Robots Put Leadership Skills Under Pressure.

We love robots – tireless, productive workhorses of the modern assembly line. But we also hate robots – sinister mechanical simulacra of the human workers they make redundant.

In the latest episode in our complicated relationship with automatons and automation, it is appropriate that Foxconn should have a lead role. The Taiwanese company manufactures the chattering classes’ favourite piece of science fiction come true, the Apple iPad, as well as devices for Nokia and Sony. It employs 1m people in China. It was the epicentre last year of concern about pressure on low-paid young workers, following a series of suicides at its Shenzhen factories. It is, in short, iPad users’ window on to dilemmas of assembly-line politics and management that the developed world last grappled with on this scale decades ago.

Founder Terry Gou’s declaration last week that the company would have as many robots as workers in its China factories by 2013 seemed to play to people’s worst fears – by hinting at the replacement of awkward flesh-and-blood with cheap and uncomplaining machines. As one analyst put it, coldly: “It signals that the cost of labour is no longer lower than the cost of capital.”

But Foxconn is just doing what other contract manufacturers operating in less labour-intensive areas have already achieved.  Read more by Andrew Hill at the Financial Times here.


Posted on August 8, 2011, in Economy & HR, HR Management & Leadership. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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