You’re used to hearing about robots taking people’s jobs. It’s a trend that’s now commonplace in an automotive industry where many car manufacturers are hurting and looking to cut costs. These robots, however, aren’t always equipped to completely replace living, breathing workers. Mercedes-Benz is one of several automakers who’ve come to realize that high-tech employees can’t actually do everything that a human can when it comes to building cars.
Customization is a big part of making cars these days. For Mercedes-Benz, it’s a key selling point of the automaker’s S-Class sedans. Car owners can customize a large assortment of features on their S-Class, including wheels and temperature-controlled cup holders. The S-Class even has four types of caps for tire valves.
It’s for this reason that Mercedes-Benz is switching out some of its assembly line robots and replacing them with human employees. The company offers a certain level of customization with its sedans that at times throws the robots for a loop. The machines just can’t keep up with installing a variety of options at a sufficient pace. Which is why a human touch is needed to properly build the sedans. Speaking about the news with Bloomberg, Mercedes-Benz’ head of production Markus Schaefer said, “Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today. We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”
Not all of Mercedes-Benz’ robots are headed for the unemployment line. In order to get the best of both man and machine, Mercedes is adopting a practice known as “robot farming.” The method enlists several small robots to work directly alongside people, instead of in isolation behind safety fences.
The auto industry accounted for almost 100,000 robots shipped in 2014. The International Federation of Robotics predicts that 1.3 million more robots will come online in the next two years – a select few of which might even go to college courtesy of NASA.
Mercedes-Benz is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of luxury cars. The company’s 101-year-old plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, produces 400,000 vehicles a year.[The Guardian]
Photo Credit: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters