Human-centred Factories from Theory to Industrial Practice. Lessons Learned and Recommendations.
With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution called Industry 4.0, the industrial world has shifted further towards automation, where advanced workplaces are replacing existing working stations. Moreover, human-machine collaboration has taken a big leap forward, placing human operators in the centre of attention. As such, this paper forms a review of the lessons learned from the point of view of five EU funded H2020 research projects (A4BLUE, Factory2Fit, INCLUSIVE, HUMAN and MANUWORK, 2016-2020), working in parallel and constituting the Human-Centred Factories (ACE Factories) cluster. Knowledge and technology providers, as well as industrial partners, have grouped together to deliver solutions that will bridge the gap to the factories of the future. The purpose of this white paper is to share the ACE Factories cluster understanding of future human-centred factories and to provide recommendations on how to get this vision into industrial practice. This is a key report of the ACE Factories cluster, which aims to support the replication of successful innovative technologies tested through the end-users of the ACE Factories cluster projects. The core target groups of this report are people in academia, industry practitioners and policy makers at the local, national and EU levels.
The ACE Factories cluster considers five types of factory operators: the augmented and virtual operator, the social and collaborative operator, the super-strong operator, the one-of-a-kind operator, and the healthy and happy operator. Several technologies have been proposed and developed to support these types of operators. The evaluation of these concepts and technologies in ACE industrial cases has provided strong evidence on their benefits on industrial practice. Based on practical and scientific evidence, the ACE Factories cluster has identified several lessons learned and recommendations for successful technology and best practices adoption.
- Future factory operators can utilise augmented and virtual reality-based tools to get hands-on guidance on assembly, for training in factory operations and to support participatory workplace design. AR and VR are efficient tools for training on the job, which increases the productivity and the workers’ well-being.
- Making operators’ tacit knowledge, such as best work practices and problem solving, visible and accessible with social media-based tools can effectively complement the guidance provided by official documentation and formal practices.
- The know-how of industrial workers must be protected from unauthorized use especially by data and analytics companies.
- The usage of wearable apparatus like exoskeleton devices has shown their potential to reduce operator’s physical fatigue, increase their overall safety and productivity.
- ACE pilot cases have shown that human-centred factory solutions have positive impacts both on operator wellbeing and productivity.
- The human-centred paradigm shift will only be successful if work processes are reshaped and new training approaches are introduced to support continuous development of skills taking into account personal capabilities, skills and situational preferences of individual operators.
- New technical solutions for the real-time measurement of operator’s capacities/mental strain and automatic work adaptation may improve productivity and worker wellbeing.
- New technical solutions for real-time measurement of operator’s physical strain and automatic adaptation of level of physical support may improve productivity and operator’s safety.
- Ethically sound adaptation solutions support the aim of a sustainable and responsible industry.
- Providing factory workers ways to influence and improve their work will increase work motivation and productivity.
- Changing work roles should be implemented with consideration of the needs of elderly workers - no one is left behind.
- New work roles in manufacturing industry should be promoted to young people and those of differing abilities.
- Criteria related to trust in the human-robot collaboration (HRC) should be unavoidably considered.
- SMEs should be supported in adopting human-centred factory solutions.