My, my, my how the tables have turned. The past few years have seen countless human jobs filled with our less-whiny robot counterparts. But it turns out that, at least for Toyota, the pros of total automation haven't outweighed the cons. Meaning human factory workers are back in business.
It's certainly an unconventional move—intentionally taking a step backwards usually is—but Toyota's reasoning makes sense. Apparently, it's been suffering from an excess of average workers and a dearth of master craftsmen. As project lead Mitsuru Kawai told Bloomberg:
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.
So while robots may be able to work faster for less money, Toyota pays for their lack of ingenuity and expertise in the long run. For instance, at Toyota's Honsha plant, workers are now physically twisting, turning, and hammering metal into crankshafts—a process that was previously automated. Consequently, these hands-on experiences have led to a reduction in scrap material and a shortening of the production line by 96 percent in three years.
Of course, both options come with drawbacks. The push for human workers means that Toyota won't be building new factories for at least another three years. But in the battle of quality over quantity, humans still come out on top—for now, at least [Bloomberg via Quartz]