Foxconn on the Way of Organization Change
1 - Foxconn on the Way of Organization Change introduction. 1 Company History Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd was founded in 1974 as a manufacturer of television knobs. Foxconn is the trade name for Hon Hai created in 1985 and was officially established as a contract manufacturer company headquartered in Taiwan. Following the open-up of China in the 1980th, Foxconn expanded its business into Mainland China. In 1988 Foxconn opened its first factory in Shenzhen, making computer connectors with less than one hundred employees. The turnover and employee scale started to soar from 1996 as the Longhua industry park in Shenzhen was put into operation (Yi, M.
2009). Nowadays Foxconn has developed into the world’s largest maker of electronic components in contract with many international IT companies, such as Apple, Nokia, Dell, etc. (Bloomberg Business Week. 2010). In 2010 its revenue achieved nearly 7 billion dollars and its total number of employees was approximately 1 million. Foxconn has consecutively been the top exporter in Mainland for 9 years and in 2011 it is ranked no. 60 in Fortune Global 500 (CNN News. 2011). 1. 2 The series employees’ suicides incidents in 2010
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While Foxconn focuses on the competitive advantage in speed, quality, engineering services, flexibility and the low costs of production, the series suicides incidents shocked the whole world in 2010. In the first five months of 2010, thirteen Foxconn workers attempted or committed suicide at the two production factories in Shenzhen (Dean, J. 2010). Ten of the suicidal workers died and the other three were severely injured. All of them were rural migrant workers at the age between 17 and 25—the most important period of life.
These consecutive suicides introduced the worst images of Foxconn, as a manufacturer with inhuman ways of treating the workers like torturing the workers mentally and physically monsters (Bloomberg Business Week. 2010). To explore into this story, we will examine the possible factors that lead the workers to attempt or commit suicide and the factors that put Foxconn in such a difficult situation respectively. 2. The reasons that compel the Foxconn employees to suicide 2. 1 Low salaries brought great economical pressure One factor that contributes to the commitment of suicide of the workers in Foxconn is the low wages.
One theory in Marxism argued that in order to generate the largest revenue for the capitalists, one only way is to get fullest strength out of the factory workers, increasing the workload on workers yet pay them the least. This was the management style that Foxconn adopted before the suicides incidents. Workers there have to work long hours each day yet receiving poor wages (Li, X. 2010). Working overtime may increase the worker’s income but not significantly. The typical monthly wage is around 1500 RMB (including the overtime pay), which is merely enough to cover the basic living expenses in an expensive city like Shenzhen.
The workers in Foxconn are aged from 18 to 25 and are typically from the rural regions in China. They have very different thought than that of their parental generation. The days of toiling for hours for basic pay and being very satisfied are long gone. Just like any other workforce in the world, they are dreaming of earning more and pursuing a better life. The reality is however cruel for those young workers. In 2010 the GDP per capita of Shenzhen city is 95 000 RMB and the average price of apartments is more than 20 000 RMB/M2. Therefore great economical pressure is one important factor that drives the young migrant workers to desperate.
2. 2 Strenuous working leads to isolated social relationships and autism The environment in which workers work and live in Shenzhen city could be another factor that leads to the tragic accidents. Generally the working time is around 12 hours each day, and there are usually extra meeting before or after work. The quota for skilled workers is very high and people have to be highly concentrated during working. There is no time to chat with the neighboring colleagues. Also the workers were only allowed to stand during working, making them extremely tired.
“We were so exhausted that we don’t talk with each other even after work. ” said one of the Foxconn employees (BBC staff, 2010). In the restless night, stress quietly builds up inside workers. A higher rate of diseases accumulated from over-working. All in all, it is not so easy for newcomers to adapt to the environment. Many of the workers didn’t actually know the names of their roommates due to the different dialects and high turnover. “Most of the time, besides eating food, there is not so much to communicate. ” said one of the workers from Shenzhen factory (Lai, R. 2010). 2.
