The robots are dead! Long live the robots! If you saw the news out of Mercedes-Benz yesterday that they’ve “fired” the robots they’d been using in their factories and gone back to using skilled humans, maybe you had the same reaction.
But there’s more to it than that. Mercedes is replacing robots that represent technology introduced more than 40 years ago. As Dylan said so well, “the times, they are a-changing” and the days of deploy-it-once-keep it-forever automation are gone. It’s time to move to a new breed of smart, collaborative robots – robots that can work with humans, that can navigate the unpredictability and imperfection of the factory floor and that can perform more than a single task. And that’s exactly what the German automaker is doing.
GE Innovation in this new world is being led by manufacturers that heretofore were not able to take advantage of traditional automation. Companies like GE and Jabil are deploying collaborative robots as part of a broad strategy to be better positioned to meet demand for more responsive, resilient supply chains and support accelerated innovation cycles.
Mercedes’ announcement that they’re putting their sterling brand behind the movement is a milestone in the race to transform manufacturing. The leadership at Mercedes recognizes that the time to act is now, that the window for grabbing competitive advantage with these robots is short and they’re going for it. If you’re waiting to embrace this new model for automation innovation, take note. You don’t want to be left in the dust, do you?
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Originally published on Forbes.