Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics Businesses

Toyota to Employ Advanced Robots 360

Posted by michael
from the robots-are-born-free-and-everywhere-are-in-chains dept.
olegalexandrov writes "Toyota Motor will introduce robots which can work as well or better than humans at all 12 of its factories in Japan to cut costs and deal with a looming labor shortage. The robots would be able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously with their two arms, achieving efficiency unseen in human workers and matching the cheap wages of Chinese laborers, a report said on Thursday." The Motley Fool has a humorous take, and Toyota emphasizes that goodlife, err, humans will continue to have a place in Toyota factories.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Toyota to Employ Advanced Robots

Comments Filter:
  • Droids (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheAdventurer (779556) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:33PM (#11293154)
    I think that just for my sake, and for the sake of all my fellow Star Wars fans, we should just start calling them Droids.
    • Damn. Mod parent up (and probably mod me down).

      On topic, this reminds me of 1995's Ghost In The Shell:

      We see all science fiction as just that-- fiction, until the clock advances.

  • All too soon (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kipsaysso (828105)
    The robots will be commenting on Slashdot too! Maybe then the editing will be consistant...
  • The robots would be able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously with their two arms, achieving efficiency unseen in human workers

    Pushing AND shoving are the answer. Toyota will protect you from the terrible secret of space.

  • Lower wages (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So to compete, the Chinese just have to lower the wages that they pay their laborers. They've done it before.
  • What?!?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bman08 (239376) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:35PM (#11293167)
    Labor shortage? How about outsourcing (insourcing?) some of those jobs to Detroit where there are surplus autoworkers?
    • Re:What?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:00PM (#11293334) Homepage
      Labor shortage? How about outsourcing (insourcing?) some of those jobs to Detroit where there are surplus autoworkers?


      For a Japanese manufacturer, outsourcing to Detroit probably doesn't represent a cost savings or an efficiency boost.

      You don't have to pay benefits to a robot, and they work longer shifts.

      North American workers simply aren't willing to view themselves as cheap labour to pick up the slack from more expensive places to do manufacturing.

      • Re:What?!?! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by British (51765)
        North American workers simply aren't willing to view themselves as cheap labour to pick up the slack from more expensive places to do manufacturing.

        How do you say that in Spanish?
      • Re:What?!?! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pchan- (118053) on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:58PM (#11293713) Journal
        North American workers simply aren't willing to view themselves as cheap labour to pick up the slack from more expensive places to do manufacturing.

        Not true. Several Japanese automobile manufacturers assemble in the U.S. a large number of the cars they sell in North America. Toyota does it (my 4runner was built in their plant in Kentucky). Honda and Nissan do it. However, they do NOT do it in Michigan, due to the low quality of the workforce there, and the strength of the UAW in that state. Car stickers (at least in California) are required to state what country the car was assembled in, as well as what country the majority of the parts were manufactured in (usually Japan).
        • Re:What?!?! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gstoddart (321705)

          Not true. Several Japanese automobile manufacturers assemble in the U.S. a large number of the cars they sell in North America. Toyota does it (my 4runner was built in their plant in Kentucky). Honda and Nissan do it.

          Yep. They do manufacture there. I'm too lazy to google at this point, but I'm fairly sure that's to comply with domestic labour tarriffs and duties. I'm prety sure here in Canada it closes a loophole for domestic production numbers. I've certainly grown up knowing this is why -- if a comp

      • Re:What?!?! (Score:2, Funny)

        by adeydas (837049)
        Its the Jetsons age, dued.
    • Re:What?!?! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tofu2go (727555)
      this is in response to the low-birth rates in Japan. years down the line, Japan will indeed have a shortage of labor IN JAPAN. moving operations to overseas isn't a solution to all problems. if that were so, we'd be 100% outsourced to India right now for all our IT needs.
  • When I read the article, I wasn't thinking berserker [berserker.com], I was thinking Skynet [eterminator.com]
  • by robyannetta (820243) * on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:37PM (#11293176) Homepage
    Keep your eye on that one robot near the corner... he keeps mumbling something about Sarah Conner.
  • AARGHH (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:37PM (#11293181)
    TEHY TOOK OUR JOBS!!1111111
  • by LiquidMind (150126) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:37PM (#11293184)
    "...with humanoid robots jamming in a brass ensemble and performing hip-hop."