3 Military management caused depression Foxconn adapts the militarization style management in its workforce. The atmosphere of the assembly line is always the worst. There is a huge power distance between the workers and the managers; workers that work in the assembly line are at the bottom of the hierarchy (Zhang,C. 2010). Also there are strict rules covering almost every aspects in work and life: having to wear uniforms, no talking and no sitting during work, compulsory overtime working, and even no extramarital affairs (Li, H. 2010). The punishment of disobeying the rules is usually cutting the salary.
Always having to act carefully and nervously also contributed to the depression that Foxconn’s employee felt. 3. The grounds for Foxconn to squeeze labor cost 3. 1 Escalading competition between manufacturers deprived the discourse power of Foxconn Competitions between the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) are fierce especially in the countries like China and Vietnam, where the costs of production of labor are comparatively low. Though Foxconn produces many high-tech products that are sold at rather expensive prices, it doesn’t have the pricing power, as there are tremendous homogeneous competitions in the market.
Therefore its costs of production are completely dependent on the market price. The problem of losing discourse power ultimately leads Foxconn to cut down the costs of production, and one of the best ways to cut down the costs is to cut down the workers’ wages. 3. 2 Appreciation of Renminbi (RMB) and high inflation further increased the cost of production Currently China’s export market still relies heavily on cheap labor to compete in the international market. The appreciation of Chinese currency since July 2006 causes the costs of production increased significantly.
Consequently, Foxconn gradually lost its competitive advantage in the export-price comparing to countries like Vietnam. On the other hand, with the appreciation of RMB, China started a round of high inflation since 2007. The increased prices of raw materials are another heavy burden to Foxconn, which already has only a paper-thin margin (China Times editorial. 2010). 4. What are Foxconn’s solutions to increase employees’ well-being and company’s profitability? 4. 1 Increasing the worker’s wage significantly after the series of suicides incidents After the thirteenth suicide in 2010, Apple stated that it plans to cut 0.
7% of its iPad profits to give the workers a 20% salary raise (Mick, J. 2010). Then on 2nd, June, Foxconn officially announced that the minimum starting salary for all its employees would be increased from 900 RMB ($132) to 1200 RMB ($175), a 33% adjustment on the wages (Chang, S. 2010). Five days later Foxconn announced another 66 % increase in pay. If the employees can pass a three-month performance evaluation, their monthly salary would rise to 2,000 RMB ($293) since October (McGlaun, S. 2010). 4.
2 Boosting use of robots in manufacturing within three years On 29th July 2011 at a staff event in the company’s Shenzhen factory complex, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou announced that the company plans to raise the current number of robots from 10,000 to 300,000 by 2012, and up to 1 million by 2014. This is to reduce labor costs and free up more funds for future-looking R&D projects. However Foxconn avoided officially confirming the exact numbers in Gou’s speech (Tate, P. 2010). Foxconn’s desire of automation is generally interpreted as for replacing manual spraying, welding, assembly and other monotonous, repetitive work.
The robots cannot completely replace the workers, indicated by an insider. “The workers are still our most valuable wealth. The use of robots is to move workers from routine tasks to more value-added positions and higher up the value chain”, according to Gou’s speech (Wang, YQ. Zhang, YJ. 2011). 4. 3 Expanding the business in the laptop and tablet fields Traditionally Foxconn’s mainstream products are PC and electronic components. In 2009, Quanta’s senior VP in charge of the iPod business suddenly hopped to Foxconn.
During 2009 Apple shipped approximately 7 million MacBooks, most orders were handled by Quanta, while others went to Foxconn (MacNN staff, 2010). In 2010 Foxconn surpassed Quanta to become the 3rd largest OEM of Dell’s laptop (Yi, J. 2010). In 2011 Foxconn turned into the largest OEM of Hewlett-Packard’s notebook computers (Benben, 2011). Besides Apple’s annually 40-million iPad orders, Foxconn also won an Amazon 10. 1-inch tablet order (Ong, J. 2011). The laptop and tablet business was recognized as Foxconn’s breakthrough in a globally shrinking PC market.
