The Information has published a new report on Apple (paid material), which makes it clear that the company is focusing on automating its production. The report states that Apple has ordered managers to “reduce the number of workers on iPhone final assembly lines by 50% over the next few years.” This was reported by 9to5Mac.

According to the report, this order was given by Sabih Khan, Apple’s senior vice president of operations. This decision was made shortly after violent clashes between iPhone assembly line workers and police near the Foxconn primary assembly plant (which specializes in production automation) in November 2022.

In order to reduce the total number of employees, Apple is focusing on automating supply chain and production, which the company previously refused to do due to “high upfront costs.”

The equipment required to automate iPhone production can sometimes cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In some cases, Apple has pressured manufacturing partners to make these upfront investments with varying degrees of success.

Over the past year, Apple has successfully automated certain stages of iPhone assembly by working closely with manufacturing partners such as Foxconn, Luxshare Precision, and Pegatron. For example, the installation of metal plates and flexible printed circuit boards has been fully automated without human assistance.

According to people working in Apple’s supply chain, these and other similar efforts have allowed Apple to eliminate thousands of jobs in China. In some processes, they reportedly reduced the number of employees by 30%.

The report also points to a couple of acquisitions that have helped Apple with automation, such as DarwinAI. It is also reported that last year, Apple acquired Drishti, a company that analyzes video from assembly lines to “identify bottlenecks and production issues in real time.”

For this year’s iPhone 16, Apple initially planned to automate the process of installing buttons and other iPhone components. However, these plans were canceled “due to high reject rates.”