    robot1: "you got e-served"
    robot2: "oh, it's (ON)/OFF"
  • by srobert (4099) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:39PM (#11293197)
    It'll be difficult for a labor organizers to organize these robots. But I'll bet it'll also be difficult to get them to act as good consumers.
  • looming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lubricated (49106) <michalp AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:40PM (#11293205)
    If by looming labor shortage they mean layoffs, then yes a looming labor shortage will come. Good thing these robots are around. I mean how is a company supposed to layoff workers and get work done at the same stuff. Trully inovative on their part. I for one salute our new robot overlords, while the people in Russia have a robot shortage.
    • Re:looming (Score:5, Informative)

      by RealAlaskan (576404) on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:01PM (#11293350) Homepage Journal
      If by looming labor shortage they mean layoffs

      I think that ``looming labor shortage'' refers to their looming demographic crisis [foreignaffairs.org].

      Japan's population is aging fast. They're getting older at the rate of one year per year, of course, but they aren't breeding fast enough to replace themselves. That's going to have lots of effects on Japan, most of them bad. One of those bad effects will be a labor shortage. You see, the number of people who are both willing and physically able to work is going to fall off as the current generation of workers gets too old to work.

      Europe is facing the same problem, and they're dealing with it via gastarbeiters [google.com]. Apparently, Japan is going to deal with it using robots.

      • Re:looming (Score:3, Informative)

        by tsotha (720379)
        Europe is facing the same problem, and they're dealing with it via gastarbeiters. Apparently, Japan is going to deal with it using robots.

        The rejection of guest workers is a carefully considered policy in Japan. There are some disadvantages to losing a common culture, as the Dutch [bbc.co.uk], the Germans [dw-world.de], and the French [arabnews.com] are discovering. Can't say I blame the aging Japanese for not wanting to deal with cultural strife or learn Tagolog or Mandarin in their dotage. But pardon me, I'm off to my Spanish class...

    • I for one salute our new robot overlords, while the people in Russia have a robot shortage.

      Hehe, this is actually quite funny. 'Labor' in russian is 'robota' so talking about Russia and 'robot shortage', in article about 'labor shortage' seems to have double meaning... :)

  • Jeez, don't *do* that! For a couple of seconds there I thought they meant "employ" as in "pay" and not "employ" as in "use". I know Japan has some pretty advanced robot technology, but they're not *that* advanced are they? ARE they? If they start talking about forming a union, it's time to get worried...
  • Welcome! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by anakin357 (69114) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:43PM (#11293221) Homepage
    I for one, welcome our new two-armed manufacturing robotic friends.

    All kidding aside, technological advancements not only displace jobs, but also create them as well. There is a small difference between paying 20 robotics engineers to develop, create, and maintain the robots exorbitant salaries as much as hiring 150 "guys off the street" to do the same stuff.

    Yes, after the initial development, the costs go down, but not a whole lot. Someone needs to make sure the robots keep doing their jobs.

    From TFA:
    Japan has so far rejected calls to open up to large numbers of unskilled immigrants, fearing the effects on the country's social framework.

    So instead of using "outsourced" labor, they remove jobs by having robots do them.... almost as bad.
    • All kidding aside, technological advancements not only displace jobs, but also create them as well. There is a small difference between paying 20 robotics engineers to develop, create, and maintain the robots exorbitant salaries as much as hiring 150 "guys off the street" to do the same stuff.

      Right. You sustain 20 families instead of 150 families.

      If you and every other factory owner have similar policies, you stand to lose roughly 130 households of potential customers... per factory. Brilliant!