4. 4 Moving the Chinese manufacturing plants from coastal cities to inland area Prior to 2009, Foxconn built its factories in more than 15 cities in Mainland China, with most of the product lines in coastal cities like Shenzhen. The pace of moving inland was accelerated after 2009. In September 2009, Foxconn announced to build a new production base in Wuhan, located in Middle China along the Yangtze River. The estimated yearly output of the Wuhan factory will be more than 100 billion RMB (Bang, QY, 2009).
In October 2009, the company stated that it plans to invest more than 10 billion dollars to set up a plant in Chengdu-the capital of Sichuan province located in western China (Jin, M. 2009). In June 2010, Foxconn published its plan to build a 10 km2 industry park in Henan province, with more than 300, 000 employees (Li, L. , Wu, XY. 2010). After the restructuring, the number of employees at Shenzhen will sharply decrease from 420, 000 to less than 100, 000. Moving inland is supposed to relieve Foxconn’s pressure of increasing workers’ salaries, as the “government guidance salary level” is much lower in inland provinces than in coastal cities.
Also it would be easier to recruit workers since southern China’s manufacturing centers have been struggling with labor shortages, while young people from rural regions prefer working near their hometown. 4. 5 Increasing oversea investment for restructuring Thrived upon the benefits of globalization and outsourcing by Western companies, Foxconn also sought the opportunities of outsourcing to countries other than China for lower labor cost and better tax incentives. In 2007 Foxconn signed a memorandum of understanding on building a $1 billion hi-tech park in Vietnam.
After opening its first two factories in the northern Bac Ninh province in 2008, the much-hyped Vietnam investment has been delayed since Vietnam was no longer considered as a top priority for Foxconn (Tu, D. 2010). Later in April this year Brazil President Dilma Rousseff announced a $12 billion plan for Foxconn to produce iPads in this Latin country. This enormous investment prompted immediate skepticism due to stagnant negotiations over tax breaks and Brazil’s own deep structural problems such as lacking of skilled labor (Winter, B.
2011). 4. 6 Transforming by investing in retailing and the photovoltaic (PV) industry Foxconn started its program of transforming already a decade ago, when it acquired a small retail chain called Cybermart (now with 34 stores in 20 cities but insignificant as part of Hon Hai’s total turnover). At early 2010, Foxconn launched its retailing plan Wan Ma Ben Teng (WMBT) training, financing and subsidizing its own employees to open their own electronics stores (Synder, B. 2011).
It was considered that retailing would help the OEM giant to capture more of its clients’ as Foxconn can take care of product from design development to manufacturing and to selling it to consumers. The CEO Terry Gou also showed a big appetite in PV industry. In 2011,Foxconn and the polysilicon giants GCL announced that they would corporate to launch a 200-megawatt PV power station in Shanxi. The final goal is to reach “100,000 tons by the cooperation of polysilicon, 10 GW of solar cells and modules level of production scale”, indicated by an executive (Industry News staff.
2011). The total investment of the PV project is said to be as much as 90 billion RMB. 5. Discussion 5. 1 Is Foxconn a sweatshop? The “Foxconn N jump” shocked the world in 2010 and consequently brought the OEM giant under the harshest condemnation. The miserable working condition, unbelievably long working hours, military administration, and perhaps most importantly, the poor salary…all these elements titled Foxconn as contemporary “sweatshop”. The blood of 16 young lives certainly makes us grieve. However, it may be too hasty to claim Foxconn as a sweatshop.
Foxconn is an epitome of contemporary Chinese contract manufacturers. And it bears all the burdens that any other Chinese OEM factories bear. As native Chineses, from our point of view, the working conditions in Foxconn is above the average level according to the current Chinese standards; the overtime working and military administration are shameful but in fact they are rather common practices in many factories; and the salary level-after raising twice the minimum monthly pay is 2,000 RMB ($293)-though still sounds surprisingly low in Western standard, it is indeed fairly reasonable for migrant workers in China.
