CHANGWON, South Korea—Automation has enabled LG Electronics to boost productivity, decrease defects and increase safety at its appliance assembly plant here.

During the past five years, the facility has been able tp increase output by 25 percent without increasing head count, according to Kang Myeong-suk, a task leader at the factory, which makes refrigerators, washers and dryers.

Automation is spread across the entire factory, from logistics to production. Six-axis robots are used for welding and screwdriving. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), capable of carrying payloads of more than 1,300 pounds, transport parts and finished appliances throughout the plant, following QR codes imprinted on the floor. Made in collaboration with LG’s telecom carrier unit, LG Uplus, the AGVs are equipped for 5G communication.

All of the plant’s manufacturing processes are overseen by LG’s own digital-twin monitoring system. The system uses artificial intelligence and “big data” to assess inventory status, production performance and machinery failures.

Because automation has freed employees from dirty, dull and dangerous jobs, the plant has not struggled to fill job openings.

“In the past, the company suffered from employees who quit work because of its physically demanding, repetitive duties. The quality of our products was also affected by the inefficient manufacturing process, as human workers had bodily limits,” says Kang.

Since then, LG has added automation gradually, with the idea that robots and people would coexist.

“Despite concerns that robots will replace human workers, LG has been able to retain the same number of employees,” says Kang, noting that robots have only replaced people in tasks that were harmful or ones that people could not do well.