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Even though no technology should be put into use “just because”, the latest developments in mobile technology and augmented reality offer fascinating possibilities.

Prof. Annette Kluge provides insight into the current research of when and how to use these advances to empower the operator to become the “conductor” of industrial processes. To facilitate this, she proposes methods to analyse the work system as a whole and the implications on the cognition of the operators.

The Augmented Operator, Digital Assistants and Cyber-Physical Systems

Future work is assumed to be embedded in cyber-physical systems (CPS). CPS are based on the latest developments in computer science, information and communication technologies, and manufacturing science and technology (MST). A CPS consists of autonomous and cooperative elements and subsystems that come into contact with each other depending on the situation. They cooperate across all operation levels, from the process of machines to the process of logistics and back again (Monostori, 2014). This is made possible through new forms of communication between people, machines and products.

CPS enables these new forms of communication between people, products and manufacturing technology. The production employee is connected to the CPS via multimodal human-machine interfaces and can act on these via voice, touch displays and gestures, for example.

In such a future work context, the “augmented operator” becomes the conductor of value creation (Bauernhansl, 2014). The augmented operator in CPS becomes an evaluative, decisive employee, who receives support from technical assistance systems and can cooperate "fencelessly" with robots. Mobile tablet computers, smart watches, smart glasses from the consumer sector already offer new possibilities here today (Vogel-Heuser, 2014). Smart mobile devices can be integrated into CPS via various interfaces (such as Bluetooth, USB, WLAN) and can be equipped with cameras and sufficiently high computing power.

There are already some vivid examples of applications for mobile operation (you can walk around the production area with the tablet and operate a machine remotely or via the Internet), as a mobile information platform (instead of fixed stations or computer terminals connected to a machine and providing information about it), in the form of augmented reality (computer-assisted fading or extension of a section of reality, e.g. a camera image, with additional information) (Vogel-Heuser, 2014) which can support the augmented operator.

Considerations are currently being formulated as to how the support of employees in the human-machine interface can look like on the basis of cyber-physical systems (Mayer & Pantförder, 2014; Schließmann, 2014; Spath, 2013). A relevant aspect here is above all to generate the useful information from the countless data available from the systems for the various work roles (such as role of operator, supervisor, trainee, experienced) and to present the newly acquired information in a suitable and integrated form with high expectation on functionality and user experience (Borisov, Weyers, & Kluge, 2018).

In this way, the processes in the process can be made transparent and comprehensible for people and the information can be suitably prepared for the different display sizes (smartphone, tablet, monitor, smart glass, smart watch) and made available for different operating systems (platform independence), such as through 3D process visualisation, touch interaction and gesture control, augmented reality or social network information systems.

In that respect, he aggregation and processing of information for humans (Vogel-Heuser, 2014) is a major challenge of CPS future work systems. This applies to the support in engineering by assistance systems as well as to the provision of the large amount of data for the operator, maintenance staff or plant managers of a production unit and the equipment operated in this production unit. It is therefore not a question of displaying all existing data, but of establishing connections between these data. The data should be filtered, clustered and presented in their context as information depending on the user (Vogel-Heuser, 2014).

The digital assistance systems should offer people suitable forms of interaction in which to search for information, prepare task-related decisions or plan interventions on the basis of this information. This data depends on the task that the person is currently performing, on the role in which he or she is doing this, and on the environment or peripheral information that is being processed and presented, taking into account individual personal differences (Borisov, Weyers, & Kluge, 2018). Individual personal aspects can e.g. age-differentiated presentation and interaction concepts, as well as information processing depending on the experience or acceptance of mobile devices (Vogel-Heuser, 2014).

With regard to work and work design, questions such as how human-system interfaces must be designed in order to be conductors of production arise.

Dr. Michaela Kauer-Franz adds a practitioner view on workplace design and usability engineering. She particularly highlights the close relationship between tasks, users, and technology. In her contribution, the working environment is recognized as a key factor for successful implementations.

Design Technology that Fosters Growth

In the development of new technologies in the working environments, an increase of efficiency and safety is often the goal of the main activities. We do fully agree with the idea that working with technology should be as efficient as possible, because we believe that the time of every human is precious. BUT we do NOT measure efficiency solely in the number of seconds until a task is performed error free.

In our work, we design good working environments. This means for us: understanding the task of the user, his personal needs and the physical and social environment. Starting from this understanding, we design technology that assists the user in performing his task in the best possible way. In our understanding, the best possible way means technology that assists the user in focussing on the task instead of struggling with the interface. Reaching that goal is so important to us that we even developed a new approach in our work (we call it Data Driven UX Design or short: 3DUX®) which formally integrates user data into the development of new systems during various stages of the design.

In our view, technology should be a means to an end instead of the end itself. The time spend with a system should be perceived as positive time by the users. Either because the task becomes the centre of attention and is enjoyed by the user or because the technology leads to positive emotions itself. This could be done by assisting people in developing competence, feeling connected to others or strengthen their autonomy (for more details on needs see Marc Hassenzahl section - A Perspective on Human Well-Being and Meaningful Work and its relevance to ATC world - within this White paper).

To be able to design technology that lives up to these expectations, it is a necessity to have joint design teams that respect the human perspective right from the beginning. It is necessary to design with the human in mind, because good design is not possible if technology dictates the conditions and humans have to adapt to the outcomes. As long as we want to have safe flights, we need to design working conditions that keep employees motivated and in the loop. Downgrade people to pure technology-sitters will lead to decreased safety because they will start working against technology due to boredom, due to anxiety, due to frustration. Increased safety comes from competent employees that feel responsible for the results of the process. Having a joint design team and a human-centred approach will reduce the number of senseless systems. To reach that goal, it must be clear that the first solution will not be the best solution but instead an iterative process is needed that helps to adopt system to the needs of the users and the environment.


Source: White Paper on Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design, EUROCONTROL, 2019

The White Paper is available on Bookshelf here: White Paper on Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design