Why Amazon warehouses and Tesla auto plants will not go 100% robot any time soon

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Kuka robots work on Tesla Model X in the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, on Thursday, July 26, 2018.Mason Trinca | The Washington Post | Getty Images”Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted back in 2018 amid electric vehicle manufacturing struggles. “Humans are underrated.”Amazon, for all it advances in automation with warehouse machines like Kiva robots, still can’t find a robot that can pick a product with as much success as a human. Fears about the era of automation displacing human labor can seem old already, but the failures of automation are nothing new. Long before Tesla’s attempt to “hyper-automate” Model 3 production at its Fremont, California, auto plant revealed how robots still struggle to deal with inconsistencies in assembly tasks — and that human worker flexibility remains a critical step in manufacturing — GM failed spectacularly with robotic manufacturing as far back as the 1980s. Four decades later, top researchers say most firms that bet big on automation will continue to be burned. That is in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic adding another argument, at least in theory, in favor of more automation: i.e. robots in the workplace can’t contract a virus.In an article written for the …

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