So if what surprised and exasperated Western people turn out to be general, should we blame all the Chinese factory operators? Or the invention of outsourcing? The Chinese economy booms during the last three decades. Thanks to the foreign investment in China that transform the country into the world’s factory, millions of people’s lives changed radically due to the great aggrandizing of wealth. But why the Chinese labor could replace the Korean and Taiwanese factory workers?
Because they are willing to accept the wage that is far less than in the above mentioned countries and the poor working conditions that are no longer tolerable in the Western. Both Chinese and the Western societies benefit from each other- it is a win-win. The young workers who committed suicide at Foxconn are among the millions of new generation of migrant workers, dreaming for a university education or a decent job that is hopelessly unachievable. There is an obvious gap between the fact and the dream.
But the gap will not last forever. 5. 2 Raising the salaries significantly increases Foxconn? s expense, but is far from enough to change the worker’s life fundamentally In 2010 Foxconn has approximately 450, 000 employess at Shenzhen. Thus raising the minimum monthly wage from 900 RMB to 2000 RMB brought Foxconn a 500 million RMB increase in labor cost per month. It was estimated that after the salary raising Foxconn would lose 1/3 of its net income, which must be a heavy blow for the company’s yet “razor-thin margin” (Hu, NT. 2010).
According to Terry Gou’s speech, this wage increase has been instituted to “safeguard the dignity of workers, allow them to reduce overtime work, have enough leisure time and sustain the best of our workforce” (Heater, B. 2010). Plus the overtime supplement, a normal Foxconn worker is supposed to earn around 3000 RMB per month. This figure is much higher than the officially published Chinese migrant workers’ average monthly income, which is 1670 RMB in 2010 (Zhang, J. 2011). However, we can hardly conclude that there is any fundamental change in the workers’ life.
Since Foxconn employed a Fordism management style, workers are deskilled and applied to the assembly lines; overtime working is namely voluntary but practically compulsory; and professional training is little – there is a huge break between reality and their city dreams. Besides, in 2010 the average price of a new apartment in Shenzhen is 20205 yuan/M2 (Xin, X. 2011), which is still desperately expensive for the rural migrant workers. 5. 3 Profitability of Foxconn has decreased far before increasing the workers’ salaries In early 2011 Foxconn reported a $218. 3 million full-year net loss for 2010.
The company imputed its deficit to the suicide–related salary increases, and consequently the ongoing relocation and expansion plans, as well as consolidated income tax and increased competition (Lai, R. 2011). Browsing Foxconn’s previous years’ income statements, it is not difficult to find that the company’s profitability has been constantly decreasing through the years, as shown in Table 1. | 2006-12| 2007-12| 2008-12| 2009-12| 2010-12| Revenue ($ million)| 10381| 10732| 9271| 7214| 6626| Net Income ($ million)| 718| 725| 122| 40| -220| Net Profit Margin (%)| 6. 92| 6.
76| 1. 32| 0. 55| -3. 32| Table 1: Profitability of Foxconn in the recent five years (data resource: MorningStar, 2010). Though Foxconn is the world’s largest maker of electronic components, serving the globally top IT giants such as Apple, Dell, Nokia etc. , the manufacturing company actually does not have the ability to wrest higher prices from its hard-bargaining clients. Indeed, as gigantic as Foxconn, it still has to compete with many other Chinese/Taiwanese OEMs that offer similar services at similar prices. It has no discourse power in front of its customers. 5.
4 Highly developed coastal cities are no longer suitable for labor-intensive industry The main motive that Foxconn moves from coastal cities like Shenzhen to inland area recently was interpreted as it is searching for lower labor costs, as the average salary level is generally 30-40% lower in inland provinces than that in littoral areas. So should the OEM giant’s leave be a pain for Shenzhen, as the city lost a billions-dollar earning taxpayer? The answer is No. Coastal cities in China used to benefit a lot from the oversea investment of the Western companies. The manufacturing industries flourished and local economies boomed.
