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The Operator 4.0 - Towards Socially Sustainable Factories of the Future

Goal: The Operator 4.0 is a smart and skilled operator who performs not only - ‘cooperative work’ with robots - but also - ‘work aided’ by machines as and if needed - by means of human cyber-physical systems, advanced human-machine interaction technologies and adaptive automation towards “human-automation symbiosis work systems” (Romero et al, 2016).

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Mirco Moencks
added 3 research items
Increasingly, the task of detecting and recognizing the actions of a human has been delegated to some form of neural network processing camera or wearable sensor data. Due to the degree to which the camera can be affected by lighting and wearable sensors scantiness, neither one modality can capture the required data to perform the task confidently. That being the case, range sensors, like light detection and ranging (LiDAR), can complement the process to perceive the environment more robustly. Most recently, researchers have been exploring ways to apply convolutional neural networks to 3-D data. These methods typically rely on a single modality and cannot draw on information from complementing sensor streams to improve accuracy. This article proposes a framework to tackle human activity recognition by leveraging the benefits of sensor fusion and multimodal machine learning. Given both RGB and point cloud data, our method describes the activities being performed by subjects using regions with a convolutional neural network (R-CNN) and a 3-D modified Fisher vector network. Evaluated on a custom captured multimodal dataset demonstrates that the model outputs remarkably accurate human activity classification (90%). Furthermore, this framework can be used for sports analytics, understanding social behavior, surveillance, and perhaps most notably by autonomous vehicles (AVs) to data-driven decision-making policies in urban areas and indoor environments.
Although shop floors become more automated, manual labor is more than the sum of recurring tasks which can simply be executed by autonomous machines. Where total automation is ineffective, operator assistance systems (OAS) could increase productivity and empower the workforce. Operator Assistance Systems (OAS) are systems that interact with operators to modify their cognitive and/or physical capabilities whilst performing industrial tasks. Given the important role of humans in future manufacturing environments that cannot be automated, production organizations in industry and Human-Technology Integration (HTI) researchers need to understand where OAS can be deployed and what human factors and other human implications arise from their deployment. In short, capturing views from stakeholders who are both affected by and affect the successful implementation of new technologies are essential to align technological innovations with a human-centred perspective. However, based on our literature review of OAS, we find that there are few technology-neutral enquiries on the industrial applicability of OAS. In particular, we note a lack of considerations of the different requirements for OAS resulting from diverse stakeholders in industry, which is expected to be of importance when designing effective HTI. To address this gap, we explore the industrial context of OAS and the perspectives of stakeholder groups across organizations on the applicability of OAS using a multi-method research approach encompassing 27 qualitative expert interviews and ethnographic observations of three industrial contexts. A key finding of our contextual enquiry is that participants expect OAS to be beneficial on shop floors if designed to improve cognitive abilities, such as inductive reasoning. Further, in the case a company seeks to introduce an OAS to augment physical capabilities of operators whilst attached to their bodies, the data indicate a cautious approach is sensible as many operators reject such a form of augmentation. We highlight what our findings mean for HTI research, especially as it relates to consideration of the highly contextual user requirements when developing and integrating human-technology systems for industry.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the nature of work, shifting the skill sets required in industry. Yet, many organizations struggle to prepare their workforce for future jobs. Traditional training settings seem to fall short to address this challenge, often being rigid and resource-intensive. This gives rise to novel forms of workforce development, such as technology-mediated learning. Technology-mediated learning in industry refers to applications that enable integrated lifelong learning within production systems. This concept promises scalable, personalized learning journeys with real-time feedback. However, research on how to effectively integrate technology-mediated learning in industry is still at an early stage. To address this gap and inform future research, this paper builds upon a qualitative multimethod study, encompassing 17 interviews and 10 workshops. As a result, 3 building blocks for realizing technology-mediated learning are identified and conceptualized: 1) a solution space for technology-mediated learning, 2) a practitioner guideline to realize the concept, and 3) a guideline for evaluating technology-mediated learning. As a broader implication, this paper suggests integrating workforce empowerment as a key pillar for organizations to thrive in future production.
Mirco Moencks
added a research item
Augmentation technology, which includes diverse technologies such as virtual reality, computer vision and exoskeletons (see Table 1), provides opportunities to develop a human-centric vision of manufacturing – to the benefit of both businesses and their employees. This white paper on the implementation of augmentation technology – which presents the findings of 35 high-impact use cases and interviews with more than 100 senior executives – illuminates the opportunities for effective application of this technology in manufacturing and the benefits that accrue.
David Romero
added 2 research items
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed many issues within the global value chains and caught many companies with their guard down during the early stages of their digital transformation. Several COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as travel restrictions, social distancing, and remote work were quickly introduced, and many manufacturing companies have struggled to keep their factories operational. As a result, smart technologies, such as artificial intelligence and wearables, have been rapidly deployed on the shop floor to mitigate the COVID-19 impact with the short-term objective of keeping the workforce safe and the facilities compliant with the requirements to remain open. The majority of these newly introduced and rapidly deployed smart systems carry a significant price tag. This paper explores the impacts of this rapid adoption of smart technologies with regard to the workforce's role in smart manufacturing systems during and post-COVID-19. Furthermore, we attempt to provide initial insights to the question: "what is the long-term impact and value of these rapidly deployed and sophisticated smart technologies in the post-COVID-19 Smart Manufacturing Systems?"
Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown industries all around the world that their current manufacturing systems are not as resilient as expected and therefore many are failing. The workforce is the most agile and flexible manufacturing resource and simultaneously the most fragile one due to its humanity. By making human operators more resilient against a range of factors affecting their work and workplaces, enterprises can make their manufacturing systems more resilient. This paper introduces "The Resilient Operator 5.0" concept, based on human operator resilience and human-machine systems' resilience, providing a vision for the future of work in smart resilient manufacturing systems in the emerging Industry 5.0 hallmark. It suggests how to achieve appropriate smart manufacturing systems' resilience from a human-centric perspective through the means of the Operator 4.0 typology and its related technical solutions.
David Romero
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David Romero
added a project reference
David Romero
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David Romero
added a research item
The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to deeply change several aspects of the manufacturing industry. Among them, the logistics and supply chain activities will be affected by these changes both at operational and managerial level to face the market drivers of flexibility and mass-customisation. In this context, the work of operators in internal and external logistics will be affected by these changes and increase the interaction between humans and machines. The evolution of the roles of humans in Logistics 4.0 will give birth to "The Logistics Operator 4.0" paradigm. The aim of this paper is to investigate the impacts of Industry 4.0 technologies on the different roles of logistics operators that work in the main logistics domains and areas.
David Romero
added a research item
Humans are all makers of a sort. The tools we operate constantly leverage our human capabilities and evolve over history to take advantage of any innovation or a new source of power that emerges. Human-Technology Symbiosis has always been the basis for leaps in human prosperity. As we are presently in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, it is important to focus on challenges and opportunities of contemporary work-life. Here we find the worker, the operator, benefitting from cyber-physical systems technology, connectivity, and global information networks while retaining human strengths and weaknesses. This special issue will describe the implications of a new breed of the manufacturing worker, “The Operator 4.0”. The 13 contributions in this special issue will take us from the early anthropocentric organisational models to the emerging connected and cyber-physically enhanced “Operator 4.0” in highly dynamic work environments. Methods and tools for development and analysis of complex work will support the scholar or practitioner that would like to dig deeper into the future of the potential work-life of the Operator 4.0.
David Romero
added 2 research items
To accomplish a flexible and highly productive production system, collaborative robot applications, such as co-bots, can be one solution. Hence, last year: 2018, less than 4% of the industrial robot investments had “collaborative roots”. In order to increase this number, clear strategies for the implementation of co-bots are vital. This paper will present the results from the study of 40 SMEs, and six OEMs, regarding where and when to implement co-bots in production. Furthermore, which KPIs to consider when implementing these collaborative robot applications. The Lotus Blossom technique has been used to create the first steps towards strategies for implementing collaborative robot applications for the Operator 4.0. Seven areas of application have been pre-selected, and one area has been left free of choice for the companies. The results show that the areas with greater strategic interest are ‘pick-n’-place’ tasks and ‘load-unload’ tasks.
Nowadays, smart warehouses mostly use Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) controlled through magnetic or painted paths. This approach is suitable for “static slotting” warehouses, and for places where humans do not cross paths with mobile robots. Therefore, fixed-path AGVs are not an optimal solution for dynamic slotting “chaotic storage” warehouses, where picking and delivery paths are often changing. Hence, it is important to create an environment where AGVs have planned their path, and storekeepers can see their paths, and mark restricted areas by virtual means if needed, for these mobile robots and humans to move and stand safely around a smart warehouse. In this paper, we have proposed an Augmented Reality (AR) environment for storekeepers, where they can see an AGV planned path, and they can add virtual obstacles and walls to the mobile robots’ cyber-physical navigation view. These virtual obstacles and walls can be used to determine restricted areas for mobile robots, which can be seen for example as safe areas for humans’ and/or robots’ stationary work. Finally, we introduce the system architecture supporting the proposed AR environment for humans-mobile robots safe and productive interaction.
David Romero
added 2 research items
This paper investigates how software robots, also known as softbots, can support the Operator 4.0 in smart factory environments, helping in the interfacing between smart machines and computer information systems with the aims of supporting the Operator 4.0 in different tasks at the shop floor. The work uses a reference framework called ARISA, which allows the derivation of softbots for given domains. An experimental setup and its results are presented in a testing scenario of a softbot to support the Operator 4.0 concept.
Industry 4.0 technologies, such as enterprise wearables, can foster better industrial hygiene to keep operators healthy, safe, and motivated within emerging cyber-physical production systems. This paper provides an optimistic perspective on opportunities evolving from wearable devices in an Industry 4.0 workplace environment to support occupational health, safety and productivity for the Operator 4.0. Examples of technical solutions, and their associated application scenarios, are presented showcasing how enterprise wearables may foster detection of situations that involve potential occupational risks before they actually occur at smart shopfloors.
Thorsten Wuest
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David Romero
added a project reference
David Romero
added an update
The #Operator40 gets closer to the industrial community with his/her 1st popular science article.
 
