“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” Markus Schaefer, the German automaker’s head of production, told Bloomberg. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”
Take the S-class for example. The luxury car maker fits it with options from heated cup holders to carbon-fibre trims to four different types of hub cap - and the robots simply can’t keep up.
While robots are very good at repeating the same task over and over again, they lack the independent thinking to adapt to new and ever-changing tasks.
Bloomberg explains that customization is key to luring in the discerning modern customer, who wants flexibility and dexterity.
“That bucks a trend that has given machines the upper hand over manpower since legendary U.S. railroad worker John Henry died trying to best a motorized hammer more than a century ago,” the financial news site writes.
“The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” said Schaefer. “They can’t work with all the different options and keep pace with changes.”
The Mercedes manager is hoping that by upgrading to a human workforce he can cut the time it takes to build a car from the 2005 average of 61 hours to 30.
By the end of the decade the world’s second-largest luxury car maker hopes to introduce 30 new models, as well as gimmicks such as an illuminated Mercedes badge and bamboo trimmings.
“We’re moving away from trying to maximize automation with people taking a bigger part in industrial processes again,” said Schaefer. “We need to be flexible.”
There is no news yet on what industrial action the robot workforce intends to take in response to the cuts.