When robots try handling the myriad of customization options that are available for the Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class sedan, their main problem is they’re not human, which is aggravating because they’re almost human.
Sure, robots have hands, kinda’. They can be taught easy tasks. They’ll work around the clock and they’re much cheaper as far as workforces go. But humans have eyes. Intuition. Also, decidedly, a softer, more delicate touch.
This is why the 101-year-old Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen, Germany has decided to swap out robots for humans who are more adept at, well ... being human.
Human workers are better suited to installing options like a heated steering wheel, a heads-up windshield display and the four different kinds of tire valve caps that are available because they can “deal with the degree of individualization” better than their robotic colleagues.
While the robots won’t disappear completely, outdated models will be replaced by smaller robots that offer more flexibility and can work with humans on the unpredictable factory floor.
Markus Schaefer, the head of production for the German automaker, is hoping pulling the plug on the underperforming robots will help cut the current 61-hour production time in half. “The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” Schaefer says. “They can’t work with all the different options and keep pace with changes.”
Take that WALL-E.