back to article Apple, for one, welcomes its ROBOT factory OVERLORDS

Apple is planning to splurge a whopping $10bn on robots and other flash manufacturing tech to beef up its production process. The fruity firm is hoping to get one over Samsung by investing in an automated production line. Yet the South Korean firm has reportedly set aside $22bn this year to invest into capital infrastructure, …

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Silver badge

How much?

So Apple are spending $10bn to reduce a labour bill of $8 a unit? How many do they expect to sell before the machines wear out?

The main interest factor here is that the logic doesn't work well for offshore assembly. Are they spooked by Motorola, and planning to bring back production to the US? That'd sound good, just a pity that there would only be three jobs (Turner on of the lights, turner off of the lights, toilet cleaner).

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Bronze badge
Linux

Re: How much?

it could be they are trying to up the quality of the product end-to-end?

I remember reading somewhere FIAT did this in Turin because of organised crime?

I guess we'll find out if its worth it in the future....!

P.

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Happy

Re: How much?

Robots require neither light nor toilet breaks...

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jai
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Re: How much?

planning to bring back production to the US?

i suspect that is exactly the reason behind this

they made a big thing of how the new Mac Pro is entirely built in the US. i wouldn't be at all surprised if they're looking to move as much production back to the US as possible. it's a good PR move. no one will question the fact that it doesn't really lead to the creation of many new jobs

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Trollface

@jai ".... They made a big thing...."

I suspect that the big thing in this case is Apple wanting political cover for their desire to repatriate profits while paying as close to zero tax in their "home country" as they possibly can - just like every other "patriotic" American company.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Robots require neither light nor toilet breaks..

and they don't jump off the roof. Or maybe they will ...

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Re: How much?

Long term that $8 labour bill will rise as China and then other emerging markets develop and sweatshop wages are out-evolved.

In the same way outsourcers have chased the dragon through India, Eastern Europe and into Central America so manufacturers will have to keep finding the next centre of cheap labour - or automate and remove the labour.

I guess your our own ideological view will give us a individual view as to the iong-term ethics of the plan, but for commercial companies, building close to markets without having to relocate to chase low cost production every 5-10 years sounds like a really good idea.

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Silver badge

Re: How much?

> I guess your our own ideological view will give us a individual view as to the iong-term ethics of the plan [ to automate and remove the labour.]

Trouble is, we need more than an individual view about this subject, since the implications have been effecting us since the industrial revolution. Many might feel (most famously, Bertrand Russell) that with all the automation, no citizen should have to work more than twenty hours a week in order to feed and house themselves and their dependants. The resulting leisure time would allow us to be more sociable, spend more time with our children, learn new skills, take longer (i.e cycle or walk if we choose) to travel work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

Can't reduce working hours, people with time for themselves are people in charge of themselves. That causes dissent and organised resistance to the regime. The ham faced toss pot and his ilk wouldn't stand a chance!

Anon for the icon of the protest the beeb dared not report!

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Bronze badge

Re: How much?

Too much.

Well, start with asking why there's a turner on, as robots can work in the dark. And leaving the lights off would eliminate the need for a turner off, and save on the electricity bill to boot. And, with no turners off nor on, there'd be no point in having a toilet unless it was exclusively for the toilet cleaner. So, having eliminated three unnecessary positions, and saved money on the overhead, I can haz a bonus?

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Angel

The new jobs

Jobs is the creator - thus He was himselff neither created nor born. His ascended soul will soon reincarnate as the new Jobs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

No.

Apple is spending 10 Bn in anticipation of a worsening of the trade relationship between US and China.

That will definitely come. Question is not will it or not, but when and the answer is "soon".

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Re: How much?

@Dave 126

Or as my old Gran used to say - "If wishes were horses, we could all ride to work."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

$8 a unit is not going to drop to $0 but if it means they can make them quicker or customised and remember that $10bn is going to be used over many years.

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"restricted substances and green chemistry"

It's exactly as dodgy as it sounds!

Nice job title though :) What's the pay like?

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Trollface

Cow Gum...

...Will the robots be glued together, in keeping with its latest

product range?

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Anonymous Coward

So before the iPhone, no-one ever tested a gyroscope to see if it worked?

Seems unlikely.

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Wonder if they're going to invent a compass and accelerometer tester next...

