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Japan Education Robotics

Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan 80

Posted by timothy
from the totally-unfair dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. "We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them," says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota's plants. "When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything."

According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn't get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota's factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota's Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. "We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again," says Kawai. "To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.""
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Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan

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  • Breaking News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeTech (2589785) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:56AM (#46755659)
    You have to know how to do something before you automate it effetively.
    more at 11.
  • Re:Breaking News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qbast (1265706) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:57AM (#46755667)
    For many managers it is breaking news.
  • Re:Breaking News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:33AM (#46755889) Journal
    You don't bring in machines for their imagination, you bring them in for their repeatability and speed on something the imagination person has already worked out. At least for the moment, this means that automating-out all your skilled workers is probably a bad strategy, similar to eliminating all entry level positions and then wondering where the talented internal hiring options went.

    (It also seems to be the case that, for all the advances in fancy-CAD and haptic feedback immersive somethingsomething, it's still pretty hard to beat having access to some actual materials and machine tools for the designing process. Sure, it all has to get CADed out in the end; but humans have a lot of experience manipulating objects. Somewhat less with observing 3d renders of objects floating in virtual space behind their monitor as they click at them.)
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:55AM (#46756061)
    So they are retiring robots to have humans do their jobs in order to one day build better robots with human modeled efficiency to replace the humans?
  • by Gim Tom (716904) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:53AM (#46756577)
    There are many things that can not be learned except by doing them and to become proficient at them requires doing them A LOT. I am an engineer, and if you look at the record there were a number of unusual engineering "disasters" back in the late 1960's and through most of the 1970's. That's when side rules and hands on experience began to be replaced by simulation, modeling and things like Computer Aided Drawing and Design (CADD). Many of these failures were the result of inexperienced engineers and designers depending too much on their calculations and not being able to understand when the "ghost in the machine" was not telling them the truth. Although I would not advocate a return to the slide rule the one thing that you had to be able to do to use one was to be able to keep track of the order of magnitude you were working with.

    Engineering failures of that era were not usually due to errors in the CADD modeling or computer calculations, but due to a lack of understanding by the people using them. They were often used with invalid assumptions or in inappropriate situations . Prior to the use of computers to do the massive iterative calculations needed, Space Frame structures were mostly used only where the lightest and strongest structures were absolutely necessary. Dirigibles come to mind. After the computer revolution in computer aided design, they began to appear everywhere and a number of the early ones failed catastrophically.

    My career moved more and more directly into working with computers over the years and I have written code in half a dozen languages, and I can't think of any of them where it wasn't critical to understand whether the output and results you got were REASONABLE.

    If you don't understand how to do what you are automating then it is impossible to automate it well.
  • Same in software (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @11:14AM (#46756837)

    Compiler writers take note.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @12:13PM (#46757657)

    That really doesn't seem like a bad thing. Sure it comes at a cost, but real and potential, but it also gives people solid foundations to work on. Knowing a bit about how your hardware works would surely help someone code a more efficient driver. Understanding how the different layers of a network and what happens at what point can help when you get farther up to applications and so forth.

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