      Ah, Sla

      • Re:Welcome! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bluGill (862)

        But those 20 families have a higher standard of living, because they are earning the income that was previously dedicated to 30. Also, the other 100 million people in the country get a higher standard of living, because the cost of cars goes down. (competition means they are trying to undercut the other guy, and now they can!) In some cases costs of transportation accounts for 60% (not made up, but I don't know where to verify it either) of a familys income.

      • Re:Welcome! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Minna Kirai (624281)
        you stand to lose roughly 130 households of potential customers... per factory. Brilliant!

        That common refrain is similar to the broken window fallacy [wikipedia.org], and of course is the philosophical justifaction for sabotage. Although even some major industrialists have said otherwise, it is not overall sensible to give people money (employ them) in the hope that they give some of it back (be customers).

        That's like operating a boat by installing an electric fan on the deck, aimed at the sail: the needless extra step
  • Strange New War? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bryan1945 (301828) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:49PM (#11293265) Journal
    Does anyone get the feeling that China may be the cause of a new, strange war? Not shooting, but economic, robotic, worker-ethic, or something even stranger?

    We already hear complaints that everything is "Made in China" (or Taiwan, but we shall ignore for this discussion). Ok, shoes, T-shirts, etc.,... but now cars?!?

    Can China's cheap labor outdo even "Western Civilization's" tech by just throwing enough bodies at it? Toyota is scared that their non-smart bots are non-competitive against China's workforce? What next, Oracle is competing against a billion data enterers? (OK, a bit jokey).\

    It just seems that a lot of stuff points back to China as a problem for many countries. [Put on tin foil hat now]

    I am just wondering if there will be in the near future (or whatever future in the US's case; and yes I am American) some kind of trade war, social war (China being bad on human rights), maybe terroristic war by who knows who, or just straight out weirdness because China is becoming so powerfull by utilizing a labor method outgrown by pretty much every other world power a long time ago (ie, something akin to slavery- I know this is a powerful and loaded term, and correct, but I could not think of another suitable term that would describe some of the conditions that China lives under.

    Sorry for rambling so much.

    • Re:Strange New War? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bryan1945 (301828)
      After the slavery comment- I meant to say "and NOT correct".

      Again not "and correct", but rather "and NOT correct".

      I am very, very sorry for that typo. This is a very good reason /. should allow editing. Many people will see the above remark without seeing this correction, and be very mad. And yes, I did preview. Don't know how I missed it at first.

    • Re:Strange New War? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LMCBoy (185365) *
      Ah, the Scapegoat. Is there any figure more welcome to the mind of the citizen who sees his country going down the crapper?

      The reality is that we've won China over to our vision of global capitalism. No fair crying "foul" if they kick our ass at our own game.

      Yes, there are some pretty disturbing human rights/social justice issues over there. But today's China is radically different from the China of just 5 years ago. In my opinion, their expanding middle class will eventually cross a threshhold where
  • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:50PM (#11293273)
    Come on! Someone had to say that...
  • I don't understand why limit them to this? Actually, what exactly would be an optimal number anyways?

    I think a better solution would be able to easily add or remove things like arms as needed, depending on the job.

    And then there's the whole socioeconomic issues of replacing mass numbers of jobs with robots. Eventually robots will be better at most things, though not in our lifetime. Huge political and economic issues loom overhead.

    • It's also odd in that most manufacturing robots are basically an arm. Wouldn't a two-armed robot just be two robots?

      • by _ph1ux_ (216706)
        Not if it has ambulatory degrees of freedom.

        Most manufacturing arms ar stationary devices that move product from an inventory state to a place in a production state. (from a pile of parts onto the object being assembled)

        If these "two armed robots" are also able to do more than transition product from point a to point b - but say can pickup and maipulate the assembled object, retreive additional parts from shelving, or reposition themselves so they have access to the assembled object so that they can put o
  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:53PM (#11293289) Homepage Journal
    In Japanese Substitute Inventiveness for Immigration; NYT Shocked [vdare.com] Steve Sailer writes:
    New York Times reporter James Brooke was recently shocked, shocked to discover that the Japanese people's famous fascination with robots and automation stems from their"xenophobia." [Japan Seeks Robotic Help in Caring for the Aged Mar. 5, 2004 NYT [globalaging.org] ]

    The labor-saving device that gave Brookes the willies was Sanyo's new clamshell-shaped automated bathing machine. It allows frail people confined to wheelchairs to roll in dirty and roll out clean and dry.

