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Worker-Centric Workplaces in Smart Factories

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Meet the smart factory that is turning shop floor staff into innovative problem-solvers

How to improve the productivity levels of shop floor staff is a question many companies seek answers to. However, for one EU-funded project, the answer is very clear.

Digital Economy
Industrial Technologies

Introducing the FACTS4WORKERS project, coordinator Martin Wifling says: “We aimed to support the work of the factory shop floor using the latest state-of-the-art (SotA) technology, ultimately creating a smart environment.” To do this, FACTS4WORKERS set out to develop smart factories that are attractive to workers. The answer “This can be achieved by providing tailored services that ensure the efficient transfer of knowledge and information to empower workers to deal with their increasingly difficult tasks,” explains Wifling. Tailored services will help increase workers’ problem-solving and innovation skills and improve cognitive job satisfaction. The end result will be higher levels of productivity. Additionally, the project worked to deliver for the eight contexts-of-use worker-centric solutions with technology readiness levels between five and seven. For these reasons, FACTS4WORKERS worked towards placing already available IT enablers into a seamless and flexible smart factory infrastructure that is based on worker-centric and data-driven technology building blocks. “A human-centric approach, usability, user experience and technology acceptance are also of key interest to the project,” confirms Wifling. The FACTS4WORKERS solution The project proposes a worker-centric smart factory solution through the development of a modular smart factory infrastructure. “Smart factory worker-centric human-computer interaction/human-machine interaction building blocks provide workers with novel ways to interact with information and knowledge inside the working environment adopting the latest devices,” explains Wifling. The building blocks provide the content for selected worker interfaces. Smart factory infrastructure, the back-end infrastructure, includes the latest developments in data enrichment and aggregation, including semantics and linked data, datafication and analytics, and visualisation frameworks. “Smart factory data is the hidden ‘treasure’ to be unfolded by our developed technologies and services, ranging from multiple data sources and data formats,” adds Wifling. Highlighting achievements “Based on human-centred design approaches, the project developed structured development processes that take into account the main aspects concerning work satisfaction and innovation skills,” notes Wifling. Further to this and in cooperation with VIRTUAL VEHICLE and FACTS4WORKERS partners, a basic toolset for blue-collar workers was developed. It is based on existing SotA technologies and is available now as a ready-to-deploy prototype that allows for ICT applications specifically tailored towards the needs of workers. FACTS4WORKERS also developed an architecture whereby it is easy to exchange, adapt, apply, deploy and maintain the services within the factory IT infrastructure. “Utilising SotA frameworks such as Docker and Angular, the architecture enables the integration of specific services with the best possible methods for doing a particular job well,” explains Wifling. The future is promising The knowledge gained in FACTS4WORKERS will be used by its scientific partners in follow-up projects in the future. The industrial partners also aim to further develop the prototypes. Additionally, the results of the project will be used in other measures that seek to improve job satisfaction and problem-solving skills, and thus workers’ productivity levels. On a final note, Wifling adds: “Making sure the tailored services are accepted by potential users is vital. They have a significant cost saving potential.”

Keywords

FACTS4WORKERS, worker-centric, shop floor, tailored services, smart factory infrastructure, smart factories, productivity levels

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