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    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Reuter site - Foxconn to rely more on robots; could use 1 million in 3 years

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    Foxconn to rely more on robots; could use 1 million in 3 years

    Mon, Aug 01 08:48 AM EDT

    By Lee Chyen Yee and Clare Jim

    HONG KONG/TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, known for assembling Apple's iPhones and iPads in China, plans to use more robots, with one report saying the company will use one million of them in the next three years, to cope with rising labor costs.

    Foxconn's move highlights an increasing trend toward automation among Chinese companies as labor issues such as high-profile strikes and workers' suicides plague firms in sectors from autos to technology.

    Contract manufacturers such as Foxconn, which also counts Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia among its clients, are moving parts of their manufacturing to inland Chinese cities or other emerging markets.

    They are also boosting research and development investments to lift their thin margins.

    "Workers' wages are increasing so quickly that some companies can't take it longer," said Dan Bin, a fund manager at Shenzhen-based Eastern Bay Investment Management, which invests in technology and consumer-related shares in China and Hong Kong.

    "Automation is a general trend in many sectors in China, such as electronics. Of course some companies will consider moving their manufacturing overseas, but it's easier said than done when the supply chain is here."

    The China Business News on Monday quoted Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou as saying the company planned to use 1 million robots within three years, up from about 10,000 robots in use now and an expected 300,000 next year.

    Foxconn, whose listed units include Hon Hai Precision and Foxconn International Holdings Ltd, issued a statement later saying Gou told staff at its campus in Longhua, China, that he planned to move its more than 1 million employees up the value chain beyond basic manufacturing work.


    Foxconn, which has been plagued by a spate of workers' suicides in its Chinese factories since last year, plans to use the robots for simple assembly line procedures, the statement quoted its chairman Gou as saying.

    Since last year, China has been struck by a series of labor-related issues, such as high-profile strikes and suicide cases at well-known companies as heady economic growth fueled the need for wage increases.

    In southern China, auto and parts factories owned by Japan's Honda Motor and Toyota Motor went on strike.

    "Rising salary costs should be the key reason why Foxconn is doing this. This year's wage increase has been quite significant and I don't expect the pace to slow down next year," said C.K. Lu, a Taipei-based senior analyst at research firm Gartner.

    "If they don't do this, they will have to move their factories elsewhere."

    At Foxconn, a worker fell to his death last month at a manufacturing plant in southern China, local media reported.

    The worker's death was the latest in a series of apparent suicides by young migrant workers at its factory complexes in the past two years.

    Foxconn employs about 1.2 million workers, one million of which are based in mainland China, the China Business News said.

    "The use of automation is driven by Foxconn's desire to move workers from more routine tasks to more value-added positions in manufacturing such as R&D, innovation and other areas that are equally important to the success of our operations," Foxconn said.

    Foxconn plans to buy a set-top plant in Mexico from Cisco Systems and is looking into investing more in Brazil, where it is already making mobile phone handsets.

    It has bought LCD TV plants from Japan's Sony Corp in Mexico in 2009 and Slovakia in 2010 and is in cooperation talks with a number of top Japanese hi-tech firms, including Sharp, Canon and Hitachi.

    On Monday, Hon Hai Precision's Taiwan shares rise 3.3 percent, while Foxconn's cellphone maker unit Foxconn International's Hong Kong shares ended up 4.3 percent.

    Shares of another of the group's unit, Foxonn Technology Holdings Ltd, which mainly makes casings, jumped 6.8 percent.

    (Additional reporting by Argin Chang in TAIPEI and Melanie Lee in SHANGHAI Editing by Charlie Zhu and Vinu Pilakkott)


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    Reuter site - Robot seals help heal Japan's tsunami victims

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    Robot seals help heal Japan's tsunami victims

    Mon, Aug 01 09:46 AM EDT

    By Chris Meyers

    TOKYO (Reuters) - For some elderly survivors of Japan's March earthquake and tsunami, comfort comes in the form of a small white robotic seal named Paro.

    Sitting only 27 km (17 miles) south of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant on a hill above an area ravaged by the tsunami, the Suisyoen retirement home is located in the middle of Japan's triple crises.

    While the retirement home structure was spared major damage by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, fears of radiation contamination from the nearby nuclear plant led officials to evacuate Suisyoen for two months until Mid-may.

    A week after they returned, the robotics division of Japanese company Daiwa House offered to lend Suisyoen two of its seal robots coated with anti-bacterial fur, now nicknamed Love and Peace for two years.

    The robots normally cost around 12,000 yen ($155) a month to lease.

    The furry friends are now treated as pets by the residents, with many of them still dealing with memories of the quake. Some residents hold onto the seals for longer than others.

    "If I hold onto this, it doesn't matter if there's a typhoon outside, I still feel safe," said 85-year-old Satsuko Yatsuzaka after she had been hugging one of the seals for about half an hour.

    While some retirement homes have used animals to help with therapy for residents, Suisyoen's General Manager Taku Katoono said that using this sort of therapeutic robot lowered many of the barriers that would normally be in the way of using live animals.

    "First of all it's necessary to have a live animal to raise for animal therapy. That however is rather difficult in certain situations and so in this case we use a doll, albeit a robotic one, as an alternative method to help them recover," Katoono said.

    As the robots can only hold a charge for an hour and a half, they are normally used in the morning and then charged over lunch to be used again in the afternoon.

    The robots even take in the daily exercises, with residents help the seals clap and sing along.

    Ayako Shizo, who lost her house in the tsunami and is now living at Suisyoen said she liked playing with the seal, despite not previously having pets.

    "It's just as cute a little living creature and so everyone is looking after it every day. It does sometimes runs out of batteries and stop. But when it's got its eyes open everyone stands around talking to it, asking it how it's doing and such," Shizo said.

    Local media have reported that more than half of the victims of the tsunami were over 65 years old, with survivors still attempting to heal their mental scars.

    Suisyoen said that currently they don't plan on getting any more Paros, but if one resident becomes especially attached to one of them they may increase the number of furry companions for the residents.

    (Edited by Paul Casciato)

    Reuter site - Google's Chrome overtakes Firefox in UK

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Google's Chrome overtakes Firefox in UK

    Mon, Aug 01 10:35 AM EDT

    LONDON (Reuters) - Google's Chrome overtook Mozilla Firefox in July to become Britain's second-most popular Web browser after Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Web analytics firm StatCounter said on Monday.

    Chrome, launched in December 2008, took 22.1 percent of the UK market, up from 12 percent a year earlier. Internet Explorer's share fell to 46 percent from 55 percent a year ago, while Firefox fell to 21.6 percent from 25.

    Google is trying to convert its dominance in Web search into operating systems and mobile software, bringing it into direct competition with Microsoft. Chrome is used by more than 160 million users worldwide.

    In May, Google launched its long-awaited Chromebook, which runs entirely on software accessed via the Internet rather than installed on the machine.

    Globally, Internet Explorer had 42 percent of the browser market in July, followed by Firefox with 28 percent and Chrome with 22. Apple's Safari brower had 5 percent of the market, while Opera had 2 percent.

    (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Hulmes)

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