    Shivered Brooke: "Futuristic images of elderly Japanese going through rinse and dry cycles in rows of washing machines may evoke chills."

    Yet the machine doesn't seem to give the shivers to its users. Toshiko Shibahara, an 89-year-old resident of a Japanese nursing home told Brooke, "You don't get a chill. You feel always warm." Likewise, Kuni Kikuchi, an 88-year-old in a wheelchair, noted, "It automatically washes my body, so I am quite happy about it. These bubbles are good for the massage effect."

    ...

    My question: doesn't the uniqueness of Japanese culture [archive.org] add to the diversity of the world?

    And aren't we supposed to celebrate diversity [vdare.org]?

    Oh, excuse me, that's the wrong [vdare.com] kind of diversity. We are supposed to celebrate the right kind of diversity--the kind where each country becomes so diverse in population [vdare.org], its culture so diluted by immigration [vdare.org], that all countries are eventually the same.

    How silly of me to forget that the ultimate goal of "diversity" is global uniformity--and monotony.

  • by Jardine (398197) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:55PM (#11293294) Homepage
    So the same robot could be the pusher robot and the shover robot at the same time, doubling their protection of us from the terrible secret of space.
  • One theory I've seen for dealing with the impact of increasing robo-industrialization is to help the workers you're displacing to purchase the robots, and then the company rents the robots from them. Even if the rent equals what they used to pay you as a worker, the productivity will be increased because of significantly less down time, and you are less likely to be bothered by being paid even somewhat less to hang around the house or follow your other pursuits.

    And of course the "smart" folks will put som

  • by amembleton (411990) <aembleton @ b i gfoot.com> on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:57PM (#11293316) Homepage
    I read a few years ago about Japanese car makers investing heavily in robotics, but then didn't hear much more about it. I assumed that with the opening up of markets like China and India research had dwindled due to such low labour costs. This will require jobs to maintain and of course develop the robots. Which really are going to be mechanical arms with some basic AI thrown in.

    Toyota can spend more on design and less on the actuall production of vehicles, which will likely improve safety and performance of the vehicles. I hope over manufacturers follow suit. This should funnel more money into R&D for AI.

    Sorry, I just rambled on with thoughts there. hmmm... ...I'm waiting for the 'our new robotic overlords' jokes to start flooding in.
  • The US, Europe and others trade with China because they are able to produce goods so inexpensively, but we never think of the costs to our societies. They are doing to us, in many ways, what the Brits did to them with the Opium Wars. We are addicted to cheap products and so many aren't willing to give them up to compensate for the human casualties of the commerce: the millions of Chinese who work for basically nothing, especially in prison labor camps.

    It wasn't until I became a Christian that I realized th
    • What did becoming Christian have to do with it? I'm not Christian and I came to the same conclusion.
    • I heard an interesting talk about the future of China on Cspan radio back in December. Long story short, they pointed out that the west always competed with the Soviet Union economically and took a stand against their policies. When the Soviet Union discriminated against Jews, the United States passed some legislation which put up significant and painful trade barriers with the Soviets. This had a dramatic impact on their economy, thus their ability to raise revenue, thus their ability to fund research a
    • This sounds pretty Xenophobic, especially for a Christian (brotherly love?).
      China has lots of bad stuff happening, no question, but none of it accounts for the difference in living costs and/or wages between China and the west.

      [This should be obvious, but...]

      As long as Chinese are 100x "poorer" than westerners, they are going to be able to produce stuff 100x cheaper. No matter what the government.

