Mercedes Gives Bots The Boot Replacing Them With Flesh And Bone On The Production Line
As it turns out, robots can't do quite everything better than human hands can. This is especially pertinent to Mercedes' highly customizable S-Class sedan, which is loaded with options like heated and cooled cup holders, no less than four types of caps for the tire valves, an electrically heated windshield, and many, many more.
Markus Schaefer, head of production for Mercedes, explains that "robots can't deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants" available to customers. "We're saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people."
Schaefer made the comments at the auto maker's Sindelfingen plant. That single location, which is over a century old, produces more than 400,000 vehicles every year. When you're dealing with that kind of volume, efficiency is key, and Mercedes determined it can more efficiently produce customized vehicles using human hands, not robotic limbs.
That may sound far fetched, but humans are inherently more adaptable to change than robots. Whereas it might take weeks to reprogram and test a fleet of robots for a new kind of assembly, human workers can shift gears pretty much on the fly.
Count this as a victory for humans in a field where flesh and bone workers are losing jobs to mechanical contraptions. According to the 2015 World Robot Statistics, issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), around 1.3 million industrial robots will be entering service in factories around the world by 2018. And in the high-revenue automotive sector, global investments in industrial robots jumped by a record-breaking 43 percent from 2013 to 2014.
It's a small victory, but a victory all the same. Let's just hope that when robots do overthrow the human population, they treat us better than we did them.