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Apple Promotes Automation of iPhone Assembly and Plans to Cut Workers

Published: 7.2.2024

According to The Information, Apple is working to further automate the iPhone production process, with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of iPhone assembly workers by up to 50%.


The report pointed out that the policy was issued by Sabih Khan, Apple's senior vice president of operations, and the decision was made shortly after the conflict between workers at Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant in November 2022.

The incident occurred at a factory operated by Foxconn, Apple's largest manufacturing partner. The video circulated on social media, and the shutdown caused a shortage of iPhones, causing the smartphone's sales to decline during that holiday season. To this end, Sabih Khan issued an order to halve the number of people on the iPhone general assembly line.


But it remains to be seen how this automation will affect the Chinese labor market, which provides millions of workers for Apple's supply chain.


According to data published in Apple's annual supply chain report, the total number of employees monitoring work time compliance among its manufacturing partners has dropped from 1.6 million in 2022 to 1.4 million in 2023.


In order to automate the supply chain, Apple has also facilitated two acquisitions, namely the acquisition of DarwinAI and Drishti, whose technology can analyze video clips of assembly lines to identify bottlenecks and production problems in real time.


Apple's exploration of production line automation deployment has not been smooth. For example, for the iPhone 16 to be launched this year, Apple initially planned to use automation to install iPhone buttons and other components, but due to the high defect rate, this plan has been temporarily shelved.


It is worth mentioning that there have been reports that Apple's iPhone 15 series production has achieved "large-scale" automation, but automation still poses challenges to Apple due to the complexity of production.


Despite many obstacles, Apple continues to promote factory automation deployment, with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of workers on the iPhone assembly line by 50% in the next few years.

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