Why hire workers, when you can use skilled robots that are more efficient and productive? Apparently the trend has skyrocketed, particularly in China and Netherlands, where companies such as Philips and Foxconn are planning to utilize a new wave of robots in its factories. Philips is already using roughly 128 robot arms to do the same work in its factories while Apple device manufacturer Foxconn is planning to install more than a million robots within a few years to supplement its work force. However, the Taiwanese multinational electronics manufacturing company did not disclose how many workers will be displaced or when.

“With these machines, we can make any consumer device in the world,” said Binne Visser, an electrical engineer who manages the Philips assembly line. Although this could prove to be an asset or a liability to China’s labor cost advantage, veteran roboticist Bran Ferren thinks that the dream is elusive. “I had an early naivete about universal robots that could just do anything,” said Ferren. “You have to have people around anyway. And people are pretty good at figuring out, how do I wiggle the radiator in or slip the hose on? And these things are still hard for robots to do.”

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