Apple is well-known throughout the tech industry for its meticulous manufacturing specifications. With the advent of the iPhone the company turned its discerning eye for design to its manufacturing pipeline, creating a streamlined, efficient, and inexpensive way to release several new high-end products on a yearly basis. Apple also single-handedly turned Foxconn into one of the biggest manufacturing entities in the entire world.
One of the keys to Apple's manufacturing success has been rigid contracts that use inexpensive (but quality) Chinese labor. Now, as market conditions are changing in China and other tech manufacturers are catching up to Apple's market efficiency, the company is reportedly turning to automated production as a partial solution to rising manufacturing costs.
A new DigiTimes report today revealed that Apple will be using fully-automated production lines this year to create the batteries for its iPhone devices. The report's unnamed "sources from the upstream supply chain" stated that, like in the area of device design, Apple will lead the way in manufacturing and other tech companies are expected to soon automate more of their manufacturing processes.
As stated in the report, more automated production could allow Apple to move its manufacturing processes to nearly anywhere, potentially cutting down on other logistical costs while avoiding the expense of a Chinese labor force that is quickly modernizing.
This may not be as bad for Chinese labor as it sounds, though. According to Digitimes younger Chinese workers are less willing to work tedious production lines. This, combined with rising minimum wages in the country has led to cyclical labor shortages that could be seen as a coming-of-age for the manufacturing industry in China.
These factors have begun to raise the price of manufacturing in China significantly while complicating ever-tightening manufacturing schedules. Still, China is the go-to location for cut-rate manufacturing for tech companies. Digitimes believes that Apple will still continue to the majority of its components in China, due to the proximity of its parts vendors in the country. The future, however, could be other Southeast Asian countries that are currently building out their manufacturing infrastructures.