A brave new world awaits the more socially inept manufacturers among us: The illustrious carmaker Ford now has assembly line workers labouring elbow-to-robot. Ford’s particular brand of collaborative robots, known affectionately as “co-bots,” is designed to assist workers as they fit car shock absorbers in an assembly plant in Germany. In practice, workers may toil strenuously for as many as eight hours a day fitting shock absorbers, but the heroic three-foot tall co-bots work with human employees to guarantee the appropriate fit for each car. Instead of manipulating and lifting a heavy shock absorber into place, the co-bots lift and position the part.
It’s an experiment that could set the stage for humans and robots to work together at Ford’s other assembly lines around the world. Just imagine what could be in store for all of us 20 years out! Our day-to-day colleagues shall be made of steel and variegated metals; they shall be chargeable, easily replaceable, and susceptible to long-term rusting. Good listeners, too.
“Working overhead with heavy air-powered tools is a tough job that requires strength, stamina and accuracy,” acknowledged Ngali Bongongo, a worker at Ford’s production plant in Cologne. “The robot is a real help.”