No, this is not the reversal of the worldwide trend toward more automated production in the future, where as much as one-half of our jobs will be replaced by robots, but Mercedes has found that there are some jobs that robots just can’t do well.
Mercedes offers so many options with its S-Class sedans, like carbon-fiber trim, heated and cooled cup-holders and four types of caps for the tire valves, that it has become impossible for the company’s robots to keep up on the assembly line, reports Newser.
“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 at its factory in Sindelfingen told Bloomberg. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”
The 101-year-old Sindelfingen plant is quite an operation, handling 1,500 tons of steel every day and rolling out 400,000 cars a year. This is where the top of the line GT sports car and the ultra-luxury S-Class Maybach sedan are produced.
If any vehicle factory needed streamlined production methods, the Sindelfingen plant would be the one to use automation. But with the public’s demand for customization growing, it is forcing changes to be made in vehicle production methods.
The bottom line is one word, versatility. While robots are great for doing repetitive, defined tasks, they are not good at adapting to any changes in the production line. As Gizmodo says, “But it’s also a timely reminder that as good as robots get, they’ve got a long way to go to beat the human machine.”