However, after nearly three decades of high-speed development, these cities have grown into extreme size. For example the population of Shenzhen in 1980 is around 600 000, and the number soars to more than ten millions in 2010. The city has been overloaded; the cost of living has increased; water and electricity are constantly in shortage…and in this setting, a labor-intensive company possessing more than 400 000 poorly paid employees and a minus-net income is no longer welcomed. Then from 2010 to 2011, within just one year, the Foxconn empire took its root in several Midwest cities like Chengdu and Zhengzhou.
Its pace of moving is so expeditious that usually within several months, a new industry park could be built, the new supply chain was setup, thousands of employees were recruited, and the new factories were put into operation–all these cost billions of investment. But it may worth–with the central government’s initiatives to develop the inner and poorer regions, fewer workers are willing to leave their families and relocate to the coastal cities to work in factories. Moving inland can provide Foxconn both lower labor cost and more abundant labor resources.
However, how soon will the inland cities develop into the current state of Shenzhen? Maybe five years or ten years later. And where can Foxconn go at that time? 5. 5 As demographic dividend rapidly vanishing in China, Foxconn has to focus on improving efficiency and transforming China is heading for the so-called Lewis turning point as its once abundant cheap labor runs dry. It was reported that a surplus of subsistence labor shrank from 120 million to 25 million now (Bai, A. 2010). Consequently it leads to the average wage increases and high inflation.
The nation is losing much of its original low-cost competitive advantage and is transforming from a producer to a consumer. The brilliant “China model” lifted millions of people out of poverty is no longer sustainable. In this background, the prime tasks of Chinese manufacturers are to improve production efficiency and transform into continuously profit-making enterprises. Foxconnn may be a little bit late to foresee this point, but still not too late. Just three month ago CEO Terry Gou announced that the company plans to employ 1 million robots to carry out spraying, welding, assembly and other repetitive work by 2014.
For mass production, robots may perform better than manual labors since they have the obvious advantage of standardization, automation, and precision. More importantly, the use of robots may compensate the impact of a disappearing demographic dividend. However, there are also risks: the ambitious 1 million robots plan can burn the revenue-shrinking company billions of money; the electronic products are updated so fast that robots may not be flexible enough to handle every new electronic component.
Japan and South Korea started their robots plan decades ago, but till today robots can completely replace human labor at only a few working procedures. And after all, using robots to produce is still only “to produce”, it won’t change the enterprise’ fate fundamentally. 5. 6 Innovation is the ultimate solution to the problem of shrinking margins The annual order of iPad that Foxconn received from Apple is reported to be approximately 40 million (Dzsc staff, 2011). The production cost of an iPad sold at $499 is $219.
35, and its most expensive component is the touchscreen, for which Apple paid $95 each to the South Korean company LG. This leads us to wonder, how much assembling fee Apple paid Foxconn for an iPad? The answer is $11. 2 (Zhong, B. 2010). It is reasonable for us to ask why thousands of Chinese workers’ effort seems to be so insignificant as comparing to a Korean touchscreen (that is essentially also made in China)? One of the most important reasons is that the touchscreen incorporates LG’s unique In-Plane Switching technology, which is energy saving, clear and colorful.
In a word, LG generates the high profits by creating the new demand in an uncontested market space, or a “Blue Ocean”, comparing to the “Red Ocean Strategy” that Foxconn adopts. Though contract manufacturing will never fade away as a business, for many manufacturers the ultimate solution to the problem of shrinking margins lies in innovation. There is no reason to resist change. And only the big players such as Quanta and Foxconn will have the resources to build up their R&D capabilities. Therefore to change is an opportunity more than a venture.
