There are very few human workers at a new Nissan auto plant outside of Tokyo. Most of the work is done by robots.
The automaker said the plant is expected to operate in the first part of 2022.
Robots have long worked for car manufacturers. But humans were often needed to examine the quality of the work of the machines. Now the machines are smarter. They use data and artificial intelligence learn from mistakes and make corrections.
Hideyuki Sakamoto is vice president of Nissan. He gave a to visit from the production area in early October.
He said robotic technology has advanced to the point where workers are focusing their attention on maintaining machines and studying data.
The Tochigi plant will produce three versions of a car called Ariya. It will manufacture traditional gas engines, electric motors and a hybrid, which combines electricity and gas.
Cars can all be made on the same production line. As the cars move, large robotic arms move cameras along the surfaces of the car to make sure there are no mistakes. Nissan said developments at the Tochigi plant are expected to expand to factories around the world over time.
One of the changes is the way paint is applied to cars. In the past, the front and rear bodies and bumpers had to be painted separately as they are made from different materials. Now, however, the parts can be painted at the same time. The new method reduces energy consumption by 25 percent.
Another machine in the factory makes a part that is used instead of rare earth magnets in electric cars.
Sakamoto said all the new methods should help Nissan save money and cope more quickly with changes in the auto market and worker availability. The company must also meet government requirements for limiting carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming.
Nissan hopes to return to profitable operations this fiscal year. But the automaker ran into problems when its former boss Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan for financial embezzlement. Ghosn then fled to Lebanon to avoid trial.
I am Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on an Associated Press report. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in this story
artificial intelligence -not. a field of computing which consists in giving machines the capacity to give the impression that they have a human intelligence
to visit -not. an activity in which you walk around a place (such as a building or a city) in order to see and know its different parts
hybrid – adj. something that is formed by combining two or more things
rare earth – not. involving a set of related elements which have different chemical properties but useful for industry and in particular electronics