Meet my fellow worker the robot

I, ROBOT: Ms Madoka Nishibori working with a humanoid robot on an assembly line at machine manufacturer Glory's Saitama factory in Japan.


    Jul 01, 2013

    Meet my fellow worker the robot

    SAID Ms Madoka Nishibori, a 42-year-old factory worker, of her colleague: "At first, I felt a bit strange with him, but now I like him somewhat. He sometimes makes mistakes, but he's nice to work with because he works at a constant pace."

    Ms Nishibori's colleague is a humanoid robot. It has been about six months since she and the robot began working together on an assembly line.

    At a Saitama factory of Glory, a money-handling-machine manufacturer headquartered in Himeji, Hyogo prefecture, one robot joined about 320 workers in 2010. Currently, 17 robots help manufacture devices, such as change machines for cash registers.

    At the assembly line for coin slots for cash-register money changers, four robots are responsible for four of the five processes, while the final process is handled by a human worker. About 80 per cent of the work, such as installing belts and gears, is done by robots.

    According to factory manager Katsuhiko Maruo, humanoid robots use their eyes, meaning cameras in their heads and hands, to recognise parts and the locations of holes, and can choose the right tool to assemble them.

    He said: "Automating lines to build various machines in different quantities used to be very difficult. But a robot can flexibly handle various jobs. Their jobs are similar to the ones humans do, so people can replace them in case they stop due to malfunctions or power blackouts."

    The humanoid robots, called Nextage, are manufactured by Kawada Industries, headquartered in Toyama prefecture.

    The firm said about 100 robots are working at more than 10 companies around the country.

    They are slower than their human counterparts, so the robots at Glory's factory keep on working even when the human workers take breaks, to make up for the delay.

    Mr Maruo thinks the robots can start working on the night shift within this fiscal year.

    "We aren't planning on reducing our workforce. Rather, we hope they can coexist with the robots, by sharing roles to improve efficiency and further develop the company," he said.