Mercedes Replacing Robots With Humans On Assembly Lines

Feb 26, 2016 12:22 PM EST | John Nassivera

Mercedes-Benz employees appear to be among the few that are not worried about robots taking their jobs, as the automaker recently replaced some of its machines with real people.

The move revolves around the robots' inability to keep up with the level of customization provided with the German company's S-Class sedans, while humans have the flexibility and dexterity needed to attract consumers, according to Bloomberg. Such customization options include carbon-fiber trim, heated and cooled cupholders and four types of caps for the tire valves.

"Robots can't deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today," Markus Schaefer, head of production at Mercedes, said at the company's factory in Sindelfingen. "We're saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people."

Robots replacing humans is currently a major concern for employees, with the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) recently releasing a survey showing that 1.3 million of industrial robots will be in use by 2018, Engadget reported. That number rose 43 percent from 2013 to 2014.

While Mercedes' machines aren't necessarily moving too slowly, they are taking too much time to adjust and adapt to slightly different production runs, Gizmodo noted.

Performing defined tasks repeatedly seems to be robots' strongpoint, which can come in handy at a time when models are getting more features.

"The variety is too much to take on for the machines," Schaefer said, Bloomberg reported. "They can't work with all the different options and keep pace with changes."

Mercedes doesn't plan on completely getting rid of robots, as it plans on also using smaller machines to build some cars. For example, the carmaker will replace two permanently installed robots with either a human worker or a movable, lightweight machine to build the revamped E-Class, which will be available in March.

Mercedes' robots are also being designed to work alongside humans instead of on their own, according to Engadget. Other automakers that are building machines that work with their human counterparts include BMW and Audi.

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