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jai
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you're suggesting that before the iPhone, someone had built and used a machine to test that the gyroscope inside an iPhone worked? that's rather a chicken/egg situation isn't it?

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Cant trust a child worker to fit it correctly so it has to be tested.

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Trollface

Wonder how long it'll be before the robots start jumping off the factory roof...

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Angel

The jobs listings show Apple is also looking for an expert in "restricted substances and green chemistry", which isn't as dodgy as it sounds.

What do you mean dodgy? Pot's not considered dodgy at all in California anymore.

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Gold badge
Meh

Yes. it's "design for mfg" gone wild

SMT took care of the problems of through-hole components in the 80s but that left all the fiddly mechanical bits.

Looks like Apple reckon its time to take care of those as well.

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Holmes

Apple iSell

Automated assembly lines are so 20-th century. The new age will bring you the sales-bot, then the digital buyer, and indeed the user-bot. with the self-clicking mouse.

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Expert in green chemistry?

May I nominate a certain Lord Percy Percy.

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Line up fanbois

Your new gear is going to be built by other machines. No more tears of kids in the sweatshop holding your laptop together, nope, it will be properly built by robots. Which I suspect will effect the price point, but you fanbois are used that by now. Give me a call and let me know how that works out for you.

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Big Brother

Re: Line up fanbois

Are you related to Ned Ludd by any chance?

Perhaps you should go back to pulling your solid wheeled donkey cart and ploughing the fields with a man hauled plough?

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Gimp

Will Apple be Hiring Will Smith as a Corporate Adviser for this

I Robot ( in case your to stupid to understand the sarcasm)

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Silver badge

That isn't sarcasm. As an aside, if you're going to persist in calling people stupid, your best course of action may well be to sharpen up your skills in the use of apostrophes and contractions. Otherwise you're teetering on the edge of an irony filled pit that will be posthumously named in your honor.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe that's the next new product - the iRobot?

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Anonymous Coward

Labour is getting more expensive - robots will probably get cheaper or not more expensive as quickly.

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Anonymous Coward

Robots work 24x7x365, probably to a higher level of quality, perhaps faster per unit, no strikes, no labour issues and probably as easy to manufacture in various countries rather than all in China.

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Silver badge

At least the robots will never commit suicide and blame it on their managers.

When you're writing the firmware from scratch, it's easy to leave that functionality out.

Too soon?

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Inside Bespoke Manufacturing Equipment (Long)

Most people have absolutely no idea how much manufacturers spend on specialized and bespoke equipment and customizations to existing equipment. Seeing as how designing and manufacturing that equipment is what I do, I've got a pretty good idea.

While the Apple spend is huge, it's not unreasonable. When you're looking for solutions to manufacturing challenges you try to buy OTS kit that will meet your needs, but when that doesn't exist you're looking at an enormously complex, and expensive, process (incidentally, the search for OTS equipment is why so many finished products in a given category are so similar, everybody's using basically the same machines).

When we design and build a machine for someone the entire (post RFQ) process generally takes many, many months of modeling and simulation to identify how to meet the clients specs before we even start considering how to build machine to do it. Then there are many destination site visits and infrastructure analysis before the actual machine design even starts. A few months later we'll have a prototype machine that we'll use for final validation as well as the basis for operation and maintenance manuals and calibration tools. Then we'll start building the machine.

While the machine is being built we're lining up logistics for getting it to the client (including designing & building custom shipping enclosures, escort services, arranging for road closures (including an Interstate once!), removal of street lamps and signs, modifications to the destination facility, the list goes on and on).

Once it is built and installed we train their staff and the maintenance portion of the contract begins. We'll support the machine for as long as the client wants. Parts availability is based on customer requirements. Some people don't order spares and have them made on demand, most request a certain level of parts in inventory at all times so we'll warehouse them or ship multiples direct to the client and they store them. That's an incredibly summarized sequence of events. There are countless completely custom steps in there that have to be created on the fly for each new job.

All that to say, if you're performing a process nobody has ever performed before it is very, very expensive. It isn't uncommon for only the design of complex bespoke machine to exceed a million dollars. Building, delivering and maintaining that machine can easily exceed $10m in upfront costs with parts and service being an ongoing and similarly expensive process.

The Apple figure certainly includes maintenance and parts expenses that will be spread over the expected lifetime of the machines, it won't all be spent now.

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