HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » A U.S. Apple factory may ...

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 05:19 PM

A U.S. Apple factory may be robot city

Apple's planned investment of $100 million next year in a U.S. manufacturing facility is relatively small, but still important. Apple has the money, talent and resources to build a highly automated factory that turns out products that are potentially cost competitive with those it now makes in China.

Apple has already demonstrated its use of automation in the manufacturing of some of its MacBook products, including the MacBook Air. It was built with what the company calls its "unibody design" that was crafted from a single sheet of aluminum.

A 2009 Apple video of its unibody manufacturing process has glimpses of highly automated systems shaping the metal. In it, Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design, talked about the manufacturing process. "Machining enables a level of precision that is just completely unheard of in this industry," he said.

Apple has the know-how to build one of the world's most modern plants, and if it succeeds, it could influence others to build in the U.S. But success will mean holding down costs, and to do so, Apple will likely rely heavily on automation, 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 the Apple factory.

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9234477/A_U.S._Apple_factory_may_be_robot_city

7 replies, 909 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread

Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 05:46 PM

1. "Low cost labor hides a lot of sins" - boy that is the truth. Hope Apple is just the beginning

of many companies returning to our efficient workers.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 05:46 PM

2. We will need massive and deliberate wealth distribution someday

Many of the jobs going to low-wage workers overseas aren't ever coming back, no matter what penalties or tax incentives we use to encourage domestic hiring. Automation and robotics are destined to take over much of what is currently done by low-wage workers, and even some of what's done by high wage employees.

While in the past the Luddites have been wrong to worry about machines replacing people, while new opportunities for people have so far always come along, I'm afraid we can't count on that forever.

Maybe the jobs won't run out soon, but (barring ecological collapse and/or other wide-scale devastation) someday machines will be able to do a huge range of jobs now done by humans, tirelessly and cheaply. There will basically be an nearly automated economic engine, sucking in energy and raw materials, and spewing out goods and services, more than enough for everyone (yet hopefully less than the planet can bear).

The question is: How will we figure out who gets what portion of that enormous bounty, when the ideas of individual effort and innovation become so disconnected from and/or exaggerated by economic production?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Silent3 (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 06:02 PM

3. A lot of manufacturing requires cleanliness, precision and size that humans can't do

For example, many of the tasks in making a hard drive are too difficult for humans to do.

Apple uses "stir welding" to join aluminum at the edges of its latest iMacs. I don't believe that humans can do this operation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friction_stir_welding

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Silent3 (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 06:05 PM

4. Actually quite a few jobs will come back

once energy prices actually start to reflect real world costs. "Outsourcing" is only possible thanks to cheap energy. Once fuel prices head into the $6-$8 per gallon range, shipping becomes a major expense and regional manufacturing becomes competitive again. Also, quality parts for domestically built heavy machines is getting to be a real headache. It does you no damn good to get a part cheap, if it arrives at your factory out of spec. Most all manufacturers operate using "just-in-time" inventory systems that have almost ZERO slack in the supply chain. If your truck axles arrive on the dock a thousandth of an inch off, or made from the wrong steel, replacement parts are six to nine weeks out. This brings your assembly line to a screeching halt. Manufacturers are starting to bring component production back into the U.S. for that reason.

The major problem will be a complete dearth of qualified workers, especially in the machine tool industry. The average machinist age is now approaching 60, with educational institutes providing next to ZERO replacements.

Within ten years it will be cheaper to produce textiles locally again, but it will be hard as hell to find the people to build, maintain, and run the specialized textile machines.

Even if companies move to automation, someone still has to BUILD and MAINTAIN the machines.

That talent is GONE.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Kelvin Mace (Reply #4)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 06:17 PM

5. Perhaps in the short term...

...but we're likely to eventually make energy cheap again (truly cheap, not just cheap by deferred cost). In fact, if we don't make energy cheap, renewable, and low on pollution, we'll fuck ourselves over pretty badly, so unless we're discussing doomsday scenarios (of which there are plenty), then the kind of automated world where little human labor is required seems very likely, almost inevitable, to me.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Silent3 (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 06:47 PM

7. I have often seen some DUERS write paragraph after paragraph to explain what they see as reality,

I normally stop reading their stuff after five or six paragraphs, because most of the time, they are failing to crystallize what their concern or proposal is. But in four paragraphs, you have hit the machine versus human issue dead on the head. The question isn't well designed machines can't do some types of work better than humans, the issue is what happens to the displaced humans.

Machines won't be able to take the jobs of people that design and repair them. Machines can be made which build other machines. But the number of jobs involved, while high paying, will be far fewer than what is required with machines out of the equation. Some will say population control to reduce the number of people is the answer, but business activity depends on having people to sell to and buy from, so fewer people means less business, regardless of how cheaply machines produce.

Greater use of machines will only make the gap between workers and owners wider. Workers that have the skills to design or repair machines will be well paid. Workers that don't have education or skills will be forced into jobs that are cost efficient to have machines perform. The major issue will be one of moral foresight. Will owners and politicians have to moral foresight to understand that a society with massive wealth separation can't last for long, or will they not?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 06:23 PM

6. Robotics and Automation are the future. Their use will allow for cheaper phones and computers,

but their use will also allow for cheaper food, safer surgery and better medical diagnostics.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread