The Information today reported that shortly after COVID-19-related lockdowns and protests in China impacted iPhone assembler Foxconn in late 2022, Apple’s senior vice president of operations Sabih Khan instructed managers to reduce the number of workers on iPhone assembly lines by as much as 50% over the following few years.


To achieve this goal, Apple allegedly began approving high-cost automation projects for iPhone assembly that it previously shied away from. The report claims these efforts resulted in a “significant amount” of automation being involved for iPhone 15 production, but automation has still posed challenges for Apple due to manufacturing complexities.

For example, the report claims that Apple had to cancel some automation processes for the iPhone 16 series due to a “high rate of defects”:

This year, Apple sought to build on some of its automation successes by using machines to install the iPhone’s buttons, receiver, speaker and main logic board into its chassis, according to three people who worked in Apple’s supply chain. But the machines stumbled in properly fastening those components, which have to be carefully screwed into position at odd angles, the people said.

Apple’s push for automation could allow it to move even more iPhone assembly to countries outside of China, such as India, Vietnam, and Thailand, as part of the company’s efforts to diversify its supply chain in Southeast Asia.

More details can be found in The Information‘s report.

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