Insights of a workshop organized at Mensch und Computer Conference 2016

In addition to our previous blogpost  we want to give detailed information about the subjects that attracted the attention of our 25 workshop participants on the topic of Smart Factories. The workshop provided a broad space for an interesting, interdisciplinary exchange about novel ICT solutions that will be implemented into the production environment of companies, including smart glasses, and data analytics, to mention two. In the ICT community there are currently many research topics that lay the focus on how to build up bridges between the technical breakthroughs and practical application in industrial environments. On the one hand we have to handle the technology dimension and on the other hand the human component, too.

In the first workshop session we discussed the dilemma between legal matters and user acceptance of socio-technical workplace interventions. Assistance systems that support work procedures in manufacturing can create the feeling of complete monitoring and can therefore trigger the motivation of employees, especially when they are equipped with cameras. In research legal issues are often not considered well enough, but in future there will be more need for regulations. To increase user acceptance it is highly recommended to involve experts within the development phase of ICT solutions in order to build up confidence by workers.

In the second session we talked about the challenges of combining technical functionality with practical application in the factories. With today’s software solutions it is very easy to record and store information (technical specifications and configurations), but it is still a big challenge how to obtain and provide (multimedia) content for appropriate usage in the company. And because of company-internal security requirements in most cases it is necessary to customize software or even develop an own solution which of course has to be engaged.

The third session has looked at the different dimensions of tension in product development, which raised the question if these challenges can be transferred to the world of software engineering, too. Of course both types of work can be compared, and both types of engineers face similar challenges in their working habits. However, a software engineer can easily compile software code and quickly produce or reproduce a working software artefact, if he identifies a quality problem in his code, while a product designer is not able to change the hardware part of a product-in-use. In measuring emotions regarding workers job satisfaction in smart factory environments there are many modern methods like bracelet sensors beside common measuring methods. By applying such methods we always have to consider regional and company-related conditions in the project.

 

By reflecting these discussions, indeed we have to consider several requirements in developing and implementing ICT solutions in smart factories. First the technical development has to be proven through a feasibility study, and then is it important to consider the impact on workers regarding legal, psychological and motivational issues.

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