Feb 7, 2019 - Technology

Peak automation: Taser-building bots boost output by four times

A police officer demonstrates how to use a Taser.

A police officer demonstrates how to use a Taser. Photo: Paul Zinken/picture alliance/Getty Images

Ten years ago, Axon started using robots to assemble cartridges for its flagship product, the Taser. Automation helped the Arizona-based giant bring production back into the U.S. and boosted its output by four times.

The big picture: This is why factory automation is predicted to be worth nearly $370 billion worldwide by 2025, up from $191 billion in 2017. Robots build quickly and cheaply, and they don't make mistakes or get tired.

Since Axon began automating manufacturing in 2009, it has bought $18 million worth of automated equipment, the company tells Axios.

  • But as its output has grown, its workforce has, too — from 120 to 420 manufacturing personnel.
  • An Axon spokesperson tells Axios that automation is "not about replacing jobs — it's about using automation to free up our workforce to do different jobs." This is a common refrain among companies that don't want to be seen as unfeelingly replacing humans with robots.

Reality check: They can't replace people yet, even if they wanted to.

  • As we reported this week, robots aren't yet dextrous enough to handle delicate assembly, or flexible enough to deal with any uncertainty in the production line.
  • When robots are cheaper and more capable, you can bet that companies will start cutting staff.

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