And Foxconn should feel comfortable with the idea of innovation, since it has the tradition of technology upgrading–it has accumulated over 25,000 patents granted worldwide by 2010, making Foxconn a recognized technical know-how in rankings such as MIT’s patent scorecard. 5. 7 Comparing Foxconn and BYD—the depth of change decides how far the company can go We cannot fail to mention BYD when discussing about Foxconn. Both companies are mass manufacturers that flourished on the basis of abundant low-cost labor. However, after nearly ten years of transforming, nowadays BYD is completely different than Foxconn.
In 2010 Foxconn’s total revenue was 8. 15% less than in 2009, and its net income suffered a loss of 218 millions dollars. While at the same time BYD’s operating income increased by 50% and net income almost doubled (Hexun staff, 2011). BYD is also the top one company on the Tech 100 list of the Businessweek in 2010. Though its revenue is only one seventh of the second company (Apple) on the list, its revenue growth is 50% and its shareholder’s return is 246% (Businessweek. 2010). In September 2008 Buffett bought 10 percents stake in BYD for about $230 million and today Buffett’s piece is worth nearly $2 billion.
So what does BYD do and bring the enormous success? The company was founded in 1995 at Shenzhen as a rechargeable-battery factory. Within ten years BYD had captured more than half the world’s mobile-phone battery marker and became the largest Chinese rechargeable battery manufacturer. In 2003 BYD purchased 77% stocks of Qinchuan Auto with 254 million HKD, and its own share price fell immediately to freezing point after the purchasing. In contrast to the market’s initial feedback, the sales volume of BYD auto in 2010 surpassed 519 000 (Hexun staff, 2011).
BYD F3DM, which utilized BYD’s battery production resources, became the world’s first mass-produced hybrid automobile. BYD also expanded its business to the field of electronic components manufacturing and mobile phone assembling. In 2010 its gross profit rate in this part is 12. 16%, comparing to 2. 8% of Foxconn. The company has about 12 000 engineers among its 140 000 total number of employees as well as an intellectual property right and law department that consists of 200 experts. The R&D investment increases at an annual rate of 50% (Wu, XY. 2011). It is the bravery to change and constant innovation that created the prosperous BYD.
Though seemingly productive, Foxconn is actually at the very dangerous fringe. It is already ten years behind BYD. The manufacturing giant has to take the courage to perform the deepest change—frame breaking and fundamental strategic change that can win the company an opportunity to survive in this rapidly changing world. Its recent investment in the robot plan, PV industry and WMBT projects emitted a clear signal that the company is seeking the opportunity to transform. Whether Foxconn’s transformation will be succeed or not maybe still too early to say, at least we should be glad that the OEM giant now steps towards a promising direction.
6. Conclusion Chinese economy has boomed through the last three decades. Benefiting from the opening-up policy, foreigner investment and abundant low-cost labor, millions of manufacturing enterprises thrived and China has developed into the “world factory”. However, under current business environment, the profit of low-tech manufacturing is approaching zero and many production companies are facing bankruptcy. The OEM giant Foxconn, which has more than one million employees and billions of dollars of revenue, also has no luck to escape from such a situation without radical changes.
The way to break through the dilemma lies in constant technology and management innovation. Though the process of changing maybe painstaking, it is the ultimate solution that could rescue Foxconn from “Red Ocean” and lead it to a brighter future. 7. Reflection In this essay we focused on this particular company for the reason that we wish to emphasize that the case studied is not just an exception in the Chinese corporations. In fact it demonstrates nowadays a phenomenon of most of the corporations in China. We searched both internal and external factors that contribute to the management problems of Foxconn.
However, these factors represent only what we think why Foxconn is trying to change in terms of the way of managing an organization. Throughout this essay, we tend to more focus on analyzing the way of its change instead of evaluating its methods. This is due to the fact that this organization change behavior is not yet very sophisticated and the related data are not yet very supportive. References Bai, A. (2010, July 7). China’s ? Lewis Turning Point? : Twilight of an Era. Seeking Alpha. http://seekingalpha. com/article/213410-china-s-lewis-turning-point-twilight-of-an-era Bang, QY. (2009, September 3). ?????????
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