Apple’s revolutionary move into robotic manufacturing or something

“Apple is about to become one of the world’s biggest buyers of industrial robots. The company has announced a 78% increase in its non-retail capital expenditure to $7.1bn. Analysts in Asia and America believe that the size of Apple’s robot purchases could tie up the market for several years, making it difficult for companies such as Samsung, Nokia and HTC to compete,” Keith Woolcock writes for Seeking Alpha.

“Up to 700,000 people are employed in China, making products like the iPhone and iPad for Apple. It takes 141 steps to make an iPhone and each iPad will, over the course of the 5 days that it takes to build it, pass through 325 pairs of hands,” Woolcock writes. “Although labor only represents about 3% of the cost of building these products for Apple, the wages of Chinese factory workers have been rising at about 15% a year for much of the last decade. Problems managing this workforce have also harmed Apple’s image in a region that has become the most important engine of its growth.”

Woolcock writes, “Apple’s move represents an important step in the use of robots in manufacturing. Robots have long been used to build cars, but not so widely used in consumer electronics because these products are more difficult to make.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Minor problem: The proof that Apple’s capital expenditure is for “robots” does not exist in the article. Sorry, the “beliefs” of “analysts in Asia and America” just don’t cut it in any shape or form. And, the last we heard anything about robots in relation to Apple, it was Apple assembler Foxconn who was talking of buying them, not Apple (see related articles below). Apple’s non-retail capital expenditure increase could be for something else, or more likely, multiple things; “robots” is just conjecture at this point.

Related articles:
Foxconn’s 2012 plan: More robots, no layoffs, zero suicides, new factories – November 22, 2011
Foxconn to replace some workers with 1 million robots within 3 years – July 31, 2011


  1. How about dropping a few Billion$ on a robotic based factory right here in the USA. I know there is a lot of wide open land here in Iowa! Cheap too! We could still plant corn right up to the edge of the building, and install a wind farm on the roof.

  2. Perhaps Siri has become self aware now and has placed her order to arm up her forces. This would make a great movie. Part of the way into the movie Siri’s voice changes and you realize, it is one of Steve Jobs research projects and he had uploaded a backup of his neural network into that billion dollar server farm. You never know.

  3. I’d like to kindly suggest MDN editors try a different headline in the future other than “……. or something”. That just screams “witty” teenage girl. 🙂

  4. I’m pretty sure Apple bought the 1000 robots used by Foxconn for unibody Macbook milling. AND, the highly regarded Horace Dediu of Asymco has shown that Apple has allocated billions for capital equipment purchases this year, so far unspent, that is an excellent proxy for iOS device sales.

  5. Apple has already used robots to assemble Macs in California. Steve Jobs used to take VIPs on tours and when he entered the room, he would turn on the lights because robots don’t need lights to see what they are doing. As has been already mentioned on several occasions, it is cheaper to manufacture in China. It might also be a possibility that the robots (I believe it will be about 1 Million of our future overlords) will be built in China. So, do I think that Apple will build a robotic assembly facility in the US?In a word: nope.

    KenC – you have it nailed, I believe.


  6. MDN, you’re right, there is no proof Apple is building robots. However, my sources tell me Apple is on its way to building the first Terminator units that will bring about Judgement Day.

  7. As manufacturing increasingly turns to robotics and automation, logistics and other considerations will take a far more prominent role than labor availability and costs. However, it is important to note that many of the components for iOS devices are sourced in SE Asia. So robotic manufacturing does not necessarily mean that the factories will move from their current hubs, although it would certainly remove a large impediment to relocation.

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