Doing Automation Is More Than Just Plunking A Robot Down And Expecting Everything To Start.

This article appeared on a blog I read.

http://www.extremetech.com/electronics/195556-foxconns-robotic-workforce-isnt-precise-enough-to-assemble-iphones

The question asked in the article is why they are using imprecise robots.  My question is why they are using robots at all.  Robots are good for picking things up and moving them, or for holding something while it’s being moved or processed.  They work best when the work is heavy and large.  But using them to make I-phones or I-pads makes no sense.  They really aren’t fast enough of as the article, precise enough for the job.

Here’s the object at hand.  It’s actually fairly simple.  A back, a frame, a glass panel and the guts.

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+4+Teardown/3130

I’ve been hearing for years about the skills of the Apple designers, but frankly, as a professional, I’m not impressed.  Too many fasteners and way too many bodges.  If this were the first go around for these phones I could understand it, but they’ve been around for a while now.  Certain issues, like RF are predictable and should not have to accounted for as late in the design process as it looks. Other things look like bad judgment.  Gorilla glass, good, gluing it to the screen and making a $20.00 replaceable a $100 dollar unit replacement, not so much.  From what I’ve seen, that glass panel is the biggest thing that breaks on those phones. Indeed most of the phones I see have broken screens. the screens, and batteries should be the thing you should be able to go down to the Apple store and get an easy slide in replacement.

Heretofore, Apple’s and their assembler, Foxconn’s solution to design issues has been to simply throw more bodies at them.  Lots and lots of bodies. In the beginning that was great, because Iphones could essentially be sold all the traffic would bear and nobody knew what the market was going to be.  It’s now, when the market has more or less stabilized and price competition for phones is pushing prices down that manufacturing efficiencies become crucial.

Saying that going to a zero labor factory is one thing.  Doing it is not that easy.  especially if your industry has had no experience in doing that sort of thing.

http://en.people.cn/business/n/2015/0504/c90778-8886783.html

http://www.scmp.com/tech/enterprises/article/1786484/building-work-starts-first-all-robot-manufacturing-plant-chinas

We can look as history to see what has happened in the past.  It’s amazing how fast manufacturing technology evolved in the auto industry in the early 20th Century. By a program of continuous improvement and a huge amount of engineering Ford was able to massively streamline the production of his cars.  The downside of what he was doing was that Ford was forced to sacrifice design flexibility for production efficiency due the large sunk cost of the manufacturing tools. This nearly cost Ford his company in the early 1920’s.  :

http://www.youroldtimebookstore.com/product-p/22954.htm

As I point out here, Manufacturers here in the US have been improving manufacturing for a long time now.  American’s invented the industrial robot and a lot more.  When it comes to manufacturing improvement, here in the US, it’s been there, done that.  We’ve also never been shy about sharing those techniques. We do robots and we do factories

 

Perhaps Apple and Foxconn should stop floundering around and do what a lot of people have done for the last century or so and come to CT and talk to the people that have been making the machines that make the stuff for 200 years. Come talk to an outfit like this.

http://arthurgrussell.com/

We need the business and are glad to help.

 

 

 

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