Smart Operators in Industry 4.0

A human-centered approach to enhance operators’ capabilities and competencies within the new smart factory context

Abstract

As the Industry 4.0 takes shape, human operators experience an increased complexity of their daily tasks: they are required to be highly flexible and to demonstrate adaptive capabilities in a very dynamic working environment. It calls for tools that could be easily embedded into everyday practices and able to combine complex methodologies with high usability requirements. In this perspective, the proposed research work is focused on the design and development of a practical solution, called Sophos-MS, able to integrate augmented reality contents and intelligent tutoring systems with cutting-edge fruition technologies for operators’ support in complex man-machine interactions. After establishing a reference methodological framework for the smart operator concept as part of the Industry 4.0 paradigm, the proposed solution is presented and functional and non-function requirements are discussed. Such requirements are fulfilled through a structured design strategy whose main outcomes include a multi-layered modular solution, Sophos-MS, that relies on Augmented Reality contents and on an intelligent personal digital assistant with vocal interaction capabilities. The proposed solution has been deployed and its potentials as a training tool have been investigated with field experiments. The experimental campaign results have been firstly checked to ensure their statistical relevance and then analytically assessed in order to show that the proposed solution has a real impact on operators’ learning curves and can make the difference between who uses it and who does not.

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