With all of the options and features the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and other new models have, the robots on the production line just can’t handle making the cars alone. For that reason, the automaker will trade out some of the machines for good, old-fashioned human labor. Take a moment to appreciate that one.
Bloomberg recently spoke to Mercedes’ head of production, Markus Schaefer, who said the “variety is too much to take on for the machines” with increasing options for car customization. The robots just can’t keep pace with the changes, apparently. From Bloomberg:
“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” Markus Schaefer, the German automaker’s head of production, said at its factory in Sindelfingen, the anchor of the Daimler AG unit’s global manufacturing network. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”
The Sindelfingen plant rolls out over 400,000 vehicles per year according to Bloomberg, and the process can be much faster with people—even before customization. Rather than taking weeks to reprogram the robots for shifting assembly patterns, the manufacturer can shift the line in a weekend or so.
Mercedes plans to have more people on the production line for more than just the S-Class, too. The manufacturer calls that move “robot farming,” in which the machines will be smaller and more lightweight in order to work alongside humans. That teamwork isn’t limited to Mercedes, either. From Bloomberg:
BMW AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi are also testing lightweight, sensor-equipped robots safe enough to work alongside people. The edge they’re seeking is to be better and faster than rivals as the pace of change affecting the auto industry quickens.
In a time when the technology keeps getting more advanced and the robots keep becoming more human, it’s comforting to know that some companies still put things into the hands of our fellow humans. Score one for Mercedes—and the others—in keeping this world from living out the Terminator plot line.
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