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Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Toyota plans to use multi-tasking robots in factories

AFP , TOKYO

Toyota Motor will introduce robots which can work as well or better than humans at all 12 of its factories in Japan to cut costs and deal with a looming labor shortage as the country ages, a report said yesterday.

The robots would be able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously with their two arms, achieving efficiency unseen in human workers and matching the cheap wages of Chinese laborers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper said.

Japan's top automaker currently uses 3,000 to 4,000 less advanced robots at its domestic factories but their use has been confined mostly to welding, painting and other potentially hazardous tasks, the economic daily said.

The new robots would also be used in finishing work, such as installation of seats and car interior fixtures, that have been too complex for conventional robots up to now, the daily said.

Toyota plans to become the first in the automobile industry to use the advanced robots in all production processes in the future, it said without giving the timeframe.

"We aim to reduce production costs to the levels in China," the daily quoted an unnamed company official as saying.

Toyota also took into account the looming labor shortage in Japan due to a declining birthrate, the report said.

Japan's population is forecast to peak next year, with the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime standing at a post-World War II low of 1.29, according to the latest government data.

Japan has so far rejected calls to open up to large numbers of unskilled immigrants, fearing the effects on the country's social framework.

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