Robots making way for humans on car assembly lines

They lack the flexibility and dexterity needed for car customisation


MERCEDES-BENZ offers the S-Class sedan with a growing array of options such as carbon-fibre trim, heated and cooled cupholders and four types of caps for the tyre valves, and the carmaker's robots can't keep up.

With customisation key to wooing modern consumers, the flexibility and dexterity of human workers is reclaiming space on Mercedes's assembly lines. That bucks a trend that has given machines the upper hand over manpower since legendary US railroad worker John Henry died trying to best a motorised hammer more than a century ago.

"Robots can't deal with the degree of individualisation and the many variants that we have today," Markus Schaefer, the German carmaker's head of production,...


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