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Factory automation has killed the jobs of motor workers around the world, all in the name of efficiency. Except, as it turns out, the people who were once so keen to replace their human workers with robots may have been wrong on that front.
According to a Bloomberg report, Toyota bosses are set to turn their back on total automation in favour of a new generation of highly trained craftsmen.
While the idea might sound a little arcane, there is some logic to Toyota’s thinking. Machines are great at doing what you tell them to but, as things stand, they can’t really learn how to improve on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
As Mitsuru Kawai, a 50 year veteran at Toyota, who was handpicked to lead the Japanese car maker’s return to highly skilled crafting explains:
We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them. When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything.
We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again. To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.
Building car parts from scratch, gives workers far more of an insight into how a whole car is made than they would get just by picking parts up out of a bin or pressing buttons on a conveyor belt.
Perhaps more importantly though, it turns out humans are actually more efficient than their automated counterparts in some respects. Toyota’s early efforts with human workers building parts from scratch have seen it eliminate around 10% of building related waste.