OPERATOR: The human side of Industry 4.0



The OPERATOR project has started in March 2020 with the aim of ensuring the well-being (physical and mental) of the industry worker. To this end, and given the project's focus on the human side, the first months of this international project were devoted precisely to fieldwork, with direct contact with professionals and an analysis of their needs.

In this first phase, AICOS’s team, together with a team from the Faculty of Psychology (University of Porto), spent four weeks at a garment factory interviewing 10 seamstresses, 12 lines managers, and 8 professionals among the production management and direction. Seamstresses were also observed, photographed and filmed in their workplaces, and kept a diary where they reported how they felt before the shift, after the shift and at the end of the day. In parallel, seamstresses were also asked to wear a set of wearable sensors developed by FhP-AICOS in order to create a dataset with their work operations, that will allow designing algorithms to cross productivity analysis with ergonomic risk.

Using the data collected from fieldwork, researchers have defined relevant endpoints for the project and are now busy training algorithms to the specificities of each workstation, designing devices to allow seamstresses to self-report on their subjective wellbeing in real time, designing visualizations of these data, as well as a device to collect environmental data.

Body posture, intensity, working time and environment (such as thermal comfort) are some of the elements that can be analyzed and that allow to reconcile operators’ wellbeing at work with increased productivity, competitiveness and industrial modernization by avoiding work injuries or occupational diseases.

The fieldwork continues and will now start another round in which the first prototypes will be shown to operators for co-design sessions, so that operators can have a say in what technology should be like. In parallel, the team will start collecting data for the same purpose within the automotive sector.

Funded by MIT and the National Innovation Agency (ANI), OPERATOR results from a partnership between several institutions, such as Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS (FhP-AICOS), Zenithwings, NST Apparel Lda, Volkswagen Autoeuropa, Faculty for Science and Technology at the University Nova de Lisboa (FCT Nova), Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Porto (FPCEUP), University of Minho (UM), Institute of Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and Controlconsul - Consultoria, Serviços e Representações, Lda.