Mercedes-Benz Is Reversing the Trend by Leaving the Robots Unemployed

This makes Mercedes-Benz some sort of a modern, industrial equivalent of Robin Hood, where instead of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, the Stuttgart company is giving the workers back what was rightfully theirs not such a very long time ago.
Sindelfingen plant 1 photo
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes isn’t giving these men and women a fish, it’s teaching them how to fish. Or, rather, since they already knew how to do it, it’s giving them access to the pond where the robots used to bring their fishing rods until now.

Don’t worry, there’s no movement against robots going on at Mercedes-Benz, nor is this decision based on anything other than maximizing production. But how can humans be better than machines on an assembly line? Good question, glad you asked.

Basically, you can thank the growing trend of personalization for this. Faced with so numerous options for various parts and trims, the robots are becoming more of a nuisance, so the old Sindelfingen plant is reverting to using manpower. It’s not precisely the number of options in itself that slows production down for the automated machines, but the time taken to get them ready from one production cycle to another.

Mercedes-Benz doesn’t make it clear exactly how many jobs this change will produce, but it’s definitely a plus. With most of the brand’s iconic models being produced there (GT sports car and S-Class limousine), the fact that the plant is less reliant on robots should bode well with the clients as well. After all, if a man can assemble a V8 or a V12 engine by hand (as it’s the case with most of AMG’s units), why not do the same with the whole car?

Of course, we’re probably talking about one or maybe a few more stations, so don’t go imagining the Sindelfingen plant is now one big robot-free hall - quite the opposite. In spite of its history stretching back 101 years ago, the site is as modern as they get. Markus Schaefer, the German automaker’s head of production, explains the situation on Bloomberg: “Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today. We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”

We should expect to see similar measures taken by other brands (particularly in the luxury segment) as well, unless they find other solutions to cope with the multitude of possibilities brought up by their ever-increasing list of options.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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