Humans who are worried that technological advancements like robots will be slowly taking over their jobs need not fear as they have Mercedes-Benz on their side. The carmaker has ditched robots in favor of people for its production line as it feels that the latter is able to handle the job better.
The company announced on Thursday that it had replaced several assembly line robots with skilled workers. The carmaker revealed that while industrial robots can perform certain tasks continuously, it often takes several weeks to reprogram them for adaptation to new tasks. Therefore, to have a streamlined customization process which is faster than what robots would be able to achieve, the carmaker has hired people back for the purpose.
"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," said Markus Schaefer, head of production at Mercedes-Benz.
The robots are being ditched at the luxury automaker's manufacturing unit in Sindelfingen, Germany, which rolls out nearly 40,000 vehicles each year. Schaefer disclosed that the industrial robots are unable to cope with the variety and are unable to "work with all the different options and keep pace with changes."
The carmaker intends to include 30 new models to its vehicle line-up during the course of the next four years. This translates to plenty of customizations in Mercedes-Benz's manufacturing processes.
The firm has also realized that in order to woo the modern consumer, customization is the order of the day. These upcoming car models will all be having individual features which the consumer will be choosing such as the seat color and in-car technology to name a few.
This is best left to humans as they are flexible and have dexterity, added Schaefer.
However, that said, the production line is not going to be completely robot-free. The robots will not get the boot as people will be working in tandem with the smaller robots that are capable of handling the primary repetitive responsibilities. The workers will be handling the complicated aspects.
Mercedes-Benz dubs this process of equipping workers with a gamut of machines "robot farming."
According to a study conducted by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), nearly 1.3 million industrial robots are anticipated to become operational by 2018.
"Robotic workers will in future be found working hand-in-hand with human staff, helping to replace traditional, rigid production processes with flexible structures," said Joe Gemma, the IFR's president.