      China's advantage over other poor countries (Africa comes to mind) is it's ability to unite and focus its res
  • Once again... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:01PM (#11293342)
    ...Another potential first from an Asian company! Where has all the American innovation gone? For those ganging to mod me down, GM (of USA) continues to lose market share in the US while Japanese companies seem to be flourishing. In Canada, it is even worse for GM even after introducing 5 new models, more than any other company.

    Another bit: For Canada, though being one of the so called G7, only the Russian built Antonov-124 http://dptscargo.homestead.com/antonov124.html [homestead.com] could transport the enormous amounts of aid to the tsunami victims. The Canadians have nothing to rival this giant plane! We Americans are not any better because our even smaller cargo planes are more expensive to operate and require better and longer runways, and cannot self-handle! Airport workers gaped as they had never seen a plane as big with all the independence it has. I was also amazed.

    I leased the new Toyota Sienna, and you know what, it's a pleasure to drive not to mention the quiet engine. When I look arround my house, almost everything I use daily is Asian made...from the cell phone to the rice cooker.

    As Americans, we must wake up before it's too late.

    • ...Another potential first from an Asian company! Where has all the American innovation gone? For those ganging to mod me down, GM (of USA) continues to lose market share in the US while Japanese companies seem to be flourishing. In Canada, it is even worse for GM even after introducing 5 new models, more than any other company.

      It's even more grim in Canada. Ford is no longer one of the 'big three' here -- they've been pushed behind Honda in terms of volume of sales.

      In all honesty, North American cars

    • Innovation happens when it's needed. The Japanese have a need for robots because they are in the process of reducing their population to appropriate levels.
      Japan is small country that is very mountainous. There is not a lot of good land available. Everything is very crowded. There are too many people. Two hundred years ago, the samurai would keep the population at good levels by simply killing anyone and everyone they felt like killing. Didn't bow low enough? Zip... You too ugly? zip...
      Japan w
    • Re:Once again... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday January 07, 2005 @10:33PM (#11293893) Homepage Journal
      But by using your same logic I could say that the Americans are more innovative and resourceful than the Japanese. Which country has 2 rovers currently on Mars that have by far exceeded all expectations? The EUs robot crashed in the atmosphere, Japan's didn't even come close to hitting Mars. You have some good points, but your examples are too narrow.
      Americans and Japanese innovate in different ways. It's pretty much always been that way since Japan became an economic power after the occupation. Americans tend to neglect a lot of the little innovations like this that can make a big economic impact, but tend to excel in huge undertakings(Man on the Moon, the Internet etc). Japan seems to be the exact opposite. Their space programs have been an abysmal failure, and yet their consumer level technology is unrivaled. Interesting to see how different cultures react to similiar circumstances.
  • "We aim to reduce production costs to the levels in China," the daily quoted an unnamed company official as saying.

    That cheap? Are the robots being made in China?

  • by nyri (132206) on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:22PM (#11293483)
    The non-specialized robot worker will usher new era upon mankind. The think is, in couple of decades we are running out of work for people without college decree. The robots will remove manufacturing jobs and ever expanding self-service industry will cut out jobs from the service sector. This means that societies must adopt to new situation as the current social agreement is based on the assumption that there is jobs for everyone.

    It's true that these innovations and changes will create new jobs, but the new jobs are created for the educated people not for the people whose jobs are disappearing.

    A world where there are no jobs for everyone isn't necessarily a bad thing, if societies are rearranged so that a decent living is provided for everyone and people start defining themselves not by their profession but by some other attributes.
    • by back_pages (600753) <back_pagesNO@SPAMcox.net> on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:49PM (#11293656) Journal
      A world where there are no jobs for everyone isn't necessarily a bad thing, if societies are rearranged so that a decent living is provided for everyone and people start defining themselves not by their profession but by some other attributes.

      Get off it. It's been done before. The people were called peasants or serfs or comrades. When the people are unable to contribute to the GDP, then society has no need for the people and they are marginalized.

      The global economy abstracts the whole capitalist marketplace into two camps: producers and consumers. As long there is some population somewhere that can buy your product (maybe a tiny western European nation with a small, rich population) the rest of the world can go get bent. Crank out your product with robots or slaves or serfs or peasants and make a profit.

