Other machines are dedicated to making small parts or tools. Some of the most endearing robots at Nola are the waist-high, wheeled vehicles that bring raw, uncut metals to machines and retrieve finished tools. Guided by tracks beneath the concrete (with yellow painted lines warning biped human co-workers away), these carriers work a pre-programmed shift.
Like the sheet metal plant, the tools-and-parts building always has a human being to check the quality of the work, trouble-shoot errors, or take over when the machines fail. Last fall a trio of workers was using hand drills to affix rivets to a section of an A380 fuselage section because the machine that ordinarily did the work had shut down. Deburring parts—essentially shaving the edges smooth—is always a human job.
The employees in the Nola plant are among the highest skilled, according to Italian union ratings, some having decades of experience in airplane manufacture. “There is a high level of investment in automation,” Busca says. “But the final touch of quality…can only made by professionals by working by hand.”