Smarter ways to work in Europe
Manual work is a crucial but expensive component of manufacturing. The expense can often result in companies reducing manual work costs by offshore and global outsourcing. This poses problems such as increased lead time between initiation and execution, lower quality products and services, and weaker management. Globalisation and a reduced working-age population in Europe will make matters worse in sectors with a large proportion of high-value manual work that cannot be automated or outsourced. The EU-funded 'Manual work support throughout system lifecycle by exploiting virtual and augmented reality' (Manuvar) project aims to provide a solution to this problem. Manuvar is concentrating on adapting existing virtual and augmented reality (VR / AR) technology to enhance communications between people and systems. This approach will improve ergonomics, safety, work assistance and training in the manufacturing and service industries. The overall objective is to demonstrate that high-value, high-knowledge manual work presents an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of EU industries. Manuvar's technological and methodological system has been designed, implemented and tested under laboratory conditions, and demonstrated on the factory floor. So far, it has inspired improvements in a number of prominent problem areas. Communication throughout the process life-cycle has been enhanced, as have user interfaces. Design processes have become more flexible and knowledge management more efficient. Productivity has increased and the acceptance of technology among staff has improved. There are also signs of less physical and cognitive stress among workers. The Manuvar team will continue to fine-tune the technology and methodology with the objective of rolling out the system for widespread use in European industrial sectors.