How technology creates the desk-less, smart operator

Proceedix, Sirris, and Flanders Make organized a workshop on ‘smart’ operators in the manufacturing and assembly industry. Some organizations fear that technological innovations might replace human workers? The workshop demonstrated that technology could also be a lever to strengthen the position of humans on the shop floor of the future. To mitigate the ever-increasing complexity of mass-customization, operators will be assisted by digital tools: smartphone, tablet and wearables. Connecting and providing the operator with the right information at the right time will improve the efficiency and increase the ‘first-time-right’ performance. The technology will personalize and customize the information given on mobile devices, depending on the experience level of the operator. It offers a gateway for companies to cope with the temporary loss of experience due to an aging workforce.

Proceedix develops software to digitize work instructions and inspections. Through mobile and wearable technology, the Proceedix platform provides the operator with the right instruction or inspection guidelines at the time of work order execution. Pieter Vandenbroucke, cluster engineer at Picanol, shared some interesting insights into how operators welcomed this digital empowerment. Involving operators right from the start and transparent information sharing, were some of the key success factors at Picanol.

Attendees also had the opportunity to visit to the Sirris Smart Lab, where a state-of-the-art cobot was demonstrated. During the assembly process the cobot holds the part in a particular position to enable an ergonomic mounting of the components by the operator. While executing the assembly work order, the operator is guided by Proceedix instructions on a screen.

In sum, technology will undeniably continue to influence the work of operators. Proceedix’s software and the Sirris’ cobot proved that technology could strengthen the position of humans on the shop floor rather than replacing them. The future is all about smart operators in a smart factory.