Forget the lights-out factory: humans will remain essential for vehicle manufacturing

Robots are undoubtedly getting smarter, and we can expect more automation, but human input will remain critical in the manufacturing process. By Xavier Boucherat

It is not often we see one of modern industry’s most polarising forces climb down from one of their stated positions, but that is exactly what Elon Musk did in the wake of a damaging attempt to introduce further automation on the Tesla Fremont factory’s Model 3 assembly line. Musk admitted that excessive automation was part of what lay behind the delays in hitting the much-vaunted production target of 5,000 vehicles a week, and for a while it was not clear when the mass-manufactured gambit’s stay in “production hell” would end. At one point, Musk was referencing former GM Chief Executive Roger Smith’s dream of a ‘lights-out factory’. Later, he would concede on Twitter, “Humans are actually pretty underrated”.

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