When one thinks of the evolution of manufacturing, it's often done through the lens of outdated stereotypes: a gritty factory floor that's transformed into a highly automated environment, complete with a supply line where human workers have been replaced by sophisticated robots.
Lately, a very different trend has begun to manifest itself, with precisely the opposite results: manufacturers have begun replacing robots with humans. This is not driven by nostalgia or from a desire to provide more manufacturing jobs -- it is simple, practical self-interest on the part of manufacturers.
Iconic global brands like Mercedes-Benz have taken significant steps in this direction, replacing some large manufacturing robots with human operators. As Markus Schaefer, head of production at Mercedes-Benz's parent company Daimler, noted in an interview with Bloomberg (via MIT Technology Review), the move by the luxury car maker was strictly a business decision, driven by some very practical considerations: “Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today. We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”