A programmable automatic assembly system is provided which may be employed to assemble small parts. Each assembly station includes cooperating manipulator arms which are programmable to assemble parts on a centrally located work table. Improved facilities are provided for teaching the manipulator arms at each station, these facilities including a computer which assists the teaching operator in setting up the programs required for assembly of small parts to close tolerances. Each manipulator arm includes closed loop teach facilities for maintaining the arm at a previously located position during the teaching mode of operation. The computer is employed as a teach assist facility in performing a number of tasks during the teaching operation which are extremely difficult for the operator to perform manually. All of the assembly stations may be controlled during playback from a common disc storage facility so that the control circuitry and memory storage facilities at each manipulator are minimized.