Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

"This deal is getting worse all the time."

If you (like I did) watched Kanye West a few weeks ago deliver a monologue to President Trump and an assembled White House press corps in the Oval Office, you might have noticed a little something he had to say about Foxconn jobs in Wisconsin:

Forgive Kanye for getting some of the details wrong, because the details keep changing. The Verge has a big writeup of the humongous deal Gov. Scott Walker cut with the Taiwan-based electronics company to bring an advanced manufacturing plant to the state, and how its parameters have continuously shifted – and not in favor of Wisconsin workers and taxpayers:

… In late August, the company announced the plans had changed yet again — far more radically. (Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo) told the Racine Journal Times that Foxconn would never add a Gen 10.5 plant to its Racine campus, despite past statements, because by the time it was built, the market would be glutted by other manufacturers in China.

And even the Gen 6 panels might not be manufactured in Racine for long. “We are not really interested in television,” Woo told the newspaper, though he said the company wants to build America’s first thin-film transistor (TFT) fabrication, which can be used in LCD products. Rather, Woo said, workers at the Wisconsin plant will be focused on figuring out new ways to use Foxconn’s display, cellular, and AI technology, building out an “ecosystem” Woo calls “AI 8K+5G.”

All this means Foxconn needs far fewer assembly line workers. “If, six months ago, you asked me, what would be the mix of labor? I would pull out the experience that we have in China and say, ‘Well, 75 percent assembly line workers, 25 percent engineers and managers,’” Woo said. But “now it looks like about 10 percent assembly line workers, 90 percent knowledge workers.”

Almost all the actual assembly line work, he added, will be done by robots.

That’s an astonishing change to the company’s plans. For starters, it ends the hope of local politicians that lower-skilled, mostly minority workers from Racine and Milwaukee might be able to get a job.

Dang. What did Lando Calrissian say?

Do yourself a favor and read the whole story of Wisconsin's burgeoning Foxconn bondoggle.