David Romero
added an update
#Operator40 featuring at World Economic Forum Whitepaper on "Technology and Innovation for the Future of Production: Accelerating Value Creation"
We create "Value to the individual"!
The Future of the Operator lies not in what workers can do better than machines, but in what the technology-augmented Operator 4.0 collaborating with machines will be able to do better.
 
David Romero
added 3 project references
David Romero
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#Operator40 featuring at ATKearney Website.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, tech augmentation will enable production operators (Operator 4.0) to perform at “superhuman” and “hyper-connected” levels. For example, one paper presented at last year’s International Conference on Computers and Industrial Engineering (CIE 46) in Tianjin, China, envisions three types of augmentation based on wearables...
 
David Romero
added an update
"The Operator 4.0 vision aims to create trusting and interaction-based relationships between humans and machines, making possible for those smart factories to capitalize not only on smart machines’ strengths and capabilities, but also empower their ‘smart operators’ with new skills and gadgets to fully capitalize on the opportunities being created by Industry 4.0 technologies" (Romero et al, 2016).
 
David Romero
added an update
Computers & Industrial Engineering: International Journal (Impact Factor: 2.086 – Quartile 1 for Computer Science & Engineering)
Special Issue on: "The Operator 4.0: Towards Socially Sustainable Factories of the Future"
Guest Editors: David Romero, Johan Stahre, Marco Taisch
GOAL AND TOPICS
The Special Issue welcomes contributions that may concern to recent advances and future perspectives on the following suggested topics:
Human-Centered Manufacturing Systems:
o Anthropocentric Production Systems
o Balanced Automation Systems
o Optimising Levels of Automation in Manufacturing
Human Cyber-Physical Systems
o Fusion of Human, Machine and Information Systems
o Smart Assembly Stations
o Wearables in the Factory
Human-in-the-Loop
o Sharing and Trading of Control
o Cognitive Control
o Human Modeling & Simulation
Human-Automation Symbiosis / Human-Machine Symbiosis
o Ergonomics & Other Human Factors in Manufacturing
o Human-Robot Co-Working
o Virtual Representations of People
Human-Machine Interaction / Interfaces / Connectivity
o Intelligent Support Systems
o Future Connectivity for Humans in Manufacturing
o Assisting Systems for Workers
Novel Industrial and Real World Case Studies
MAIN RELEVANT DATES
  • Submission of expression of interest: December 9, 2016 (deadline)
  • Submission of extended abstract (2 pages): February 10, 2017 (deadline)
  • Notification of acceptance for submission of full paper: February 17, 2017
  • Submission of full paper: May 26, 2017 (deadline)
  • Review process and Notification of acceptance: June - July 2017
  • Camera Ready: August 4, 2017 (strong deadline)
EXPRESSION OF INTEREST
***Authors are required to submit first an “expression of interest” ***
The abstract should be submitted as MS-Word 2010, 2007 document to: david.romero.diaz@gmail.com
(e-mail subject: Special Issue - The Operator 4.0: Towards Socially Sustainable Factories of the Future)
 
David Romero
added an update
“We are not replacing people… We are using the automation to help them”, says the Operator 4.0
 
David Romero
added a project goal
The Operator 4.0 is a smart and skilled operator who performs not only - ‘cooperative work’ with robots - but also - ‘work aided’ by machines as and if needed - by means of human cyber-physical systems, advanced human-machine interaction technologies and adaptive automation towards “human-automation symbiosis work systems” (Romero et al, 2016).