Automation, Good or Bad?

Many of you have probably heard about a company called Foxconn, they do the manufacturing for various products, such as the Iphone and Xbox. They have been running into a problem recently, and that is achieving profitability for the company. In 2010 there was a huge outbreak of suicides at their Chinese plant, because of horrible working and living conditions.This prompted the company to give employees a raise increase to $325 per month from $195.It also spurred Foxconn to speed up its pursuit of automation. The company’s president, Terry Guo, said in 2010 that it would produce 1 million Foxbots, a mechanical arm researched and developed by Foxconn to perform dull and dangerous jobs. The robots would be implemented from 2012 to 2015 to increase the rate of automation and productivity. Foxconn had hoped that by replacing humans with robots, production would become much cheaper and make the company profitable again. However, they soon learned that automation might not be the answer.

“The transformation from workers’ manual labor to using the robots means the models of production will be changed and the changes are complicated,” said Xu Fang, director of the Center Research Institute at high-tech company SIASUN Robot & Automation Co. Ltd. Since some jobs at Foxconn require workers to use their judgment and even though the tasks appear simple, robots cannot be used to perform them because they lack decision-making ability. Another interesting situation with Foxconn is that they dont design the products that they manufacture, the product is already designed when it is brought to them. As Yang Zhiqiang, editor in chief at automation website, said. “After all, Foxconn is a manufacturer for other companies’ original equipment and its clients have already completed the product design, so if a company wants to use robots to make products, at the beginning the company needs to consider the robot design in order to fit the production line.” This whole scenario proves a couple things to me, number one although automation may seem like the route to go in the technology filled world we live in, it may not be the most sensible. The other thing this story showed me was that maybe if managers treated employees with a greater level of respect and compensation for their work, there would be no need for buying the expensive equipment involved with automation. If you employees are not happy, there is no way around it, your company will fail, and it is managements job to make sure this does not happen.


Work Cited

Xuena, Li. “Why Foxconn’s Automation Hasn’t Been Smooth.” Market Watch. N.p., 14 May 2013. Web. <>.


Lack of Oversite Causes Huge Losses

Im sure many of you have heard of the terrible explosion that rocked the small town of West, Texas early this week injuring over 150 and killing at least 14. What many of you probably dont know, are the reasons behind why such a thing could happen. As it turns out the plant, which manufactures ammonium nitrate, a type of fertilize that was used in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995,  had no firewalls or sprinkler systems. Being as small as it was, the plant did not attract the attention of big government agencies and when it did, penalties where few and far between.

Problems started occurring last summer when the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration assessed a $10,000 fine against West for improperly labeling storage tanks and preparing to transfer chemicals without a security plan. The company was then only forced to pay $5,250 after reporting it had corrected the problems.The U.S. EPA also cited the plant for not having an up-to-date risk management plan. That problem was also resolved, and the company submitted a new plan in 2011. That plan, however, said the company did not believe it was storing or handling any flammable substances, and didn’t list fire or an explosion as a danger (Herald 1). There are many more situations like this, the plant has also been cited for not having the proper safety equipment in place for transporting flammable chemicals.

This story comes down to two things, lack of regulation, and disregard of management. We always hear in the news how companies are complaining of over regulation by the government. Saying that government is hindering their growth and profitability. It seems to me however that government needs to be more involved. How can a plant, that is built less than a mile from both a school and nursing home, not be required to have any fire safety equipment, especially when it essentially manufactures bomb making chemicals? Also, how can there be violation after violation with a only a $5,000 fine being imposed? I can’t put the full blame on the government though, management also has major blame here. There job is to handle all production aspects and make sure everything is produced both profitable and ethically. I think they chose to maximize profits and not care at all about the well being of their employees. They were to cheap to buy safety equipment and didn’t even want to bother to come up with a risk management plan. Now they have at least 14 deaths and over 150 injured, along with the town and their plant being destroyed.

I think this story shows us that profits aren’t everything and that doing the bare minimum, when it comes to safety standards is not  the right thing to do. This proves that management is a very important part of the company and doesn’t only deal with day to day operations, but also with peoples lives.

Video of Explosion


“Little Regulation for Small Fertilizer Plants.” The Daily Herald. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2013. <>.