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From the production line to management: how robots are revolutionizing manufacturing

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Robots are playing an increasingly important role in manufacturing, performing complex assembly line tasks and even managing human workers.

Tesla factory robot
Tesla factory robot

The New York Times has published an intriguing feature on the current state of robotics in manufacturing and distribution, profiling a number of factories where automated machines play an increasingly vital role. At the Tesla Motors car plant in Fremont, California, hundreds of bright red robotic arms perform a range of functions, frequently swapping out tools with minimal human supervision — and in some warehouses, the power balance is actually reversed. The Times speaks to a forklift driver in Arizona who takes instructions directly from a machine, obeying a robotic voice that tells him where to go and prevents him from colliding with other human workers. According to Terry Gou, chairman of Taiwanese electronics supplier Foxconn, "to manage one million animals gives me a headache" — we've never heard of a robot needing an aspirin, so perhaps his assembly line workers aren't the only ones in danger of being replaced.