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Continuous adaptation of work environments with changing levels of automation in evolving production systems


Research activities should address all of the following areas:

  • Determination of adequate levels of automation for optimal flexibility, agility and competitiveness of highly customised production. Adaptive automation systems should accommodate to the worker's skills and flexibility needs, be it by compensating limitations (e.g. due to age or inexperience) or by taking full advantage of the worker's experience;
  • Methods and tools for a continuous adaptation of workplaces to the physical, sensorial and cognitive capabilities of workers (especially of older and disabled people in those workplaces) and their socio-economic needs, by taking into consideration ""safety and health at work"" requirements. An adequate methodology to measure ""worker satisfaction"" should be developed and tested. The underlying theoretical framework should in particular involve knowledge from a socio-organisational and psychometrics perspective, including the engagement of workers in the design and adaptation of their workplace to ensure attractiveness;
  • Exploit technologies such as virtual (and/or augmented) reality to support process and workplace simulations and industrial social networking with rich user experience for knowledge capture and decision support with a strong focus on usability, user acceptance and training.

This topic requires a a user-driven approach through a collaborative effort between social scientists and engineers to (a) come to an adequate understanding of ""worker satisfaction"" and the relevant quantitative indicators, and to (b) introduce the concept of ""usability"" of machines by the worker on the shop floor (particularly concerning elderly, disabled or other target groups with special needs) thus contributing to improving worker safety and health. Age and gender aspects should be taken into account.

Activities are expected to focus on Technology Readiness Levels 4 to 6.

This topic addresses cross-KET activities.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 3 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Despite high automation levels in factories today, humans remain central to manufacturing operations.

In the past, and due to human flexibility, workers were expected to adapt to machine requirements. However, today's machines increasingly allow these roles to be reversed with automation systems becoming ever more adaptable to the capabilities of workers, and work organisation becomes more flexible in terms of time and place. Furthermore, higher levels of product customisation and variable requirements, call for new adaptive human-centred automation approaches, complementing the cognitive capabilities of humans by advanced sensing and the higher precision of machines.

Modern manufacturing system design builds on an optimal and continuous distribution of tasks between humans and machines for higher performance, adaptability and quality.

: The developed new technologies should lead to a remarkable impact in the following terms:

  • 20% increase in adaptability, e.g. product customisation capability;
  • 10% quality increase in total system (human and automation) performance, e.g. quality or productivity;
  • Increased worker satisfaction and strengthened global position of industry in Europe through higher social acceptance levels.
  • Wide adoption of the new developments in advanced manufacturing systems.

Proposals should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the Introduction to the LEIT part of this Work Programme.