Hola Todo! How are we doing?
Of all the interesting stories from what seemed like a low-key Apple keynote event, I thought Liam – the iPhone recycling robot – was the most interesting. Liam was introduced by Lisa Jackson, VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, during the CSR portion early in the keynote. (See major Mashable feature here).
Liam can disassemble an iPhone 6s in 11 seconds, meaning the 29-armed warehouse-sized robot can recycle 350 iPhones an hour or potentially, 1.2 million iPhones a year (although Liam doesn’t work on weekends). While some are skeptical that the Liam prototype “doesn’t scale,” is limited to the 6s, or is too small of a percentage of Apple 230 million iPhones sold last year to be meaningful, I think this a classic head fake in Apple’s future plans.
In sum, Apple has not been in the final assembly business for their products in a long time (except the super high end – low volume Mac Pro). If Liam can disassemble an iPhone in 11 seconds, how long will it take it to assemble an iPhone? Is the Liam prototype more about Apple’s environmental plans or more about Apple learning to manufacture again? Apple can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint in the supply chain if they do final assembly in their major markets instead of shipping everything out of China. Don’t forget that Apple is also working on a car. Is the robotics and engineering that when into Liam something that can be applied to autos?
It may be the case that we will be able to look back at that 3-minute preview in the keynote and a 60 second video and say “Yup, Apple can do that…they showed us that Liam prototype 3 or 4 years ago.”
Something to think about today…
Associate Professor of Marketing
Director, MBA Program
Stillman School of Business
Seton Hall University