Home & Leisure

Labor costs, shortage, increasing reliability: Why we're seeing more robots inside plants

Breana Noble and Kalea Hall, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

"A lot of people think it's a reduction or replacement," Williams said of new technologies in manufacturing. "It's not. It's more of how to use technology to enhance the job or make it easier."

At Stellantis NV, Mark Stewart, the Ram and Jeep truck maker's former chief operating officer in North America, during last fall’s negotiations, discussed modernizing its Mopar aftersales parts plants to be more like Inc.’s fulfillment centers. He said there wouldn’t be any jobs eliminated from these updates.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares earlier this year said much of the company’s body-in-white welding and paint shops have high rates of automation, while general assembly is trickier because the work there is more variable and tends to be more complicated to program, like grabbing the correct item from a bin. But Tavares emphasized in thinking about the matter that it’s the company’s job to provide affordable vehicles. It sees “transformation” as “less of this here, more of that over there.”

“You’ll need more people, perhaps making batteries or making the electric drivetrains,” he said, adding there might be less people in general assembly if there is more automation.

Foreign automakers, like South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co., are also diving into robots helping run assembly plants. Late last year, Hyundai revealed its Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore, which introduced a "smart urban mobility hub" concept with its "highly automated flexible production system."

Inside the facility, about 50% of all tasks are completed by 200 robots with human collaboration, according to Hyundai.


General assembly has been the focus of research and development for the past several years, Fanuc's Finazzo said. It offers the most potential for revenue growth. Finazzo expects general assembly will see the largest growth in automation over the next five years as companies rethink assembly and manufacturing in response to challenges with finding enough workers.

The solutions often involve smaller, faster robots or ones with a longer or more accurate reach. Additionally, it presents opportunities for Fanuc's collaborative robots that are designed with greater safety in mind by being able to stop when they bump into something or someone.

The biggest gains in efficiency, though, typically come from robots being able to put multiple steps together to create one part, said Mark Wakefield, global co-leader of the automotive and industrial practice at consulting firm AlixPartners LLP.

“The savings from that dwarf being slightly faster, more repeatable in the operations,” he said.


swipe to next page

©2024 Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus