Taking Care of Employees’ Wellbeing and Preferences is the Key to Profitable Industry
Reboot IoT Factory concentrates mainly on automation, simulations, robotics, and other highly technical means for streamlining industry. While doing this, however, it does not forget the human worker: one essential objective is to apply various methods for helping people to cope at their work.
Factory workers’ average age is increasing in many industry domains. This poses all kinds of challenges for carrying out the tasks at work. It is important to try and make the work easier for the older employees. At the same time job profiles are made more attractive also for younger generations.
Taking care of job wellbeing means long-term optimization
Often the productivity of a factory is measured in a short-term fashion, attempting to maximize for example the amount of products manufactured during one work shift. Such approach can easily overlook for example ergonomics. This can later on manifest as dissatisfaction at work and sick leaves. As a long-term rule of thumb one can state: the better the work wellbeing, the less sick leaves and the more production.
Technology has an important role in advancing work wellbeing. Automating routine work helps to allocate time in tasks that are cognitively and socially more meaningful. As an example: when the team leader spends less time with filling excel sheets and reading pdf reports, she can direct his attention to organizing work and interacting with the team members. Reboot IoT’s AI Foreman concept aims at exactly this.
On the factory floor the worker benefits from technology for example via automated work rotation so that the same muscle groups are not burdened for too long at a time. Worker’s “digital twin” tells what tasks he has performed earlier, what is his skill profile, and what are the limitations. The system can also recommend micro breaks and stretching the muscles. Collecting, utilizing, and storing data like this has to be done so that the personal privacy of the worker is carefully respected.
Acknowledging personal preferences in addition to the skill profile
One interesting approach in improving work wellbeing has to do with making use of the worker’s preferences in organizing tasks and work rotation. This will be piloted during the second phase of the Reboot project. Versatile and diverse tasks make the work more meaningful, in particular if the worker can influence on how his own workday is organized.
Expert: Pekka Siirtola, University of Oulu
Text: Santtu Toivonen