70%. Or you need to spread the 30% workload among the 100%.

In an ideal world, the latter would be the case. However this does not happen. Instead people start working more then 40 hours, turning the last 30% into 20%.

Sure, for now there are shifts towards the entertainment industry for now. Until people are replaced there as well.

And yes, wealth is concentrated in too few hands. Owning an air-conditioner does not make you wealthy. Even owning a car does not do that.

potatoes...pot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231695)

Without the use of people, who gives a shit.

New Name (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42231717)

iRobot!....oh...wait

C3PO: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42231731)

"Machines making machines? How perverse!"

Re:C3PO: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232017)

It's when someone designs a robot that's capable of purchasing and using other robotically produced products that we'll worry.

Sounds like Sony's line for the Walkman (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#42231733)

There's no problem building an automated production line. The description in the article would apply to the Sony Walkman production line from 20 years ago. Anything where you can do vertical assembly, just placing the parts in order onto a base, can be automated very effectively with simple robots.

It's amazing that Foxconn uses over 100,000 people just to make iPhones, which are not very complex mechanically.

Robots don't tell lies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231745)

They don't have to sleep and they can't blab about the secret new iDevices they've been working on. The perfect "employees".

APPLE IS GOING DOWWWWWN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231801)

It won't be that long from now !! Back to being something used in K12 and MPAA studios !! The "phone" then is yet another tech commodity, and you can't keep fanbois attached when no one cares about the "phone" anymore !! And that time is coming up sooner than you could imagine !!

Automation (3, Interesting)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#42231807)

its the only reason the company I work for can be competitive on cost in electronic assembly, that being said it takes a small army to keep the machines running and fed 24/7

The real reason: (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | about 2 years ago | (#42231839)

Robots can't commit suicide from overwork.
Not that that has a direct bottom-line impact, as asian workers are valued at less than a single iPad they make... but it has started to have a mildly negative impact on consumer opinion.

Re:The real reason: (1)

toriver (11308) | about 2 years ago | (#42231949)

I was under the impression suicide rates at Foxconn were lower than e.g. suicide rates at American universities. Maybe we should replace students with robots as well... :)

holding down labor costs (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 2 years ago | (#42231841)

The impact of holding down labor costs is that income of the market is going down. It means fewer people can afford to buy your product. That means your market is getting smaller. You'll have to reduce the scale of your business. And that means you'll have to cut costs even more. And you know what that leads to.

Re:holding down labor costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231901)

Of course the diminishing effect of your holding down the labor costs is distributed to everybody's market, while the reduced cost only benefits you, so it's still the economical thing to do. Nash would have a word or two to say about this topic, but do you really want manufacturers to develop a shared strategy?

Re:holding down labor costs (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 2 years ago | (#42231915)

Yes US is stuck and has been for many years. When was the last good public investment that moved the USA up?
The early 1940's? Post ww2? The 1960's? Beyond that you see massive capital flight to Asia to build factories and sell back to the USA.
The stock market melted with savings, banking and loans into some huge casino with bailouts for any traditional risk.
You have a few unique production lines for tanks, aircraft, subs, arms, space, heavy equipment - but thats all closed and life long with security that would keep growth out.
The low end work is done by union free 'guests'. The service sector is eating its own and creating nothing useful long term.
A few over educated geeks and nerds with unique skills will design run and upgrade a robotic production line - just like they would for Asia or did for Apple in the past in the US or EU.
What can save the USA? A really good big war? A massive of exports of lots of small wars and 'friends' needing huge new stockpiles?

Re:holding down labor costs (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42232103)

The impact of holding down labor costs is that income of the market is going down.

Not really, there is one labor cost they control -- their own workers; this not a 'income reduction' for workers - it is a: not having to hire and retain as many minimum wage assembly line workers.

They still have to pay their local taxes.

They will still increase utilization of infrastructure, that their tax dollars are used to pay for. Local government will still use the tax money to hire workers.

They will still need to buy services and products from companies employing human workers - in the purchase and delivery of materials required to build and operate their automated facilities.

At the end, layers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42231847)

Read that as "at the end, lawyers". Seems to be one of Apple's three legs: marketing, legal and steve.

Robots from China (1)

EmotionToilet (1083453) | about 2 years ago | (#42231875)

All of the robots used to produce these products will be made in China. So really the jobs are rendered obsolete by robots, and then the robots are moved to the US, but the actual jobs that support this supply chain still originate from China. It does look better on paper to say these products are manufactured in the US.

never happy with the video (1)

pbjones (315127) | about 2 years ago | (#42231931)

i always had trouble with the machining video. It seems like a waste of time and materials to carve EACH MacBook out of a single slab of material. I would have thought that the case was injection moulded and then 'finished' with a machine.

Re:never happy with the video (1)

Waccoon (1186667) | about 2 years ago | (#42232081)

I always thought they would just stamp the metal with forging. It makes for a far sturdier part and takes a lot less time, and they would only have to machine the ports and sides. This is especially true since Macs don't have much internal bracing, and are thus susceptible to flexing and even cracking.

But then, that reduce the look of the aluminum grain, and we can't have Macs without the brushed metal look, can we?

The video hardly impresses me. I get more amazement out of half the episodes of How it's Made.

Machining enables a level of precision.... (1)

gavron (1300111) | about 2 years ago | (#42231979)

"Machining enables a level of precision that is just completely unheard of in this industry."

Level of precision making squares with round corners? Stone artists in the Roman era were marking arches like that all day long.

OOOPS MY BAD, I misread "in this industry" as implying actually making something.

IN FILING TRIVIAL LAWSUITS and engaging in ANTICOMPETITIVE CONDUCT being entirely UNABLE TO COMPETE IN THE MARKET and LOSING MARKET SHARE DAILY then yes APPLES's level of EVIL LEGAL PRECISION IS just completely unheard of. Even antitrust giant Microsoft shudders at how Apple manipulates the courts and the market.

What a level of precision Apple is reaching for.

Quick someone spray more kittie litter on the floor. Apple's coming to mark more territory.

M

Robot instead of human. (1)

Yoda222 (943886) | about 2 years ago | (#42232025)

This is just a new Revolution by Apple. I bet that in the future a lot of other companies will copy Apple and use robots in manufacturing.

I don't get the point of subjects... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42232037)

I've love to know when CNC machines became "robots"

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