Nav: Home

Factories reimagined

February 15, 2020

Factories in the future will definitely look different than today. As the fourth industrial revolution transforms manufacturing from mass production to mass customization, factory workers will increasingly need to apply new ICT to work remotely, collaborate with robots or use AI-based assistants, to increase their performance while developing further their creative, innovative and improvisational skills. Advanced technologies offer factory workers unprecedented opportunities to organize their jobs in a more autonomous way. Industrial work, jobs and skills are therefore being radically rethought.

For its 2020 conference in Seattle, AAAS invited researchers from Europe, along with NIST, to present their vision and findings how future factories may provide both tempting new career options to skilled young people and concrete support to current workers in acquiring new skills. This discussion is timely. The European Union is committed to and invests in a thoroughly human-centric approach to AI. In addition, it will be important to pave the way for next-generation robots capable of smooth interactions with humans.

Upon taking office on December 1, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced March 9 as a deadline to deliver a series of new policy plans on AI, climate change and a new Industrial Strategy where research and innovation will take center stage. This follows the ambitious 'Green Deal' putting Europe on track to reach net-zero global warming emissions by 2050. Europe wants to be a front-runner in climate friendly industries and clean technologies and regarding future factory work that will be highlighted in this session from the viewpoints of technology and business, psychology and sociology.

The session will include discussions on new skills required, the nature of work, future work's cognitive demands, labor processes and work organization, as well as their impact on workers' wellbeing. The session's presenters include European and US experts and Dr. Eija Kaasinen from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland as chair. Research activities in Europe have been supported under the European Union's Research & Innovation Framework Program "Horizon 2020", under a focused cluster on Factories of the Future - Human-Centered Factories, contributing to supporting the upskilling the work force and making it fit for the digital transformation.

K. C. Morris will provide examples of new skill sets factory workers need, many of which invite creativity and allow workers to avoid tedious tasks. Morris will explain how automation improves production efficiency. AI-based analysis of informal machine maintenance logs, for instance, help identify previously hidden obstacles related to machine malfunctions. As a congressional fellow on Capitol Hill working with Congressman Tom Reed, Co-chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus, Morris will also outline Congress's role in helping to ensure that automated manufacturing becomes a reality in America. Large, strong, high-speed robots traditionally kept behind physical safeguards may soon be working more collaboratively with factory workers, thanks to advanced sensor technologies. The potential impacts of such collaborations on the psychological safety of workers are unknown. System designers currently have no available tools for evaluating such changes.

Professor Sarah Fletcher of Cranfield University in the UK will share research investigating the key psychological effects on humans working collaboratively with, or in close proximity to large industrial robots. Fletcher's team is developing practical tools to enhance robot design and evaluating how these new designs impact human trust in large robots. These efforts are also helping companies evaluate their readiness for the introduction of collaborative systems. As collaborations between factory 2 workers and robots increases, questions about how tasks should be organized in 'smart factories' remain largely unexplored. Who gets the profits of different material and immaterial outputs also remains a question.

Dr. Anu-Hanna Anttila, a researcher from Finland, will address questions, complicated by the fact that robots, unlike their human counterparts, make decisions based on data alone and in the absence of ethics. Resulting situations can take a toll on the psyche of factory workers, whose rights and needs must be brought to the forefront.
K. C. Morris, NIST Information Modeling and Testing Group Leader, Systems Integration Division Engineering Lab, Gaithersburg, MD Impacts of emerging technologies on industrial work

Sarah Fletcher, Senior Research Fellow, Industrial Psychology and Human Factors, Centre for Structures, Assembly and Intelligent Automation, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom User experience in future industrial work

Anu-Hanna Anttila, Head of Research, The Finnish Industrial Union / University of Turku, Helsinki, Finland Human and non-human networks and alliances Eija Kaasinen, Project Coordinator, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland,

Erastos Filos, Policy Officer, European Commission, Session organizers

European Commission Joint Research Centre

Related Robots Articles:

Robots popular with older adults
A new study by psychologists from the University of Jena (Germany) does not confirm that robot skepticism among elder people is often suspected in science.
Showing robots how to do your chores
By observing humans, robots learn to perform complex tasks, such as setting a table.
Designing better nursing care with robots
Robots are becoming an increasingly important part of human care, according to researchers based in Japan.
Darn you, R2! When can we blame robots?
A recent study finds that people are likely to blame robots for workplace accidents, but only if they believe the robots are autonomous.
Robots need a new philosophy to get a grip
Robots need to know the reason why they are doing a job if they are to effectively and safely work alongside people in the near future.
How can robots land like birds?
Birds can perch on a wide variety of surfaces, thick or thin, rough or slick.
Soft robots for all
Each year, soft robots gain new abilities. They can jump, squirm, and grip.
The robots that dementia caregivers want: robots for joy, robots for sorrow
A team of scientists spent six months co-designing robots with informal caregivers for people with dementia, such as family members.
Faster robots demoralize co-workers
A Cornell University-led team has found that when robots are beating humans in contests for cash prizes, people consider themselves less competent and expend slightly less effort -- and they tend to dislike the robots.
Increasing skepticism against robots
In Europe, people are more reserved regarding robots than they were five years ago.
More Robots News and Robots Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at