In an effort to curb the manufacturing costs of producing various electronics, South Korea and Samsung are working together to create new, cheaper alternatives to human labor. The country is investing in Samsung with the hopes of creating men-like robots that are much cheaper to operate than paying traditional wages to workers. This is a particularly ambitious project for the industry that relies on flexible human fingers.
South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has committed $14.8 million to fund Samsung’s research and development of bots capable of handling complex, tiny, mechanical tasks. Samsung and South Korea’s Ministry have many reasons to push for the program’s success. Wages are currently rising in China and successful bots could reduce costs by reducing the human workforce employed by electronics companies.
Presently, humans, particularly Chinese workers and those of other developing nations, play an important role in manufacturing many electronics, including smartphones. While several components can be mass produced on automated assembly lines, many features of various electronic devices require human hands - millions of them.
Anything that reduces costs is very welcome by big-name electronics companies always looking to move their factories to where it is cheaper to operate.
However, China’s rise as place of choice to house manufacturing plants has been assisted by the many millions of people who perform semi-skilled jobs at a decent wage. And, while China knows its prowess in manufacturing is likely not long-term, the country also hopes these new bots do not get developed quickly. Sharing in China’s sentiments are Indonesia and India, who also compete to bring electronics manufacturing to their countries.
Another possible downside to the success of these bots is that it may slow down the rise of a middle class in China, Indonesia and India. Researchers note that a bot takeover of electronics manufacturing jobs might stymie potential export markets.