Mercedes is replacing some of its robots with humans because they do a better job

Mercedes-Benz is replacing some of its robot-workers with actual humans.

That’s because real-life humans are better at working on the large degree of customisation that the luxury automaker offers for its S-Class sedans, according to Bloomberg.

For example, Mercedes offers a bunch of options like carbon-fibre trim, heated and cooled cupholders, and four types of caps for the tire valves.

And the robots just can’t keep up with the “flexibility and dexterity of human workers.”

“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization we have today,” Markus Schaefer, the German automaker’s head of production, said, according to Bloomberg.

“The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” he added. “They can’t work with all the different options and keep pace with changes.”

Interestingly, this change comes at a time when a number of companies are doing the opposite by replacing people with robots.

But while robots are great at doing the same thing over and over again, they’re not (yet) good at adapting to little differences — such as is the case of with the customisation of Mercedes’ S-Class.

However, robots aren’t going away entirely in the luxury auto industry, as Bloomberg explains:

“While robots won’t completely disappear, they will increasingly be smaller and more flexible and operate in conjunction with human workers rather than set off behind safety fences. Mercedes calls equipping workers with an array of little machines ‘robot farming.’ About 1.3 million industrial robots will go into operation in the next two years, the International Federation of Robotics said in a study published Thursday.”

Other luxury automakers like BMW and Audi are also testing out a similar system, according to Bloomberg.

So in this era of mass customisation where everyone wants to design their cars, burritos, laptops, etc. to their individual needs, it makes sense for Mercedes to hire people for some of the production work.

Check out the full story at Bloomberg »

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