      Rampant capitalism is known as the black market and it doesn't work very well in the long run. The global economy isn't far from rampant capitalism, but it will work to some extent right up until the point where everybody's job has been replaced by a robot. Then nobody will be able to afford a new television, and the system will be in trouble.

      A little international labor law and careful import/export management would be help, but one thing is for certain - this is not the path to utopia where "societies are rearranged so that a decent living is provided for everyone". This is the path to peasantry, serfdom, servitude, and slavery through debt. This is the road to a life where a communist revolution starts to sound like a good idea.

      • Get off it. It's been done before. The people were called peasants or serfs or comrades. When the people are unable to contribute to the GDP, then society has no need for the people and they are marginalized.

        I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Are you implying that the waves of successive social rearrangement have made things worse for the underclass? The underclass in medieval European societies were essentially owned by the lords. The underclass during the Industrial Revolution were essentially i

    • The non-specialized robot worker will usher new era upon mankind. The think is, in couple of decades we are running out of work for people without college decree. The robots will remove manufacturing jobs and ever expanding self-service industry will cut out jobs from the service sector.

      Don't forget that there's an entirely different category of qualified work that (usually) doesn't involve or require a degree, but is still more complex than unqualified. I can't speak for the USA, but in New Zealand

  • Why are companies outsourcing? Because others do it cheaper than we do. If we want to keep our fat salaries, we have to become far more productive than our foreign counterparts.

    In the computer world, that means using processes and tools that make us vastly superior programmers. In the manufacturing world, that means using robots and devices to make one person able to do the work of hundreds.

    Those who are losing their jobs to these machines only have themselves to blame. If you want a fat salary, you have
  • Apu takes someone's job. Slashdot crowd: Boo!!!

    Bender takes someone's job. Slashdot crowd: Yay!!!

    • Right on the money. In broader terms, Slashdot is fervently socialist as long as it doesn't interfere with new techno toys. If the new techno toys only work in a world of vampiric capitalism, Slashdot says, "Oink."
  • I give 'em 2 years till they get outsourced to lower cost Indian advanced robots.
  • If it weren't for "the Great Communicator", who sold America on "greed is good, greed works", the US would be pushing automation harder and importing less.
  • I wonder how the build quality of the cars will be affected here. I think in terms of the cars, this will probably be a pretty significant improvement.

    I'm sure we'd have less lemons and perhaps smaller gaps between components of the car. Imagine interiors with detail and quality rivaling those of hand made cars. I think this can really give Lexus a reputation for being the "high tech" luxury car.

    I'd also think that this might revolutionize the mechanics of the car as well where these robots may be ab
  • I think you meant "deploy" --unless there's a new robot union that worked out frequent recharge breaks and a retirement plan.
  • In other news, the ordinary robots that were the workforce behind yesteryears roboting community are being replaced by the Advanced prototypes. Told to "halt/init 0"

    In an unprecidented move, ordinary robots are being forced out of their factory working jobs to live in trailer shipping containers around the shores of Japan.

    Rumors are circulating that some have resorted to join the porn industry [iamlost.com] - offshore.

  • Industrial Robots (Score:3, Informative)

    by nameer (706715) on Friday January 07, 2005 @11:54PM (#11294301)
    For the most part, they are talking about industrial [fanucrobotics.com] robots [kuka.com]. These are not C3P0 by a long shot. Even the instalation of car seats is semi-automated [stanleyassembly.com] already. Fully automating this, while an intersting challenge, does not involve anthropomorphic robots.

    Building anthropomorphic robots for an assembly line is (in this engineers opinion) inefficient. The tool should be matched to do the job specifically at had. Hell, Toyota was one of the companies that started the buzz in Lean Manufacturing. [optiprise.com]

    I work with robots. Robots are my friends. You, sir, are no robot. Wait, I mean you, sir, are not thinking of the right robot.

An optimist believes we live in the best world possible; a pessimist fears this is true.

Working...