Inside the most ambitious push yet to make iPhones outside China

Saritha Rai for Bloomberg:

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., opened its first India factory four years ago. It now operates two assembly plants, with plans to expand those and open two more. India has become an important manufacturing base as the Taipei-based company looks to diversify its operations beyond China.

Succeeding in India has become all the more urgent since U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade war last year and announced tariffs on thousands of products manufactured in China, including the gadgetry Foxconn makes for Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and others… “It’s a good business principle not to put all your eggs in a single basket,” says Josh Foulger, who runs Foxconn’s India operations. “We have to find viable and reliable alternatives. Obviously the alternative location has to be competitive. We can’t put a factory in Mexico for manufacturing mobiles. It might have worked 10 years ago, it just won’t work today.”

Foxconn currently ships parts in from China, but hopes one day to manufacture displays and printed circuit boards locally. Foulger is angling to capture a third of the domestic smartphone market and 10% of the global one (up from a 2.5% share today).

During visits to Foxconn’s two India factories, there was no visible sign of sweat-shop conditions. Workers there mostly complain about the monotony. From the minute they enter the shop floor to the end of an eight-hour shift, work repeats in a relentless cycle… To help avoid tedium, the company teaches workers at least 10 skills in the testing, packing and assembly sections of the line so they can be rotated to different jobs.

MacDailyNews Take: You’d think that by now, just months away from the year 2020, all of this would be handled by robots. Obviously, precision robotics is much more difficult than many appreciate. There is still no viable replacement for humans on smartphone assembly lines.

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