Mercedes-Benz Says “So Long” To Some Assembly Line Robots, “Hello” To Actual Humans

We’ve likely all seen the photos, videos, and stories of robots preparing for their inevitable uprising by taking on jobs in factories and plants — from fulfilling orders at Amazon to building furniture at IKEA. But there’s now one place you won’t see as many of the high-tech employees: the Mercedes-Benz production line. 

The carmaker announced that it would, perhaps going against trend, replace some robots on its production line with actual human beings, Bloomberg reports. 

The decision to shift back to a human-based assembly line is a response to consumers’ demand for more customized vehicles, which is overwhelming the company’s assembly robots.

“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” Mercedes’ head of production Markus Schaefer told Bloomberg. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”

The change will specifically affect the company’s new S-Class models, which offer customizations such as heated and cooled cupholders and four different types of tire valve stem caps, built at its Sindelfingen, Germany plant.

“The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” Schaefer said. “They can’t work with all the different options and keep pace with changes. We’re moving away from trying to maximize automation with people taking a bigger part in industrial processes again. We need to be flexible.”

In addition to allowing more customization, the change will also allow the plant to shift production from one model to another within a weekend, rather than the weeks previously needed to reprogram the robots, Schaefer said.

Of course, Mercedes isn’t getting rid of robots all together. Rather, the company will continue to operate small, more flexible artificial intelligence in conjunction with the human employees.

Mercedes Boots Robots From the Production Line [Bloomberg]