In an unusual move in the age of manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz has chosen to make certain switches in their assembly line from robotic manufacturers to human workers. The move is somewhat unprecedented, seeing as automatic manufacturing is widely considered to be the industrial trend to follow. The move is related to the sheer complexity of customization, the company said, that they offer their customers for their cars. The robots are unable to keep up with the options offered, and so the company has turned to using human employees in order to retain adaptability. The factory pumps out nearly 1100 cars a day, totaling over 400,000 a year.
In the post-industrial age, the emphasis has shifted from creating not only quality products but also to create items unique to each customer on demand. With customization being the primary financial incentive, the company has found that the robotic components that revitalized their assembly line can no longer update for the newfound complexities of the customization age. Similarly, Google acquired the modular smartphone idea Project Ara, which is entirely based on eternally moduled phones to avoid replacing entire phones and simply switching out components. Manufacturers may begin to follow suit if this trend continues.
According to Mercedes-Benz, each human worker will be given a small robotic set of tools to assist in the customization process. a technique known as “robot farming.” Other car manufacturers have taken note, as Toyota has begun a similar trial run of robot farming in Japan. To Mercedes, the combined use of human and robot techniques will allow for a greater range of quality product coming out of their factory. To keep up, Mercedes plans to introduce over two dozen new models of cars along the way, each with their own unique features that may require the continued use of robot farming.