Digital Toolkit for optimisation of operators and technology in manufacturing partnerships (DigiTOP)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering

Abstract

The manufacturing industry, with the drive towards 'Industrie 4.0', is experiencing a significant shift towards Digital Manufacturing. This increased digitisation and interconnectivity of manufacturing processes is inevitably going to bring substantial change to worker roles and manual tasks by introducing new digital manufacturing technologies (DMT) to shop floor processes. At the same time, the manufacturing workforce is itself also changing - globally and nationally - comprising of an older, more mobile, more culturally diverse and less specialist / skilled labour pool.

It may not be enough to simply assume that workers will adopt new roles bestowed upon them; to ensure successful worker acceptance and operational performance of a new system it is important to incorporate user requirements into Digital Manufacturing Technologies design. In the past, Human Factors has shaped the tools used in manufacturing, to make people safe, to make work easy, and to make the workforce more efficient. New approaches to capture and predict the impact of the changes that these new types of technologies, such as robotics, rapidly evolvable workspaces, and data-driven systems are required. These approaches consist of embedded sensor technologies for capture of workplace performance, machine learning and data analytics to synthesise and analyse these data, and new methods of visualisation to support decisions made, potentially in real-time, as to how digital manufacturing workplaces should function.

The DigiTOP project will develop the new fundamental knowledge required to reliably and validly capture and predict the performance of a digital manufacturing workplace, integrating the actions and decision of people and technology. It will deliver this knowledge via a Digital Toolkit, which will have three elements:
i) Specification of sensor integration and data analytics for performance capture in Digital Manufacturing
ii) Quantitative analysis of the impact of four industrial Digital Manufacturing use cases
iii) Online interactive tool(s) to support manufacturing decision making for implementation of Digital Manufacturing Technologies

The DigiTOP project brings together a team with expertise in manufacturing, human factors, robotics and human computer interaction, to develop new methods to capture and predict the impact of Digital Manufacturing on future work. This project will work closely with a range of industry partners, including Jaguar Landrover, BAE Systems, Babcock International and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to co-create industry-specified use cases to examine. The overall goal of DigiTOP is to produce a toolkit, derived from new fundamental engineering and science knowledge, that will enable industry to increase productivity, support Digital Manufacturing Technology adoption and de-risk the implementation of future Digital Manufacturing Technologies through the consideration of human requirements and capabilities.

Planned Impact

The key beneficiaries of this research will be a) the manufacturing industry, who will have deeper and more robust understanding of the potential benefits of implementation of Digital Manufacturing, and be able to anticipate the changes that this approach will bring to the workplaces and organisations that they deliver; b) companies developing technologies to support Digital Manufacturing, who will be able to tailor their products and guide their implementation in line with the empirically-derived guidance that DigiTOP will deliver; and c) the UK more widely, after the increase in productivity and ability to quantify the impact of digital manufacturing on the industrial workplace.

Our impact will be enabled through

1) creating a Digital Toolkit to catalyse the manufacturing industry as they move towards optimised and safe digital manufacturing technologies,
2) targeted and meaningful engagement with industry collaborators from across the product lifecycle, supply chain and sectors within manufacturing;
3) development of people and expertise, in industry and academia in a domain that is rapidly developing;
4) conducting quantitative analysis of economic and societal impact of our work; and
5) communicating our work to wide audiences, including government, policy makers and the public.

In addition to our project partners, we will utilise our extensive networks of industrial collaborators to ensure that the impact of DigiTOP is as wide-reaching as possible. In particular we will leverage the communities from within the EPSRC Funded Digital Manufacturing Network Plus 'Connected Everything' and the Robotics and Autonomous Systems network, to ensure that our work engages a range of academic and industrial colleagues. We will ensure that the activities from DigiTOP are communicated in an accessible manner and in particular will take advantage of expertise within the consortium of communicating work via the Computerphile YouTube channel.

Our project partners will become early adopters and advocates for our toolkit, the Digital Toolkit itself will be disseminated openly, and example datasets will be shared as open source.

Publications

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