Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota is going back to the future of industrial assembly line production by replacing robots with human beings in multiple Japanese factories.
The move backward is surprising not only for an industry that practically invented the assembly line, but especially so in the country with the second highest ratio of robots to humans with 309,400, according to Quartz.
Toyota hopes that a more-engaged human element will create a highly skilled workforce with an intimate understanding of the production process, as opposed to average workers feeding parts into machines. The company also believes upping the human element will increase long-term efficiency and quality.
Production waste at more than 100 workspaces has already been reduced by 10 percent, with crankshaft, axel and chassis assembly waste decreasing specifically.
“We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again,” project lead Mitsuru Kawai told Bloomberg. “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.”
Kawai, a 50-year veteran at Toyota, described the project in philosophical terms as a re-commitment to decades-old Toyota production principles like “Kaizen” (continuous movement) and “Monozukuri” (the art of making things well).
The tradeoff for the robot-human switch means Toyota — currently the largest global automobile manufacturer by sales — won’t be building new factories for three years.