A few weeks back I wrote an article about Bill Gates, and his prediction that with technology progressing the need for skilled human workers would decline. When we think of automated assembly, Henry Ford comes in mind. The assembly line method is now the gold standard for manufacturing complex machinery, such as automobiles and other appliances and electronic goods. The ability to have conveyors and motorized assistance for build Ford’s automobiles greatly assisted in both Ford’s success and fortune, and the Industrial Revolution.
Automobile makers have been using Ford’s assembly line system and variations of it for decades. But now in a move that is unprecedented, companies in Japan are taking an industrial step back. Japan, usually renowned for their technological prowess; have stepped down their factories by creating manual production lines, staffed with humans. The company, Toyota, has stated they worry that full automation means they won’t have enough craftsmen and masters on the field.
Mitsuru Kawai, an employee of Toyota’s for 50 years, told Bloomberg:
We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again.
Toyota’s philosophy of ‘kaizen’ means continuous improvement and believing in the art of making things well. While machines and robotics can do things quickly, efficiently and for less cost, Toyota believes the people bring design, passion and craftsmanship into the process. Toyota found that by eliminating the human element, it ended up making the processes less efficient by the end. By creating and maintaining the human quality, Toyota hopes to maintain it’s leadership in quality and sales.
So who can we say is right? Is Bill Gates’s prediction correct or Toyota’s reinstitution of human workers a shift in the theory?