Mercedes-Benz Experiments with Humanoid Robots for Repetitive Tasks in Manufacturing

Published March 15, 2024

Humanoid robots may soon be a common sight in car manufacturing plants, handing tools to human workers, transporting materials, and performing repetitive tasks. Mercedes-Benz is spearheading this evolution by partnering with robotics company Apptronik to trial Apollo, a 160-pound humanoid robot designed to tackle 'low skill' yet physically demanding tasks in their production line. This collaboration points to a new direction in the automotive industry, focusing on automated assistance for manual labor.

An Innovative Approach to Manufacturing

Apptronik’s humanoid robot Apollo stands five feet, eight inches tall and is capable of lifting up to 55 pounds. This strength, combined with its humanoid form, allows it to integrate easily into existing manufacturing setups without requiring significant changes to the infrastructure. The trials conducted by Mercedes—for an undisclosed sum—reflect the automotive industry's growing interest in such technology to address labor shortages and improve efficiency.

Trials and Potential Advancements

The collaboration will involve evaluating how Apollo can support workers by delivering parts and performing routine checks. Initially, trials are being conducted at a Mercedes factory in Hungary, a country that has been struggling with labor shortages. The adoption of humanoid robots could be a strategic move to not only fill gaps in the labor market but to also allow skilled workers to focus on more complex aspects of car manufacturing while robots take on the mundane tasks.

The Future of Humanoid Robots in Industry

While the Apollo robot resembles other humanoid robots such as Tesla’s Optimus and BMW’s Figure 01 robots, its utility in an actual production environment is now being put to the test. These trials by major automotive players suggest a future where robots work alongside humans, creating a synergy that could redefine traditional manufacturing roles.

Mercedes' production chief Jörg Burzer highlights the significance of this venture, expressing the need to understand the potential of robotics to address issues in the automotive manufacturing sector. If successful, humanoid robots like Apollo could soon be pivotal in shaping the industry's approach to production work.

Mercedes-Benz, humanoid, robots